While AC/DC has gone through a few members down the years, the band’s DNA is tied significantly to the playing of founder and lead guitarist Angus Young.

Thinking about the band without Young just feels wrong… and imagining the band without his iconic riffs and legendary solos is near-impossible.

While the solos he wrote and led are often the most memorable aspects of Acca Dacca’s better-known tracks, many of the opening riffs, written by his late brother Malcolm and executed by Angus, often live just as long in the memory thanks to the beauty of their simplicity.

A band that is still known as the benchmark for rock, these riffs by the brotherly duo are so iconic that you can often identify an AC/DC song in mere seconds.

We remember 7 of the very best:


One of the most simple opening riffs to an AC/DC song, but when coupled with the classic ‘oi’ and of course Bon Scott’s incredible vocals, it’s so powerful and raw. The beauty of riffs like this one, is that they are so accessible, from the hardest rock fans to young kids learning guitar.

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‘Shoot To Thrill’

It’s pretty weird that searching for this song on YouTube brings up mostly clips of it featuring in Iron Man 2. I guess that’s proof that yet another Malcolm-written, Angus-played riff transcends generational boundaries. Another simple masterpiece.

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‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’

Another seemingly simple one, but it’s a riff that perfectly sets up the mood and atmosphere of what’s to come across the rest of the song.

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‘Back In Black’

Not only of the most legendary riffs of all time but possibly, and certainly arguably, the one AC/DC are best known for to date. This track was also ultimate proof that Brian Johnson was going to be up to the task of replacing Scott on vocals.

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Perhaps the most intricate opening riff in any track on this list, the opening to Thunderstruck is one of many classics created by Malcolm and Angus Young. It’s pure and rhythmic, as well as getting the melodic theme off to a good start. And the ability of Angus keep it going for such a long part of the song is just a testament to his prodigious talent.

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‘You Shook Me All Night Long’

One of the only tracks on this list where the song doesn’t immediately start with the ostinato in question, but after an understated intro… there it is – 15 seconds in. Yet another one that is just so perfectly simple, but it’s all about the execution once again here. And boy, what a great singalong chorus!

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‘Highway To Hell’

You didn’t think we were going to leave this one out, did you? Arguable the MOST iconic guitar riff, not just in AC/DC’s catalogue but in the history of Aussie rock music. And of course, one of the last big hits to feature the late, great Bon Scott… Rest in peace.

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