Friday, April 12, 2024




"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is a song by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It is the first track of the group's second album T.N.T., released only in Australia and New Zealand on 8 December 1975, and was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott.

The song is also the first track on the internationally released High Voltage (April 1976).The song combines bagpipes with hard rock instrumentation; in the middle section of the song there is a call and response between the bagpipes and guitar.




Ridin' down the highway
Goin' to a show
Stoppin' on the byways
Playin' rock 'n' roll

Gettin' robbed, gettin' stoned
Gettin' beat up, broken boned
Getting had, getting took
I tell you folks, it's harder than it looks

It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll
It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll
If you think it's easy doing one night stands
Try playing in a rock-roll band
It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll

Hotel, motel
Make you want to cry
Ladies do the hard sell
Know the reason why

Gettin' old, gettin' gray
Gettin' ripped off, underpaid
Gettin' sold, second-hand
That's how it goes, playin' in a band

It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll
It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll
If you wanna be a star of stage and screen
Look out, it's rough and mean
It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll
It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock 'n' roll

Well, it's a long way

Oh, it's a long way

(You should have told me)

It's a long way

Such a long way


This is an autobiographical song for AC/DC describing their struggles as they try to make it big by delivering a top notch live show night after night. It was genuine: At the time, they were just getting started and playing some seedy venues with even seedier business associates. The hard work eventually paid off, and several years later the band was selling out arenas.

"It's A Long Way To The Top" really summed us up as a band," Angus Young told Rolling Stone. It was the audience that really allowed us to even get near a studio.

According to Bon Scott's biographer Clinton Walker, this tongue-in-cheek song "has become an anthem." It was the band's best single to date reaching #5 in the Australian charts. Heavy metal tracks are usually dominated by ego-tripping guitar solos; this song is unusual because instead of a lengthy guitar solo it features interplay between Angus Young on lead and Bon Scott on the bagpipes. Ronald Belford (Bonnie Scotland) Scott was born in Scotland - as were the Young brothers. The somewhat older Scott arrived in Australia with his family some 11 years before the Youngs emigrated; he learned recorder and drums, and was a proficient bagpipe player.

The song runs to 5 minutes 15 seconds, which is quite long for a single.

The title and chorus line is said to have originated with a Melbourne club manager who would warn the young bands he booked that it would be "a long bloody way to the top" if they wanted to make it in the business.

The band made a video to promote the single and the album. This was filmed on February 23, 1976 when they rode through the centre of Melbourne on an open topped truck accompanied by three members of the Rats of Tobruk Pipe Band. The most noticeable feature of the video is that the vocalist was really enjoying himself, but, Walker adds, "it's as if Bon acknowledges he's living on borrowed time, and luckily at that." It would not be such a long way to the top for AC/DC, but four years later almost to the day, it would all be over for Bon. On February 19, 1980 he was found dead on the back seat of a car in London, having literally drunk himself to death.

In 2004, one of the streets in Melbourne near where this video was filmed was renamed "ACDC Lane" in honor of the band. The street was formerly known as Corporation Lane.

This was a signature song for Bon Scott. Brian Johnson, who replaced Scott as AC/DC's lead vocalist after Scott's death in 1980, does not perform it, out of respect for his predecessor.

Jack Black and the School of Rock band play a version of this at the end of the movie School of Rock. The interplay is between the singer and all the members of the band.

Some Aussies sing the chorus as "It's a long way to the top if you want a sausage roll" or even "Chiko Roll," which is even more Aussie.

Australian singer John Farnham is a huge fan of this song, which gave him the idea to add bagpipes to "You're The Voice," his 1986 single that became one of the most popular songs ever released in Australia.

By the way:


While jamming on new songs in the studio, co-producer George Young (the older brother of Angus and Malcolm) recalled that Bon Scott had once been in a pipe band and encouraged the band to experiment with incorporating bagpipes into the song. Scott left the studio that day and returned with a set of bagpipes purchased at a Park Street music store at what was an extortionately high price (AU$479) at the time. Bassist Mark Evans would later muse that the amount “would have bought two Strats”.

Simply putting the pipe-set together proved tricky, and it became apparent Scott had never played the instrument before, having in fact been a drummer in the aforementioned pipe band. Nonetheless, Scott taught himself to play well enough to record and perform the song (initially with the help of tape loops).

However, playing the song live was made difficult by the fact that the whole band would have to tune to the drone pipe. Thus the song, though iconic of the band's early repertoire, was probably played live no more than 30 times. The last occasion was in 1976, following an incident where Scott set down the pipe-set at the corner of a stage during a concert at St Albans High School in St Albans, Victoria, Australia and they were destroyed by fans. Subsequent (relatively rare) live performances employed a recording of the song's bagpipe track or an extended guitar solo by Angus Young.


Angus Young thought his big brother, and his sister Margaret, were taking the piss when they first suggested, in the spring of 1974, that he might want to dress up as a schoolboy onstage. But having previously been cajoled into performing with AC/DC wearing - variously - a gorilla suit, a Superman costume and a Zorro-style mask and cape, he’d heard, and complied with, worse ideas.

Malcolm Young had decided that his band needed an image overhaul for a high profile gig in Sydney’s Victoria Park. AC/DC’s founding guitarist told his bandmates that he would be taking the stage in a satin airman’s jumpsuit, while Angus would rock a school uniform: bemused vocalist Dave Evans, bassist Neil Smith and drummer Noel Taylor were instructed to find their own distinctive looks. Australia’s hard rock answer to The Village People duly arrived onstage in April ‘74 with a Harlequin-style Joker on drums, a New York City cop on bass and a peacocking glam rocker front and centre. The gig, by all accounts, was a riot, but Malcolm, already a notoriously hard man to please, was not entirely satisfied: his next ‘image overhaul’ for AC/DC involved telling Evans, Smith and Taylor to fuck off sharpish. The little schoolboy fella could stay though…

More than three decades on, Angus can probably still fit into that Year 11 Ashfield Boys’ High blazer he borrowed from Margaret Young’s son Sam for that Victoria Park gig. His trademark look, though, has evolved slightly… as the following visual history confirms.

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