Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Album: LET THERE BE ROCK
[Welcome to Forty Year Friday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1977]
For more than four decades, Australian (by way of Scotland) quintet AC/DC has been doing one thing: delivering hard-hitting rock ‘n’ roll inspired by Chuck Berry and the blues, with suggestive, often-humorous single-entendre lyrics. They were formed around guitarists (and brothers) Angus & Malcolm Young, and for most of their career were anchored by the rhythm section of bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd. Although singer Bon Scott only recorded with them for 5 years prior to his death in 1980, his distinctive leering vocal delivery made him one of the most powerful front men in rock history. After a couple of releases that scratched the surface of the sound they would eventually achieve, and another (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap) that came much closer (but wouldn’t appear in the U.S. until 1981), they unleashed their first definitive album: Let There Be Rock. With Williams’ predecessor Mark Evans on bass and Angus ripping one killer guitar solo after another, they came up with their most consistent set of songs to date. At a time when the musical landscape was changing, AC/DC held their own with the established rock hierarchy while still managing to out-punk the punks.
Five of the eight tracks are undisputed AC/DC classics. “Let There Be Rock” is essentially rock ‘n’ roll scripture, as Bon teaches the congregation that Tchaikovsky (via Chuck Berry) said, “Let there be sound…light…drums…guitars…let there be ROCK” before the choppy guitar riff kicks things into high gear. Bon’s vocals are the blueprint for what hard rock vocals should sound like. He also tells the humorous story of a one night stand with an enormous woman in “Whole Lotta Rosie,” with Malcolm’s stop-start heavy blues riffing leading the way. The stomping rockers “Dog Eat Dog” & “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be,” with Rudd’s four-on-the-floor rhythm, set the stage for many similar songs that would follow, some equaling but none surpassing these. The propulsive & catchy “Problem Child” is a slightly shorter version than the one on Dirty Deeds, replacing the tongue-in-cheek blues of “Crabsody In Blue” which only appeared on the Australian pressing of Let There Be Rock. I rate 5+ minute album opener “Go Down” slightly below the previously discussed songs, but it’s still a strong statement of intent that might have been even stronger with a shorter running time. “Bad Boy Boogie” and “Overdose” round out the track listing. Both are solid but never made a big impact on me. Let There Be Rock might not be the best AC/DC album (although on any given day it could be my favorite), but it’s where they finally put together the right combination of guitar riffs, melodic hooks, unforgettable lyrics and a powerful production sound courtesy of longtime producers Harry Vanda and George (older brother of Angus & Malcolm) Young. They continue to include many of these songs in their set lists four decades later, so clearly the album has stood the test of time.
Please stop by KeepsMeAlive for Aaron’s enthusiastic review of Let There Be Rock.