Reader’s Choice: Song(s) #2/250: Rock n’ Roll Train/Thunderstruck by AC/DC

The inspiration for today’s post comes from my high school pal, Allister Matheson. During the Honourable Mention phase of our previous countdown series, Allister sent me over a dozen song choices for my consideration. His songs spanned the gamut of musical genres but most could be organized into two main categories: Celtic/Cape Breton tunes and the ever popular, Play-It-Loud collection of songs. So, for today, I am plucking one of his favourite Play-It-Loud songs…and mine…Thunderstruck by AC/DC. When I did my research on this song, I discovered that Thunderstruck shared something in common with another hit song of theirs called Rock n’ Roll Train, so because of that research, you are getting both songs today. So, warm up your neck muscles and get your Devil horns ready because this post is for those about to rock!

AC/DC are Australian by birth but they are beloved the world over. Since the 1970s, AC/DC has consistently been one of the most popular, best selling, arena-rocking bands in the entire world. They have a catalogue of songs that can best be described as hard-rocking songs with a great beat and catchy choruses. They sing about music, alcohol, beautiful women and having a good time. Consequently, with their life-is-short-so-you-might-as-well-have-a-good-time mentality, AC/DC are generally acknowledged as being the number one party band in the whole world. Ironically enough, back in their native Australia, they have competed for the title of the biggest selling entertainment act in Aussie history with, of all groups, children’s performers The Wiggles! When AC/DC tour, they tend to jump into the #1 ranking, but when The Wiggles rock the pre-school crowd, AC/DC often fall to #2. Such is the competitive nature of the Australian entertainment industry, I suppose.

In any case, the classic AC/DC line-up during their heyday in the late 1970s consisted of two guitar playing brothers, Malcolm and Angus Young, bassist, Cliff Williams, drummer, Phil Rudd and lead singer Brian Johnson. Johnson joined the band after the death of previous lead singer Bon Scott. Johnson’s first album with AC/DC was the massive hit Back in Black. From that album came hits Shook Me All Night Long, Hells Bells, Shoot to Thrill and the title track, Back in Black. The album was written in tribute to their fallen mate Bon Scott. That the music from this album was so good was important to their fan base, but that it came from such a deeply personal place within their collective hearts meant even more and helped solidify the band’s reputation as not only being great rockers, but also that they were good human beings, too. AC/DC quickly followed up Back in Black with another great album called For Those About to Rock (We Salute You). From that album came two more great anthemic rock tunes called Let’s Get It Up and the title track (which was always accompanied by a series of cannon blasts, as part of the band’s 21-gun salute to their fans). Throughout the 1980s, the band toured with their greatest hits as a set list. They packed arenas with fans who came to hear their best songs played loudly and fast. Those fans never left disappointed. However, as the 1980s rolled along, the band released three albums…none of which produced a song of note. For a while, it appeared that AC/DC was set to become yet another band coasting through the latter stages of their career on the strength of music written decades earlier. Then, in 1990 they released an album called Razors Edge. The lead song from that album was Thunderstruck. It almost seemed as though Thunderstruck came out of nowhere. Almost an entire decade had passed since the band had scored a hit with a song that immediately became a classic and a staple of their live shows. Then came Thunderstruck. This song was as powerful and as potent as anything the band had ever recorded. And so, that song seemed like it would be the last truly great AC/DC song…and, for a while, it was. Then, 13 years later(!), they released a new album called Black Ice, and on that album was a song that truly was their last great song…Rock n’ Roll Train.

Argentinians know how to rock! River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009.

When I was doing my research for this post, what stood out to me was the fact that Thunderstruck and Rock n’ Roll Train were the only songs from the entire second half of AC/DC’s career that the band regularly played live. So, while Thunderstruck was my buddy, Allister’s, actual choice, I felt it wasn’t fair to talk about that song and ignore Rock n’ Roll Train, so here we are with both songs to enjoy. And speaking of enjoying them, let’s talk about the videos you are about to see. In 2009, AC/DC did a world tour that eventually took them to Buenos Aires, Argentina. There, the band performed three consecutive sold-out shows at a stadium called River Plate. While there, the band shot a video of those concerts and released it as a live concert dvd called AC/DC: Live at River Plate. I have to tell you, for whatever this is worth, that AC/DC: Live at River Plate is the single-best live concert video I have ever seen.The crowds there were absolutely unreal! What energy! What passion! This is easily the best crowd I have ever seen at a concert. So, as you watch both videos please enjoy the music, but almost more importantly than that, watch the crowd. BEST. CROWD. EVER.

AC/DC: Live at River Plate is noteworthy for sadder reasons, too. That performance was the last live concert footage of guitarist Malcolm Young with the band. By 2009, Young was entering his 60s and had begun to show the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. A few months after the River Plate show, Young retired from the band, and a couple of years after that, he passed away. However, Young’s death wasn’t the only thing to happen to AC/DC. Drummer Phil Rudd was charged with a variety of violent and drug-related charges and was actually convicted of uttering death threats. As a result, he was fired from the band. And, as if those two things weren’t bad enough, lead singer, Brian Johnson, began to go deaf, and as a result, he was unable to sing in sync with the band any longer and had to retire, too. Not long after that, bassist Cliff Williams, perhaps sensing that a natural end had come to the band, announced that he was retiring. But, the long-time star of AC/DC, guitarist Angus Young, has not thrown in the towel just yet, and refuses to state that AC/DC is finished. Instead, the term he is using is that they are on hiatus. There are rumours that the remaining original members may reunite, but as of the summer of 2022, those are simply rumours.

Therefore, the concert video we have to watch from those Argentinian shows becomes all the more precious and poignant to those of us who call ourselves fans. So, without further delay, here is one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands of all time as they have the time of their professional lives with the most amazing audience ever. To me, these videos show the power and essence of what rock n’ roll is all about. Since the band started their show with Rock n’ Roll Train, I will, as well. Thunderstruck comes next for the encore. What a way to end this post!!! Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song Rock n’ Roll Train by AC/DC can be found here.

The link to the video for the song Thunderstruck by AC/DC can be found here.

The link to the official website for AC/DC can be found here.

PS: My buddy, Allister, sent me a link of an actual concert he was at in Moncton, New Brunswick. Here is Thunderstruck, as recorded by Allister. You can view it here.

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