‘Prolific’ is a word that doesn’t seem to do justice to the early days of AC/DC. Their first nine albums were released in the span of just six years. Now that I’ve taken the time to look back more thoroughly at those early years than I ever have before, I realise something. Those first few years and first few albums were a band still figuring out who they were, what their sound was, what they were good at.
Like a comedian taking a rough premise to the stage, then hoping the punch lines come to them under the heat of the spotlight, AC/DC basically put their rehearsals and formative growing pains out there for the world to hear. One of those formative years that I think could be seen as a clear bridge between the heavy blues oriented really early years, and the more heavy rock-reliant boom years, is Let There Be Rock.
Kicking off with pure blues, Go Down is the old days, completely blindsided by the pure AC/DC-ness of Dog Eat Dog. Sure, they’d already released anthems like T.N.T and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap on previous records, but Dog Eat Dog sounds a little more calculated than those. Like they had dissected T.N.T and Dirty Deeds to figure out their own subconscious process that had lead to those classics.
Then comes the title track, a song that regains the punk sound that informed some of their earliest recordings, that was jettisoned by the time they really broke big. Let There Be Rock is so punk rock, hard core legend Henry Rollins and Aussie pub veterans the Hard Ons didn’t have to change the song in the slightest to make it fit their punk aesthetic when the covered it more than decade later.
Bad Boy Boogie and Problem Child continue that calculated sound of Dog Eat Dog and they make me realise something about AC/DC. I like Brian Johnson and plenty for the songs the band has recorded since he took over vocal duties, but he just doesn’t have the natural charisma of Bon Scott. Bon could make even the most calculated, production line songs work. Johnson, not quite.
The requisite late album slow song breath catcher, Overdose is pretty pointless. But Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be is a good apology for it. It’s Malcolm Young at his relentless, monotonous best, with a simple enough riff that means Bon’s vocal’s get all the attention. It’s also alarmingly similar to Highway to Hell. Can a band sue themselves for plagiarism?
Hearing Whole Lotta Rosie in the context of an album, I realise something about this song that I’ve always assumed I really liked. It’s built to be heard live, with the crowd joining in on the chorus. The studio kind of sucks away a lot of what I’ve liked about it for all these years.
Real, mainstream, international success was still a couple of years and a couple albums away for AC/DC, but Let There Be Rock is the sound of a well-oiled machine that only needs a few more tweaks here and there to be running at its crowd pleasing best. The solos of Angus are more prominent than ever, still not quite the predictable staple they’d become, but getting there.