AC/DC First Declared ‘Let There Be Rock’ 35 Years Ago
It seems impossible to believe 35 years later, but AC/DC were actually dropped by their American record label prior to the release of their fourth studio album, ‘Let There Be Rock.’
Despite the fact that they already built a rabid following in their Australian homeland, and were showing every sign of doing so in the United Kingdom — the next geographic target in their bold world domination plan — the band faced a true career crisis both at home and abroad prior to the recording of ‘Let There Be Rock.’
Former bassist Mark Evans tells Classic Rock magazine that although the group left for their eight-month British conquest as conquering heroes in Australia, their return at the end of 1976 for a homecoming tour was greeted by half-empty venues.
It seems some fans had moved onto other groups, while some resented AC/DC for “abandoning” their homeland. “Our grassroots guys stayed with us, but we got banned from a lot of gigs, too.” More bad news came from America, as Atlantic Records called to say that not only would they not be releasing the group’s third album, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,’ but in fact they would be dropping the band altogether.
Luckily, the label’s overseas division came to the rescue, pointing out that the band had been selling respectable numbers on an extremely tight recording and promotion budget. While ‘Deeds’ wouldn’t be released in America until after the tragic death of singer Bon Scott in 1980, the band was given the green light to head into the studio and knock out another album. In fact, they were encouraged to do so quickly.
They were ready. As Evans explains, “There was always a siege mentality about that band. But once we all found out that Atlantic had knocked us back the attitude was ‘F— ‘ them! Who the f— do they think they are?’… They were seriously f—-ing pissed off about it. We were going to go in there and make that album and shove it up their arse.”
The furious, borderline unhinged results of their work make one wonder if AC/DC should be “dropped” before every single one of their future recording sessions. (Not that we wanna volunteer to make that phone call, mind you.)
From the Bon Scott era, only the mighty ‘Highway to Hell’ can stand toe-to-toe with ‘Let There Be Rock’ in terms of power, consistency and lasting impact. Three songs from the album — the strutting ‘Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be,’ the charmingly raunchy and fever-pitched ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and the title track — would probably cause an audience riot if skipped during any one of the band’s concerts.
The latter is a six-minute long epic that seems ready to fall apart in most glorious fashion in about three different moments, only to find the band quickly get their feet back under them as Scott stands behind the pulpit and explains exactly how the heavens created rock and roll: “Let there be light..sound..drums…guitar…”
Guitarist Angus Young set the no-second-chances tone for the album early in the sessions while recording that very song. Despite the fact that his amplifier literally caught fire, he played on, leaving the amp head “a smoldering puddle of wiring and valves” by the end. The track became the group’s set-closer for years, and usually serves as the home of his extended (and still amazing) solo showcase to this day.
That same intensity shows up on every one of the album’s eight songs. From the salacious and direct opener ‘Go Down’ to the Bo Diddley-influenced ‘Dog Eat Dog,’ the slow-burning ‘Overdose’ and the twin trouble-making anthems ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ and ‘Problem Child,’ there’s never a moment to rest or be remotely bored.
Although the record made only a modest dent on the U.S. charts when it was released in June of 1977, it was clear to anyone listening that the band had stared down career failure, re-asserted their commitment to rock and served warning to anybody who dare doubt them again. The band went to to become one of the most popular rock bands of all time over the next few years, despite the tragic loss of Scott, and remain one of the few groupd capable of selling out any concert venue anywhere across the world at a moment’s notice.
“And the music was good / And the music was loud / And the singer turned and he said to the crowd…”
Watch AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’ Video