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50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #1: AC/DC

Joel O’Keeffe of Airbourne reflects on one of the world’s biggest rock bands, and the greatest Australian artist of all time, AC/DC.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time - AC/DC

Michael Putland*; Travis Shinn*

In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.

In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #1: AC/DC (by Joel O’Keeffe of Airbourne)

I’m bangin’ pots and pans, pumping my fist, doin’ duck walks and back flips off the couch, and smashing through the coffee table. I’m eight years old and I’ve just discovered AC/DC, or affectionately, “Acca Dacca”, in our unique Australian vernacular.

When I listen to (ie, crank the fuck out of) AC/DC, I feel like I’m being electrocuted in such an addictive drug-like way; I can’t stop. This is the same for the billions of other Acca Dacca heads out there. To us, AC/DC is a direct injection of high-octane rocket fuel to our adrenal glands causing them to pump harder and faster, and in terms of male fans, raising testosterone levels to alarming highs.

Seriously, science actually tested this when comparing testosterone levels of male subjects before and while listening to AC/DC and the results were staggering, similar to the effects of caffeine levels before and after sculling four Red Bull cans. It got me thinking, “I wonder what AC/DC does in women?” AC/DC have a direct ear to the primal beast in our DNA. I imagine if the caveman had AC/DC he would rock out in exactly the same manner, because they’re timeless. 

“AC/DC have a direct ear to the primal beast in our DNA.”

Today, AC/DC is its own entire universe and arguably the biggest most successful rock’n’roll band in the history of the planet. However, before AC/DC was “AC/DC”, George Young – older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young – was probably undoubtedly the most fundamental force to create the AC/DC big bang, with Malcolm becoming the supreme driving force behind the band.

Similar to how George fiercely captained The Easybeats to success (this is important as it’s probably the core reason we still have Acca Dacca today), Malcolm and problem child kid brother Angus would then go forward under the direction of George to build the AC/DC atomic bomb we now know.

They packed it full of their ferocious blues-infused TNT rock’n’roll boogie at the time, like Chuck Berry on steroids. Bon Scott was the lightning bolt in the middle, just like that ever elusive and mythical “lightning in a bottle”, it’s as if he actually found it and drank the entire thing himself, emerging as the band’s lewd, crude, tattooed, living-and-breathing persona, both on and off the stage.

With his life’s sexual exploits, booze-fuelled adventures becoming myth, common-man anthems and broken-hearted self-reflections giving an inner look into the sweet humble kind-hearted soul of the man, all providing the perfect lyrical swagger and depth to Mal and Ang’s new chugga-chugga all-grooving, all pile-driving iconic Aussie pub rock’n’roll rhythm machine. 

AC/DC’s music on the surface to many is simple, but ask the best guitar player in the world to play “TNT” and they can’t. Truth be told, only Malcolm and Angus can really play it right, there’s a hidden groove and intensity in the attack that is almost always overlooked, yet always heard in at least the subconscious. The same can be said about the band’s almost 50-year history and in the lives of its members.  

When Bon Scott left to rock another universe, most bands in that situation would derail and disappear without a trace, but not AC/DC. Not Malcolm and Angus Young. They went out and found the one other bloke on the planet who not only had the balls to step out the front into Bon Scott’s still-warm shoes, but also had the pipes to become AC/DC’s second and only other iconic voice. Delivering Back In Black with “the lads” in 1980, it’s gone onto become the highest selling rock’n’roll record in the history of the human race, fact. 

Even in 2020, they’ve been in the studio and reportedly booking stadiums to tour once more. I’ll be there, I’ll be up front and screaming until my lungs fly up onto the stage on the last cannon blast.