It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)

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"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"
Single by AC/DC
from the album T.N.T.
B-side "Can I Sit Next to You Girl"
Released 1975
Format 7-inch single
Recorded 1975
Genre Hard rock, blues rock
Length 5:16
Label Albert Productions
Writer(s) Angus Young
Malcolm Young
Bon Scott
Producer(s) Harry Vanda, George Young
AC/DC singles chronology
"High Voltage"
(1975)
"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"
(1975)
"T.N.T."
(1976)
T.N.T./High Voltage track listing
"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"
(1)
"Rock 'n' Roll Singer"
(2)

"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 album T.N.T., released in December 1975, and was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott. Musically, the song is notable for combining bagpipes with hard rock guitars, drums, and bass guitar; in the mid-part of the song there is a call and response between the bagpipes and the lead guitar.[1] It is recorded in B-flat major, but played live in A major.[2]

A slightly shorter version of the song is also the first track on the international version of High Voltage, released in May 1976. This is on the original release and the 2003 remastered CD release of the album only. Other CD releases have the full version.

The full version of the song is also on the Volts CD of the Bonfire box set, released in 1997.

This was a signature song for Scott and current AC/DC lead vocalist Brian Johnson does not perform it, out of respect for his predecessor.[3]

Lyrics[edit]

The song has the band chronicle being on tour, in particular the hardships of doing so, including being robbed, assaulted, stoned, having to stay in a series of hotels, and being cheated by a greedy agent. The band, however, accepts these hardships as natural on the path to stardom, telling the listener in the refrain that "It's a long way to the top/If you wanna rock 'n' roll".[4]

Bagpipes[edit]

George Young, having heard that Scott was in a pipe band, encouraged the use of the bagpipes in the song and Scott obliged though having never played them before; eventually managing to squeeze a tune out of them.[1] In fact Scott was a side drummer for the pipe band and had no previous experience with the bagpipes.[1] Scott played the bagpipes live until in 1976 he set the bagpipes down at the corner of a stage and they were destroyed by fans.[1] The band reverted to a tape in subsequent live performances.[2]

Personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)", was filmed on 23 February 1976 for the Australian music television program Countdown. It featured the band's members on the back of a flat-bed truck travelling on Swanston Street in Melbourne Australia, being followed by members of the rats of Tobruk Pipe band. Known members of the Rats of Tobruk Pipe Band at the time of the video's filming include: Alan Butterworth, Les Kenfield and Kevin Conlon.[citation needed] The video was dubbed with the studio track from the T.N.T. album and is available on the Family Jewels DVD.[6]

The video was directed by Paul Drane.[7] David Olney was the cameraman.[8]

Two other videos for the song exist. One version, filmed the same day as the truck version, features the group miming the song on a stage in Melbourne's City Square in front of an audience.[9] The pipe players appear here as well. This version is available in the Backtracks box set. A third version features the group simply miming the song on a soundstage, making it appear as if it were being played live (This version is considered rare and as of 2014 hasn't been officially released on any DVD compilations; it can be found on YouTube). Also, a version of the group performing the song on Australian Bandstand with Scott singing live over the studio track appears on the DVD set Plug Me In.

Popularity[edit]

In May 2001, Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs of all time, as decided by a 100-member industry panel. "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was ranked as the ninth song on the list.[10] The song is regularly played during stoppages at AFL matches at the ANZ stadium in Sydney.

The song was also used in the 2003 movie School of Rock during the end credits sequence when Jack Black's character, Dewey Finn, is giving his kids an "after-school lesson" on rock.

In 2010, this song was ranked no. 3 in Triple M's Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown in Melbourne. The top five were all AC/DC songs.[11]

In the third episode of "Empire of Cricket", a 2009 British BBC TV documentary about the history of Cricket, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is played over the opening credits. The episode details the history of Australian cricket and its rise to dominance.

ITV used the song for the closing montage to their coverage of the 2010 Tour de France. It was the first to be won by an Australian, when BMC's Cadel Evans won the race.

A clip of the song's intro is often used by the Golf Channel before commercial breaks.

The song is being used to accompany the promotional video for the 2013 Australian Open Tennis Tournament.

Keith Urban guitarist Brian Nutter often uses the song during his solo section during live performances.

Connection to ACDC Lane[edit]

On 1 October 2004 Melbourne, Australia's Corporation Lane was officially renamed "ACDC Lane" in honour of the band (street names in the City of Melbourne cannot contain the "/" character). This change was made in part because the music video for "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was filmed on Melbourne's Swanston Street, near ACDC Lane. The Melbourne City Council's vote to rename the street was unanimous.[12] Bagpipers played "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" at the official renaming ceremony.[3]

Recorded cover versions[edit]

Performed by:

The song was covered during the credit sequence of the movie School of Rock, performed by Jack Black and the class of children he taught while masquerading as a teacher. However, the children ad-libbed their own lyrics towards the end of the song.

Billy Corgan covered the song live as an encore on almost every show during his 2005 tour supporting his debut solo effort TheFutureEmbrace.

A dramatic re-interpretation was released by Norwegian duo Susanna and the Magical Orchestra (a.k.a. Susanna Wallumrød and Morten Qvenild) in late summer 2006 on their second album Melody Mountain, which consists entirely of cover versions. Their style is slow and melancholic with only cembalo accompaniment to Wallumrød's pure vocal, and brings out the essential sadness of the song.

The band Hanson performed this song during some of the shows on the "Walk around the World" tour, often inviting the opening acts back on stage to sing together.

Melbourne Ukulele Kollective frequently play the song live, the most notable performances being during ABC-TV's Spicks and Specks in 2004;[13] and during the Australia Day flag-raising ceremony and people's march in 2009.

German Medieval Metal Band In Extremo played the song on their Tranquilo-Acoustic Tour in 2009 on German Bagpipes.

On the 34th anniversary of the filming of the music video, it was recreated as part of the SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) rally, to protest liquor licensing laws which threaten live music. About ten thousand protesters marched down Swanston Street and up Bourke Street to the Victorian Parliament House, accompanied by the RocKwiz band on a flatbed truck playing the song.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Wall, Mick (2012). AC/DC: Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be. London: Orion Publishing group. ISBN 9781409115359. 
  2. ^ a b Evans, Mark, Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC, Bazillion Points, 2011, p. 40.
  3. ^ a b "The legend lives on in a laneway to heaven", The Age, 15 February 2005. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  4. ^ "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". acdc.com. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  5. ^ Saulnier, Jason (30 September 2011). "Mark Evans Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Video Footage and Liner Notes, Family Jewels 2-Disc DVD Set, 2005.
  7. ^ Dino Scatena, "Clip Go The Years", Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Feb. 2005, retrieved 13 December 2008
  8. ^ Johnston, Chris, "AC/DC still current 30 years on", The Age, 23 February 2006. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  9. ^ Donovan, Patrick (13 February 2010). "For a piper, it's a long way to the top from the back of a flatbed truck". The Age. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  10. ^ "The final list: APRA'S Ten best Australian Songs". APRA. 2001-05-28. Archived from the original on 2008-03-08. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  11. ^ http://www.triplem.com.au/melbourne/music/ultimate-rock-100-1
  12. ^ Boulton, Martin, "Lane way to the top for AC/DC", The Age, 10 September 2004. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  13. ^ "Melbourne Ukulele Kollective on Spicks and Specks". MUK. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 

External links[edit]