This is the third song from the album Unbreakable by Break Cover and is the first of two absolute personal favorurites of mine. Bon Scott era AC/DC were a huge influence of me growing up and in 1977 were joined by Nazareth as my all time favourites. More on them in a subsequent post.
This is the first track of AC/DC’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. Sadly as Break Cover are without bagpipes we have done this with guitars as best we can. It is recorded in B-flat major, but played live in A major. Personally, I think the recording is a result of playback tapes running at different speeds as it is not a true Bb. I suspect they recorded it in A at one studio and mastered it in another studio which had a different tape machine. Makes it a tricky song to play along with unless you can change the pitch.
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.
This 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.
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. In fact Scott was a side drummer for the pipe band and had no previous experience with the bagpipes. 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. The band reverted to a tape in subsequent live performances.
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”.
This version was recorded in a 16 hour session by Break Cover at Sound on Sound Studios in Southampton, UK.
Break Cover are:
Louise Wakeham – Vocals & Backing Vocals
Craig Butler – Drums, Vocals & Backing Vocals
Ray Franklin – Bass & Backing Vocals
Terry Taylor – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Simon Dickenson – Guitars & Backing Vocals