Author: BD Joyce
- Artist: AC/DC
- Album: Let There Be Rock
- Year of Release: 1977
- Country: Australia
- Label: Columbia
- Format: Digipack CD
- Catalogue Number: 510761 2
In the days before Chinese Democracy and Fear Inoculum, bands used release records in a somewhat less geological timeframe. Admittedly, this was at least in part because there were willing customers prepared to part with hard cash for the privilege of owning a 12 inch slab of plastic, but considering the extensive touring also undertaken by the same bands (43 UK dates in 1977 alone), it’s a staggering achievement that they released anything at all. When AC/DC’s third album was released in 1977, a year in which the punk movement that the band were frequently lumped into broke into the mainstream consciousness, they were in the midst of a frankly insanely prolific run of 7 albums in 5 years. What makes this achievement all the more impressive is the level of quality maintained throughout this sequence, and Let There Be Rock is no exception.
From the first chord of the opening ‘Go Down’, it’s clear that AC/DC have honed their already sharp sound to something resembling a sonic scalpel blade. The lyrics are crude, but the music is an excellent and insistent T-Rex boogie, featuring a climactic Angus Young solo, adding interest as it unusually (for Young) works around a modulating chord sequence, rather than staying in a single key. Indeed, the album as a whole is a showcase for Young’s maturing solo work, with the superb blues solo that elevates the bridge of ‘Dog Eat Dog’ being the highlight. Memorable licks abound though, and it is clear that Young is rapidly learning how to construct a solo that not only serves the song, but also gives him the chance to add the showmanship and flair that would come to define their live show.
Aside from the aforementioned ‘Dog Eat Dog’, scattered throughout the album are several examples of what would now be considered the archetypal AC/DC sound. ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ offers a shuffle with a feel funky enough to bring the most reluctant dancer to their feet, and ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be’ combines a stunningly catchy main riff with wry lyrics and some of Bon Scott’s most majestic vocals, for one of AC/DC’s best songs to date. The chant-along outro also suggests that the band were now writing with at least one eye (winking, lasciviously) on the stage, incorporating a section surely made for crowd participation.
One of the more interesting tracks of the album though is ‘Problem Child’. Although it slightly overstays its welcome, the groove is all about the notes not played. It takes bravery for a rock band to hold back the noise – after all, it is generally their most powerful sonic weapon. However, by leaving the kind of space between notes that would come so naturally to Stevie Wonder, or even James Brown, and allowing the pounding economy of the rhythm section to come to the fore, AC/DC generate a physicality to the connection with the listener, and this is key to their ability to build something magical out of such rudimentary building blocks.
There are two tracks, however, that are not just among the best songs written by AC/DC, but simply among the best songs written by any rock band. Both the title track and ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ have become so familiar over the years, and the riffs so endlessly plagiarised that it would be easy to take their majesty for granted. But somehow, as the palm-muted chugging of the pre-chorus to ‘Let It Be Rock’ transforms for the millionth time into huge slabs of guitar, Bon Scott wildly wailing a religious exhortation to allow ‘The Rock’ to come into existence, it still contains just enough primitive excitement to activate whatever it was about rock ‘n’ roll that they fell in love with in the first place. And then, of course, like a lover that you just can’t quit, it happens all over again.
Let There Be Rock is simply a joyous explosion of rock ‘n’ roll; basic but brilliant. The songs are better and more consistent than they had been previously, the lyrics are generally smarter and less crass while covering the same themes, and the playing is never less than first rate. As thrilling on the 101st listen as it was on the first, like Bon Scott, it will never get old.