Wired for success: AC/DC's 'High Voltage' (1975) breakthrough

It wasn't the same "High Volate" internatyional audiences would know in 1976, but the earlier Australian album would help establish the band's sound
2015 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 1
2015 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 1 - Day 1 / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

With talk of a new tour, why not look at where AC/DC got started? High Voltage is the debut studio album by the Australian hard rock band AC/DC, released in 1975. This album marked the beginning of AC/DC's long and successful career, which would make them one of the most iconic and influential rock bands in history. It was originally released in Australia on Albert Productions and later a largely different version of the album was released internationally on the Atlantic Records label.

Here are some key details about the first AC/DC album:

Tracks: The album is worth checking out, though it does not feature several tracks that Americans know as classic AC/DC songs. For example, it does not have "Hells Bells," "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)," "The Jack," or even the song "High Voltage" itself! Nonetheless, it has a few standout moments, such as a ripping version of "Baby, Please Don't Go," "Soul Stripper," and the rare actual AC/DC love ballad, "Love Song (Oh Jene)." AC/DC is such a big band that, even when it comes to their less well-known songs, they are still widely recognized enough.

Lineup: The lineup for this album consisted of Bon Scott on vocals, Angus Young on lead guitar, Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, Rob Bailey and George Young on bass, and Tony Currenti and Peter Clack on drums. The lineup on their next few albums would remain largely consistent for several years, contributing to the band's signature sound.

Sound and style

High Voltage showcased AC/DC's distinctive brand of hard rock, characterized by Angus Young's blistering guitar riffs, Bon Scott's gritty vocals, and a mostly straightforward, no-frills approach to rock music (perhaps most famously captured in the song “Back in Black”). Their sound is, of course, rooted in blues-rock and known for its high energy and simplicity (though it's not so easy to capture the band's energy and unique essence).

Success: While High Voltage didn't initially achieve widespread success outside of Australia, it laid the foundation for AC/DC's international breakthrough. Malcolm Young also explained how Bon Scott (the featured vocalist on this album) laid down the foundations for the band's signature style: “They [the record company types] thought we’d be a good pop-rock type band, play a bit of rock’n’roll and a bit of pop. That’s how we started but, then, when Bon came into the picture six months later, we had the key to go straight to rock’n’roll because he could deliver it, and he had his own style...”

In fact, had it not been for Bon Scott's unique approach to music, it's likely AC/DC would not have become the band we know today, with all the album sales and Angus and Malcolm regularly making it on lists of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time." The band's subsequent albums, especially High Voltage (International) and Highway to Hell, propelled them to global stardom.

Album cover: The cover of the original Australian version of High Voltage featured a picture of a fire-hazard guitar amplifier and a dog whizzing on it, which became an iconic image associated with the band.

Legacy: Partly because the original High Voltage is their first album, it still remains an essential part of AC/DC's discography and is considered a classic in the history of hard rock music, even if not as influential as Back in Black. The songs from this album continue to be celebrated. AC/DC's approach to rock and roll is made pretty clear in the 1975 version of High Voltage. The band's music and style have left a lasting impact on the rock and roll genre, making them enduring rock legends, and it all started with this album.


AC/DC was started by Angus and Malcolm Young in late 1973, and the original line-up of AC/DC was significantly different. In fact, Phil Rudd and Mark Evans don't appear on this album, and other members like Cliff Williams didn't join until years later, either. The second AC/DC album, High Voltage, was released in 1976 under the supervision of Atlantic Records.

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