When I was ten years old, I saw the Simpsons Halloween special, I can’t remember what season, it wasn’t the greatest Simpsons episode ever, but it did have something that changed my life. Hearing AC/DC’s Highway to Hell for the first time. After that I became a huge fan of the band and continued calling it my favorite band of all time for some years. I bought all their records, even the Australian-exclusive early stuff I somehow found at a flee-market. I fell in love, but like any first love, it slowly faded away. While even to this day I can listen to them and feel joy, it’s just not the same. Yes, they’re a very repetitive band and all of their records are the same fucking thing, but maybe it’s the constant stream of them that I have the ability to really separate songs from their albums. Anyway, where I’m going with this is, while they’re a very repetitive band, there’s one song from their fantastic 1976 album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap that sticks out like a beautiful sore thumb. It’s of course, Ride On.
AC/DC formed in 1973 Australia by two Scotsmen, Angus and Malcolm Young. Two years later they released their first international album High Voltage, with the members being Bon Scott on the vocals, Phil Rudd in the drums, some dude on the bass and the Young brothers in the guitars. It’s a fine album, one of their best actually. It has huge amount of energy and raw-ness to it, it feels like a watered down, more straight-forward rock version of The Stooges, but it works. Anyway, after that they kicked off the dude in the bass and replaced him with Cliff Williams, a gold haired tall fucker.
1976 came and so did their second album, one of their most famous, Dirty Deed Done Dirt Cheap. It’s again a fantastic piece, but I’ve never considered it their finest. Sure it has some amazing tracks, but also a lot of filler like Squeler and the silly dick-joke song Big Balls (which is a guilty pleasure of mine). But the second to last song on the track is one of the finest ones they made, it’s a weird song from them, because they really have never made a song before or after that. Anyway, it’s Ride On.
What is AC/DC known for? Fast, energetic power chords with the basic drum beat and lyrics about fucking, drinking and “good times”. So, Ride On is just like that? No, actually. It has a slow build up, with mellow, slow chords with a blues-y solos and lyrics about just wanting to quit the rock-cliche lifestyle. Yeah, that’s pretty weird from a band that has made the same album forty years in a row. Like I said, the song sticks out like a sore thumb, they have never been this melancholy and “deep”. While it’s a sore thumb, it’s a fantastic, brilliant thumb as well.
I absolutely love this song. Even if I’m not a huge fan of theirs anymore and can’t sit through their latest albums without yawning, I can listen to this song forever. Bon Scott’s sorrowful vocals and the lyrics about just relaxing for a bit, leaving the drinking and womanizing for a little while to realize just how hollow, lonely and miserable life can be. It’s probably Scott’s most personal song, singing about his self-destroying lifestyle that eventually killed him. AC/DC isn’t known for their lyrical masterpieces, but these are quite fantastic. He sings about how everything in his life is getting him down, which is a blues cliche, but then he starts singing about just how lonely his life is and how he doesn’t want to do it anymore and how he just wants to explode but he just keeps riding on, or keep on living.
While I love the lyrics and Scott’s vocals, where this song really shines is the music. Okay, the drums are just the same old tired beat that Phil “The convicted killer/cocaine addict” Rudd plays in every song, but the soft bass line and holy shit the guitars. The Young brothers always speak about how influenced they are by blues, but you rarely actually hear it in their songs. They’re a lot more Rolling Stones, than Robert Johnson. But here, it’s very clear, though there is a modern, more rock touch to it. The soft, lingering chords that amplify the already moody, somewhat melancholy, but ultimately simply relaxing atmosphere. And when the solo hits, it’s just perfect. So wonderfully played, balancing on the edge of a normal hard rock solo, but it has enough melody and rhythm to keep it in it’s blues roots. The giant, almost bombastic build up to the soft, chill as fuck chorus is fucking amazing.
Overall, the song is a slow, atmospheric song about being tired of the self-destructive lifestyle and wanting to change and get away the loneliness and misery of reality. And the music is perfect for it, at times sad, but mostly relaxing and optimistic. It’s a great fucking song, even if you’re not a fan of the band, you should absolutely check this gem out.
Last words on the band
My favorite album by them is their 1977 Let There Be Rock with it’s high octane, energetic sound that influenced a bunch of thrash metal bands and punk bands. It’s one of the finest rock albums ever and I was considering on reviewing Whole Lotta Rosie instead, since it’s quite possibly my favorite by them, but I decided to pick this, since it’s a lot more unique and interesting to talk about. I don’t think AC/DC is an amazing band by any means, but they have a special place in my heart. Like Dirty Harry (1971), they’re not the greatest band in the world, but they introduced me to so much more. After Dirty Harry, I saw films more than simple entertainments, as art and after AC/DC I started to really experiment with different style of music and I became a huge music buff. So, while a lot of people think AC/DC is a repetitive, boring band, I can agree to some degree, but they’re still awesome, maybe because of the nostalgia.