This bone crusher still packs so much power and punch it’s hard to believe that it’s almost 30 years old. A standout track from the landmark AC/DC album Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long embodies everything that was good about late 70s hard rock and metal, and points unerringly to the future of the genre. Heavy metal entered a golden age in the 80s, and this is one of the tracks that took it there. It abounds with tough, crashing guitar mayhem, taut, metallic song hooks and one of the most driving grooves in the form. At the center of the carnage is the dual-guitar rhythm machine that is the brothers Young. The two-prong attack of Angus and Malcolm is hard to resist under most circumstances, in You Shook Me All Night Long it’s darn near impossible.
You Shook Me All Night Long opens with a subtle, almost laid-back, guitar intro in two phrases. Each phrase is built from two ringing open chord forms: G5 and D on the top four strings. The two basic shapes are decorated with added notes; A (the 9th) on the G5, and G (the suspended 4th) on the D chord [Fig. 1]. To facilitate smooth switching between the chords, and to keep the melody fluid through the changes, think and finger the second half of measure 2 as a D shape. This means you should anticipate that change within the phrase before it actually lands on the full D chord in bar 3 [Fig.2]. Between phrases, Angus adds an earthy blues-inflected chord fill based on the open D5 and the first inversion triad, D/F#, at the second position [Fig. 3].
The verse makes use of Rhy. Fig. 1, a tight, rocking Stones-flavored rhythm riff based on three simple, open chord shapes: G, C and D5 (the I, IV and V chords in G). These chords receive a dynamic-conscious rhythm treatment emphasizing space and strong accents. Note the holes in bars 1 and 3, and the staccato attack on the G and C chords in bars 2 and 3. Its driving rhythm feel allows for a tight lock-up between guitars and drums in the verses. The chorus figure, another open chord rhythm riff, Rhy. Fig. 2, presents an interesting and colorful way to spice up a basic I-IV-I-V progression with common tones, arpeggiation and passing tones. Let’s look at each component of this deceptively simple rhythm part. The common tone, maintained through the G5, Cadd9, G/B and D5 changes, is the top note, D, on the 2nd string. Notice how the common tone links all the chords together, both sonically and physically, and is directly responsible for producing the Cadd9 voicing in the sequence [Fig. 4], Arpeggiation is found on the Cadd9 and G/B chords of the progression. This creates a nice textural contrast to the heavily strummed articulation of most of the song’s chords. Between the G5 and Cadd9 chords, in the 1st and 3rd bars, a walking bass line, A-B-C, connects the forms and acts as a passing tone melody in the progression.
Angus Young’s muscular solo splits the difference between Clapton-inspired electric blues and 70s hard rock. You can detect the E.C. influence in the note choices, bends, vibrato and bluesier phrasing, while the pinch harmonics, palm-muting and general intensity reflect a post-Hendrix approach to soloing. In any event, it is one of Angus’ best solos, and that’s saying a lot. It also provides an ideal study in position shifting and scale combining. He’s all over the fret-board in this solo, moving from the lowest positions of various G minor and major pentatonic scales to the highest fingering his SG neck will allow (at the 22nd fret). A particularly noteworthy passage occurs in the 5th and 6th bars [Fig.5]. Here, he slides a parallel-3rds shape up a whole step (two frets) and simultaneously accomplishes two important ends – he seamlessly connects the two positions with a melodic motif and effectively joins minor and major pentatonic scale sounds. This is a common and extremely serviceable device found in the work of countless great rock, blues and country guitar soloists. Check out George Harrison’s solo in “I Feel Fine” and Eric Clapton’s solo in “Badge” for just two other similar and telling examples. In fact, with Malcolm’s hooky rhythm guitar backing pattern (a variant of Rhy. Fig. 2) and the bluesy but melodic lead approach, Young’s solo bears more than a passing resemblance in sound, tone and attitude to Clapton’s powerful statement in “Badge.” Note how his sliding phrases play directly off the backing chord accents. The solo lines are based in both G minor pentatonic (G-Bb-C-D-F) and G major pentatonic (G-A-B-D-E), or more accurately, a slick combination of the two scales. Look at Angus’ extensions beyond the conventional blues box in his solo lines [Fig.6]. The boxed shape at the 3rd position contains the basic scale, the other circled notes are Angus’ extensions above and below the form. A second boxed shape contains a combined G major-G minor pentatonic form used in this solo, frequently found in Angus’ lead style. Scale combining is a true art in rock, blues, country, pop and metal solo styles, and is something every aspiring lead guitarist should investigate and incorporate into his arsenal.
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You Shook Me All Night Long with backing track
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