AC/DC and 1976's 'High Voltage': An album that electrified rock history

AC/DC established itself internationally with the 1976 album 'High Voltage,' and they've been near the top of the rock stack ever since

Power Trip - Day 2
Power Trip - Day 2 / Kevin Mazur/GettyImages
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As we discussed previously, High Voltage by AC/DC may be a slight source of confusion for people. The international release of High Voltage is technically not the debut studio album by the Australian rock band AC/DC, because a different AC/DC album of that named released in 1975, in Australia. However, this version of "High Voltage experienced a wider release in 1976. The 1975 album also contained a radically different tracklist, including something rare for AC/DC — a love ballad (called "Love Song (Oh Jene)").

Differences in voltage? AC/DC

Oddly enough, the Australian-only version also does not have the track "High Voltage," which the international version has. As another difference between the two releases, this AC/DC album also contains a song called "She's Got Balls," which seems to presage another famous track by the band, "Big Balls." The 1975 Australian release features a cover with a picture of a dog urinating on some high voltage equipment. The international release of 1976 features a cartoonish illustration of AC/DC guitarist Angus Young on its cover (suggesting they already knew he would be an iconic figure for the band, if not a mascot).

The international version had a different tracklist, including "radio friendly" songs like "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)," "T.N.T.," and "High Voltage," which were not present on the original Australian release (but were on the Australia-only issued albums "T.N.T." Oother notable tracks on the album include "Can I Sit Next to You, Girl" and the less-sensitive "The Jack," which originally had more "explicit" lyrics than Bon Scott toned down for radioplay.

The lineup

AC/DC's High Voltage is considered a classic rock album that showcases the band's energetic and raw sound. It laid the foundation for their future success and established them as one of the leading rock bands of the late 1970s and beyond. AC/DC's lineup at the time of High Voltage included Bon Scott (vocals), Angus Young (lead guitar), Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar), Mark Evans (bass guitar), and Phil Rudd (drums), with some tracks featuring George Young on bass and Tony Currenti on drums.

The album received positive reviews for its straightforward, no-nonsense rock 'n' roll approach and became an essential part of AC/DC's discography. "Live Wire" was a regular live show-opener at the time, so it must have been a crowd-pleaser to the riff raff as well as the more sophisticated hard rock connoisseurs.

Some historical facts

Angus Young shared the origins of the album's title track: "I remember sitting home one night before going into the studio and playing around with some chords, and I suddenly thought, let's try playing...A...C...D...C. Sounded good. And then I thought AC/DC...power...High Voltage'! I sang the chorus part to my brother in the studio and he thought it sounded great." The album has sold millions of copies in the US, and has been certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum in numerous countries.

It received positive reviews from some music critics, but Billy Altman's negative review for Rolling Stone stands out. Among other things, Altman said: "Those concerned with the future of hard rock may take solace in knowing that with the release of the first U.S. album by these Australian gross-out champions, the genre has hit its all-time low. Lead singer Bon Scott spits out his vocals with a truly annoying aggression which, I suppose, is the only way to do it when all you seem to care about is being a star so that you can get laid every night. Stupidity bothers me. Calculated stupidity offends me." Still, that "calculated stupidity" was surely leading to the popularity of the band, and releases by other bands which incorporated blues rock, such as Van Halen.

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