Why It Mattered: AC/DC – ‘High Voltage’

The explosive debut album from Australia’s bonafide rock gods AC/DC introduced the world to two incredible things: the voice of Bon Scott and the guitar wizardry of Angus Young. Still one of the toughest bands around, we commemorate the birthday of Malcolm Young by looking back on what made AC/DC’s High Voltage such an impactful statement on the rock world.

High Voltage

Step inside the making of AC/DC’s incredible debut album, High Voltage. A synthesis of rock and blues that would sway Australian music forever.

AC/DC didn’t come to the attention of the world until the international release of High Voltage in 1976. However, Down Under they were already home grown heroes. The album’s opening track, It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll), is a testament to this.

The autobiographical tune describes their struggle to achieve fame and recognition by delivering top notch shows night after night. At the time of writing it they had only just started and were playing some seedy venues with even seedier business associates. Their hard work paid off with High Voltage however as they were selling out arenas just a few years later.

It all started in November 1973 however with a healthy bit of sibling rivalry. Malcolm and Angus Young were determined to follow in their family’s strong musical direction. Their older brother George had found success with the EasyBeats and another brother, Alex, had enjoyed success in several prominent groups.

Thus the brothers decided to join forces. Taking their name from the suggestion of Sister Margaret, who would later convince Angus to don his school uniform onstage, the embryonic AC/DC cut their teeth on small venues.

At the time the band was playing behind singer Dave Evans. Thanks to the advice and connections of George Young he was able to hook the band up with a record deal in July 1974. AC/DC recorded their first single, Can I Sit Next To You, Girl at Sydney’s Albert Productions on King Street.

Angus Young said of the early days, “What was good was that Ted [Albert] advanced us a lot of the money so as we could get out there and tour and back-up the records. For him it was a long-term investment, but it paid in the end. It all helped.’’

Unfortunately they soon realised Evan wasn’t the man for the job and Ang and Mac went on the hunt for a new singer. By September 1976 Evans got the boot and duo hired the charismatic growler Ronald Belford “Bon” Scott .

With Tony Currenti on drums and the multi-talented George Young on bass and handling production alongside former Easybeats member Harry Vanda, the band quickly got started on what would become High Voltage. 

A year later the outfit would solidify their rhythm section with bassist Mark Evans and drummer Phil Rudd, thus the use of session musicians adds to the albums somewhat unsteadiness.

Bon Scott’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to his wife Irene, She’s Got Balls, became an instant classic and hinted at the band’s future template. Though it was a Big Joe Williams cover of Baby, Please Don’t Go that was their most explosive number.

Additionally, the LP finds Malcolm handling lead guitar for parts for Little Lover, Soul Stripper and Show Business, having not yet completely handed off lead responsibilities to baby brother Angus.

The band’s exhaustive touring, however, was already making AC/DC the stuff of legend. Despite it being quickly overshadowed by future albums, the first 1975 version of High Voltage hit no.7 on the Australian Charts.

In 1976 the band released an updated international release of the album with classic singles like T.N.T, It’s A Long Way To The Top, The Jack, and High Voltage added to the armoury.

The international success of its re-issue shot AC/DC to everlasting fame however it never would have been possible without the electric first steps of its modest predecessor.