It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)

"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is a song by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It is the first track of the group's second album T.N.T., released only in Australia on 8 December 1975, and was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott. The song combines bagpipes with hard rock instrumentation; in the middle section of the song there is a call and response between the bagpipes and guitar.[1] The original recording is in B-flat major, but it was played live in A major.[2]

"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"
It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll).jpg
Single by AC/DC
from the album T.N.T./High Voltage
B-side"Can I Sit Next to You Girl"
Released8 December 1975 (1975-12-08)
GenreHard rock
AC/DC singles chronology
"High Voltage"
"It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"

A slightly shortened version of the song is also the first track on the internationally released High Voltage (May 1976). This version appears only on the vinyl release and the 2003 CD reissue.

The full version of the song is also on the Volts CD of the Bonfire box set, released in 1997.

This was a signature song for Bon Scott. Brian Johnson, who replaced Scott as AC/DC's lead vocalist after Scott's death in 1980, does not perform it, out of respect for his predecessor.[3]

In January 2018, as part of Triple M's "Ozzest 100", the 'most Australian' songs of all time, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was ranked number 5.[4]


The song chronicles the hardships endured by a rock band on tour, such as being robbed, assaulted, stoned and cheated by a greedy agent. However, the band accepts these hardships as natural on the path to stardom, saying that "It's a long way to the top/If you wanna rock 'n' roll".[5]


George Young (the older brother of Angus and Malcolm), having heard that Bon Scott was in a pipe band, encouraged the use of bagpipes in the song. Scott obliged despite having never played them before; he had actually been a drummer in the band.[1] Scott used a set of bagpipes to play the song live until 1976, following an incident where he set them down at the corner of a stage during a concert at St Albans High School in St Albans, Victoria, Australia and they were destroyed by fans.[1][6] Subsequent live performances used a recording of the song's bagpipe part or an extended guitar solo by Angus.[2]


Music videoEdit

The music video for "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)", was filmed on 23 February 1976 for the Australian music television program Countdown. It featured the band's members on the back of a flatbed truck travelling on Swanston Street in Melbourne, Australia, being followed by members of the Rats of Tobruk Pipe band. Known members of the Rats of Tobruk Pipe Band at the time of the video's filming include: Alan Butterworth, Les Kenfield and Kevin Conlon.[citation needed] The video was dubbed with the studio track from the album T.N.T. and is available on the Family Jewels DVD.[8]

The video was directed by Paul Drane.[9] David Olney was the cameraman.[10]

Two other videos for the song exist. One version, filmed the same day as the truck version, features the group miming the song on a stage in Melbourne's City Square in front of an audience.[11] The pipe players appear here as well. This version is available in the Backtracks box set. A third version features the group simply miming the song on a soundstage, making it appear as if it were being played live (This version is considered rare and as of 2014 hasn't been officially released on any DVD compilations; it can be found on YouTube). Also, a version of the group performing the song on Australian Bandstand with Scott singing live over the studio track appears on the DVD set Plug Me In.


In May 2001, Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) celebrated its 75th anniversary by naming the Best Australian Songs of all time, as decided by a 100-member industry panel. "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was ranked as the ninth song on the list.[12] The song is regularly played during stoppages at AFL matches at the ANZ stadium in Sydney.

The song was also used in the comedy movie School of Rock (2003) during the ending credits sequence when Jack Black's character, Dewey Finn, is giving his kids an "after-school lesson" on rock. This song was also featured in the movie Only the Brave (2017) During One of the many firefighting scenes. In 2010, this song was ranked no. 3 in Triple M's Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown in Melbourne. The top five were all AC/DC songs.[13]

In 2012, this song was inducted into the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia.[14]

In the third episode of Empire of Cricket, a 2009 British BBC-TV documentary about the history of cricket, "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is played over the opening credits. The episode details the history of Australian cricket and its rise to dominance.

ITV used the song for the closing montage to their coverage of the 2010 Tour de France. It was the first to be won by an Australian, when BMC's Cadel Evans won the race.

A clip of the song's intro is often used by the Golf Channel before commercial breaks.

The song was used to accompany the promotional video for the 2013 Australian Open Tennis Tournament.

