AC/DC: Top 10 Brian Johnson Songs
The release of AC/DC’s 1980 album “Back In Black” was Brian Johnson’s introduction to the rock and roll spotlight. Though fans and the band themselves were still dealing with the loss of their former frontman, the beloved Bon Scott, Brian Johnson stepped into the role and led AC/DC to their biggest musical accomplishment. “Back in Black” is a masterpiece and holds the honor of being the second greatest-selling album of all time. Instead of dying with Bon, which was the most likely outcome and a choice the band first contemplated, the band rose to an even greater level of success. I suppose it would be bittersweet to peak at the beginning of your career with a new band, but reaching THAT level of success immediately is an amazing feat.
Though “Back In Black” was the pinnacle, the Brian Johnson AC/DC era has given us dozens of great tracks spanning eleven studio albums.
Here are the Top 10 Brian Johnson AC/DC songs:
10: “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” - ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)’
As rock anthems go, this is as powerful and memorable as they get. It’s the title track to their first album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the US, where it stayed for three weeks. It was inspired by a salute that was used by Roman prisoners who were about to be executed in the games held at the Colosseum: “Morituri te salutant,” which means “those who are about to die, we salute you.”
The chorus of the song is a shout-out to anyone following their dreams and features a cannon blast at the end that led the band to incorporate it into their live shows, and it features one of Angus’ best guitar solos, without question. It’s still one of their biggest live draws, and it’s played at virtually every show.
9: “Sink The Pink” - ‘Fly On The Wall’
AC/DC’s “Fly on the Wall” album is one of their more maligned albums, but “Sink the Pink” is a definite high-energy, standout track. The song’s sexual meaning is fairly clear, though there are some interesting theories floating around the internet as to it’s meaning, including that it’s a “British drinking game that involves drinking a pink alcoholic drink,” and also that it’s referencing a type of party “where everyone is dressed in pink.” The internet never ceases to amaze.
The official music video shows a man and woman playing pool; the woman is dressed in pink, and is using a pink cue. It’s certainly a bit more subtle than it could be. The song is included on the “Who Made Who” soundtrack for Stephen King’s 1986 film “Maximum Overdrive."
8: “Big Gun” - ‘Last Action Hero Soundtrack’
"Big Gun" reached number one on the US Billboard Mainstream rock chart, and it was at least a top twenty hit in Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Angus Young’s standout guitar riff and tone on this track are favorites of mine, for sure.
The band rode their success with the “Razor’s Edge” album right into this movie soundtrack. The video for the song shows scenes from “Last Action Hero,” along with footage of the band performing on a soundstage. At one point, Angus is sitting on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shoulders.
7: “Shot In The Dark” - ‘Power Up’
Released as a single from their seventeenth studio album, ‘Power Up,’ “Shot in the Dark” was released on October 7th, 2020, and was the band's first single released since 2015. It was used as the official theme for the WWE’s Survivor Series and nominated for two Grammys at the 64th Grammy Awards, including Best Rock Performance and Best Music Video. The track proved the group could still produce some high-energy rock that they had been known for in years past. The song was originally recorded before the passing of guitarist Malcolm Young.
6: “Shake Your Foundations” - ‘Fly On the Wall’
“Shake Your Foundations” is the second track from the ‘Fly on the Wall’ album and is also on the ‘Who Made Who’ soundtrack. It wasn’t a very successful single for them, but nothing the entire ‘FOTW’album failed to take hold commercially. It was one of the first songs that the band recorded with producer Harry Vanda since the early 1970s. He previously worked with them on the ‘High Voltage,’ and ‘T.N.T.’ albums, and his return helped to give the ‘FOTW’ album a raw sound that can be appreciated in this song, and is another of their live-performance classics.
5: “Hell’s Bells” - ‘Back In Black’
“Hells Bells” was certified platinum after being released as a single in 1980. It was one of the band’s biggest hits from their biggest album - the first to feature Brian Johnson. The album, and specifically this song, paid tribute to Bon Scott, and this song is on the short list of best guitar riffs the band has featured on any track. The addition of the tolling church bell, added from a church nearby to the recording studio, provides the perfect atmosphere to put the listener in the room with the band every time the song plays. Like, others, this could have been higher on the list.
4: “Back In Black” - ‘Back In Black’
How could the title track from one of the most successful albums of all time not be near or at the top of a band's “best of list?” I’m not sure, but that’s not a question to be answered with “Back In Black.” It’s generally regarded as one the greatest rock songs of all time, and many believe it is THE greatest. I certainly can’t go that far, as I don’t even think it’s AC/DC’s best track, but it’s undeniably great and a wonderful tribute to Bon. The lyrics: I'm back in black, I hit the sack/ I've been too long, I'm glad to be back” are referencing Bon’s death, the band’s reflection, and their decision to return to the stage. The lyrics are typical of AC/DC's rock and roll party lifestyle, with a rejuvenation and feeling of gratitude buoying them up. It’s yet another classic track that’s been covered by numerous bands, including Guns N Roses.
3: “Thunderstruck” - ‘The Razor’s Edge’
Is this THE most played, most recognizable, most celebrated AC/DC song of all time? I think it has to be. Angus’ opening riff to “Thunderstruck” has been heard in virtually every sports arena on the planet with a public address system. It’s in movies, television shows, and video games. “The Razor’s Edge” was a huge album for the band, and it was fueled by this song. Angus has said that when he can no longer light up crowds by playing the “Thunderstruck” intro, he’ll retire. That’s how important the song has become to the AC/DC catalog.
2: “You Shook Me All Night Long” - ‘Back In Black’
This is one of AC/DC’s signature songs and another from the ‘Back In Black album. Critics and fans love it, both ranking it as an all-time great. The guitar solo is top-shelf, as is most of the work throughout the entire album, as Angus reinforces his place amongst the greatest guitarists in the industry.
“You Shook Me All Night Long” is an out-of-the-box sing-along full of sexual references that make party-goers, young and old, embrace it and rejoice. It’s yet another AC/DC track with an unforgettable chorus, and though released in 1980, it’s been finding its way back on mainstream music charts in recent years. It’s a definite all-time classic party song.
1: “Shoot To Thrill” - ‘Back In Black’
There is something about the composition, together with the production of the song, that makes it the best Brian Johnson-led AC/DC track. It’s clean and crisp and lets you focus on every guitar note and every snare hit; it’s a perfect mix. The guitar breakdowns in "Shoot To Thrill" are deadly, and the tone of the song works so well following “Hell’s Bells” on the album. It hooks you right from the opening verse:
All you women who want a man of the street,
But don't know which way you wanna turn
Just keep a-comin,' and put your hand out to me,
'Cause I'm the one who's gonna make you burn
I'm gonna take you down
Oh, down, down, down
So, don't you fool around
I'm gonna pull it, pull it, pull the trigger
Shoot to thrill, play to kill
Too many women with too many pills, yeah
Shoot to thrill, play to kill
I got my gun at the ready, gonna fire at will, yeah