The AC/DC Song the Band Stopped Playing Live out of Respect

“It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” is a classic track from the beloved hard rock band AC/DC. It’s the opening song from the band’s second and very successful album T.N.T. After it was released in 1975, it was played on rotation pretty often during the band’s live performances. It certainly makes sense why; it’s one of their best releases, and it’s still a joy to listen to today, decades later. 

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“In time, it became iconic and associated with the band,” said former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans of the song. “But oddly enough the band doesn’t play it. It has become a lot bigger song in time than when it first came out.”

The song’s place on AC/DC’s setlist only lasted for about four years before it was shelved for good. And shelving the song was done so out of respect for one beloved member of the band.

Why Did AC/DC Stop Playing “It’s A Long Way to the Top” Live?

There’s a simple yet sad answer to this question. In 1980, AC/DC vocalist and lyricist Bon Scott died at the age of 33 from acute alcohol poisoning.

The tragedy hit the band hard. But, the show must go on, and AC/DC decided to stay together and eventually needed to search for Scott’s replacement. The lead vocalist they chose was Brian Johnson.

Johnson is on record saying that the song was shelved because he refused to perform it out of respect for Scott. He was true to his word; it hasn’t been performed since Scott’s death.

Johnson has also talked about the respect he had for Scott in the past and the first time he met the legend.

“[I was] watching this band and thinking ‘They’re pretty good,’ and afterward having a beer with the singer, who was Bon Scott,” Johnson said of the first time he heard AC/DC live. “And we swore undying friendship after getting a few beers down because we were from the same kind of background.”

Brian Johnson is a real one.

Photo by Fin Costello

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