Keith Urban guitarist Brian Nutter often uses the song during his solo section during live performances.

The song is being used by the Chicago Cubs in 2017 as an accompaniment to a video played just prior to the team taking the field.

The original version of the song is played on the PA track list prior to Metallica live performances. As soon as the song concludes, the lights go out and "The Ecstasy of Gold" is played while Metallica appears on stage.

Connection to ACDC LaneEdit

On October 1, 2004, Melbourne, Australia's Corporation Lane was officially renamed "ACDC Lane" in honour of the band (street names in the City of Melbourne cannot contain the "/" character or other punctuation marks). This change was made in part because the music video for "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" was filmed on Melbourne's Swanston Street, near ACDC Lane. The Melbourne City Council's vote to rename the street was unanimous.[15] Bagpipers played "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" at the official renaming ceremony.[3]

Recorded cover versionsEdit

Performed by:

The song was covered during the credit sequence of the comedy movie School of Rock, performed by Jack Black and the class of children he taught while masquerading as a teacher. However, the children ad-libbed their own lyrics towards the end of the song.

Billy Corgan covered the song live as an encore on almost every show during his 2005 tour supporting his debut solo effort TheFutureEmbrace.

A dramatic re-interpretation was released by Norwegian duo Susanna and the Magical Orchestra (aka Susanna Wallumrød and Morten Qvenild) in late summer 2006 on their second album Melody Mountain, which consists entirely of cover versions. Their style is slow and melancholic with only cembalo accompaniment to Wallumrød's pure vocal, and brings out the essential sadness of the song.

The band Hanson performed this song during some of the shows on the "Walk around the World" tour, often inviting the opening acts back on stage to sing together.

Melbourne Ukulele Kollective frequently play the song live, the most notable performances being during ABC-TV's Spicks and Specks in 2004;[16] and during the Australia Day flag-raising ceremony and people's march in 2009.

German Medieval Metal Band In Extremo played the song on their Tranquilo-Acoustic Tour in 2009 on German Bagpipes.

On the 34th anniversary of the filming of the music video, it was recreated as part of the SLAM (Save Live Australian Music) rally, to protest liquor licensing laws which threaten live music. About ten thousand protesters marched down Swanston Street and up Bourke Street to the Victorian Parliament House, accompanied by the RocKwiz band on a flatbed truck playing the song.


  1. ^ a b c Wall, Mick (2012). AC/DC: Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be. London: Orion Publishing group. ISBN 9781409115359.
  2. ^ a b Evans, Mark, Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC, Bazillion Points, 2011, p. 40.
  3. ^ a b "The legend lives on in a laneway to heaven", The Age, 15 February 2005. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  4. ^ "Here Are The Songs That Made Triple M's 'Ozzest 100'". Musicfeeds. 27 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  5. ^ "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". Retrieved 2013-05-05.
  6. ^ "Raw footage of AC/DC killing it at an Australian high school 40 years ago (& Bon Scott's bagpipes!)". 24 January 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  7. ^ Saulnier, Jason (30 September 2011). "Mark Evans Interview". Music Legends. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  8. ^ Video Footage and Liner Notes, Family Jewels 2-Disc DVD Set, 2005.
  9. ^ Dino Scatena, "Clip Go the Years", Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Feb. 2005, retrieved 13 December 2008
  10. ^ Johnston, Chris, "AC/DC still current 30 years on", The Age, 23 February 2006. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  11. ^ Donovan, Patrick (13 February 2010). "For a piper, it's a long way to the top from the back of a flatbed truck". The Age. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
  12. ^ "The final list: APRA'S Ten best Australian Songs". APRA. 2001-05-28. Archived from the original on 2008-03-08. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  13. ^ "Triple M's Ultimate Rock 500 - 100 to 1". Triple M. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  14. ^ "1975 It's A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) — AC/DC". Archived from the original on 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-08.
  15. ^ Boulton, Martin, "Lane way to the top for AC/DC", The Age, 10 September 2004. Retrieved on 2007-02-15.
  16. ^ "Melbourne Ukulele Kollective on Spicks and Specks". MUK. Retrieved 2009-01-31.