Even though AC/DC has been walloping the world with its hard-rock hammer for nearly four decades, the indefatigable Aussies have been as stalwart in their refusal to join the digital revolution as they have been in their commitment to cranking out killer riffs. Long after most of rock’s famous iTunes holdouts (the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, et al), Brian, Angus and the boys stuck to their guns and shunned the digital music market … until now. Take it as a sign of the apocalypse, a mellowing with age (those schoolboy shorts can’t be getting any looser on Angus as he inches ever closer to 60), or simply financial pragmatism, but November marked the entry of AC/DC into the official MP3 world at last. But long before iTunes even existed, other artists were taking the band’s tracks where they’d never been before; here are some of the snazziest samples ever to radically repurpose AC/DC’s industrial-size riffs.
1. Beastie Boys, “Rock Hard” (“Back in Black”)
The Beastie Boys’ 1985 single is not only the song that really introduced them to the world, it’s pretty much the Cadillac of AC/DC samples, but try telling that to AC/DC, who refused permission for the use of the main “Back in Black” riff, causing the Beasties’ record to be taken off the market. Apparently, the proud Luddites didn’t cotton to sampling any quicker than they did to digital music, because they still denied permission for the tune’s inclusion on a Beasties best-of nearly 15 years later.
2. LL Cool J, “Rock the Bells” (“Flick of the Switch”)
For some reason, AC/DC’s resistance to “Rock Hard” didn’t keep another Rick Rubin-produced Def Jam single released around the same time from making the most of the Young brothers fearsome fretwork. Fortunately, the sophomore single from LL Cool J’s debut album somehow sneaked by the band’s vigilant eyes and became a hip-hop classic.
3. Dan the Automator, “Music To Be Murdered By” (“Hell’s Bells”)
Years before West coast underground hip-hop hero Dan “The Automator” Nakamura started working with everyone from DJ Shadow to Kid Koala, he made his debut with the ’89 EP Music to Be Murdered By, and the title track uses AC/DC’s spookiest intro ever (church bell and all) as a springboard to Halloween heaven.
4. Tone Loc, “Ace is in the House” (“T.N.T.”)
Q: How do you make Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective sound cool? A: Get co-star Tone Lōc to cut the theme song and build it around the guitar hook from one of AC/DC’s most explosive songs. (And make sure Angus is looking the other way).
5. Girl Talk, “Play Your Part, Pt. 2” (“Thunderstruck”)
Just as having your hit parodied by Weird Al Yankovic was once the ultimate badge of honor for an artist, these days having your single sampled by Girl Talk gives you the imprimatur of cool. So it was only a matter of time until the manic mixmeister got around to AC/DC, sandwiching the “Thunderstruck” riff in between everything from George Harrison’s “What Is Life?” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.”