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How AC/DC decided to use bagpipes in ‘It’s a Long Way to The Top’

ACDC bagpipe


How AC/DC decided to use bagpipes in ‘It’s a Long Way to The Top’

Every band tends to write about their own career from time to time and AC/DC did that when Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott wrote the famous track “It’s a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll). Originally released as a single and featured on their 1975 album “T.N.T”, released only in Australia at the time, the track is one of their most famous ones.


Besides the catchy riffs and lyrics, the song also has an incredible bagpipe  solo that was recorded by the late vocalist Bon Scott. But who had the idea to add bagpipes into a Hard Rock song?

How AC/DC decided to use bagpipes in “It’s a Long Way to The Top”

The bagpipe is a “woodwind instrument using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag”. Curiously, Bon Scott didn’t even know how to play bagpipes at the time but he was the one who recorded.

According to the late AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young the idea to use bagpipes in the song came from their producer Harry Young. He revealed that in an interview with Billboard back in 2003.

“That was another one that was just done in the studio from the title. We just threw some chords behind it and what have you. I think it was George who said, ‘Maybe get some bagpipes on that.’ (The reason was) because the chords that were in it, they were ringing. You’ve got these open G chords in it. When the two guitars hit on this G string it was giving off a vibe like it could be pipes in there. So George said, ‘Why don’t we try some pipes in with the lead (guitar) solo?,’ like an answering thing.”

He continued:

“Bon actually could play flute, not bagpipes. So he got the canter from the bagpipe and played the melody. Then we did the drones separate and put it on and it sounded fantastic,” Malcolm Young said.

The song was the first track from their first international album released “High Voltage” (1976). AC/DC curiously never performed the track live in concert again after Scott’s death. The last time the song was played by them was back in 1979, one year before Scott passed away.

At that time, besides the brothers Young and Scott, AC/DC was also formed by Mark Evans (Bass) and Phil Rudd (Drums). The record was produced by George Young and Harry Vanda. In the United Kingdom “It’s a Long Way To The Top” released an estimated amount of more than 200.000 copies as a single.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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