Battle of the Bands: AC/DC vs Guns N' Roses

Music editor Dom Lee and Josh Smith go head to head on who's the best. ACDC or Guns N' Roses

multiple writers
9th December 2020
Two giants of rock clash head to head - both are great acts, but who ultimately reigns supreme; AC/DC or Guns N' Roses?

Hard Rock would not be the same without AC/DC, for me that's all that needs to be said. However, if I'm going to defend the Aussie band's honour I'll have to do a lot better than that.

AC/DC were one of the predominant bands of my teenage years, with Angus Young's deep, powerful guitar tones and lightning fast picking setting the scene for many afternoons. The band had an incomparably hard-hitting sound which has remained timeless til this day.

Their story is also one of tragedy and ultimately redemption, as after original lead singer Bon Scott died prematurely after a night out in London at the age of just 33, the band were close to unplugging their guitars for good. However, after speaking to Scott's parents, who insisted that their son would have wanted them to carry on, the band approached North-East native Brian Johnson- who it was said that Scott had a great admiration for- to join.

With Johnson on vocals, the band went on to release Back In Black as their first album since Scott's death, a record which has since garnered acclaim as one of the best rock albums of all time.

Having seen both AC/DC and GNR live, I have to say they were equally impressive and certainly hold their places as arguably the two most celebrated hard-rock artists of the 70s and 80s. Axl Rose even sang for AC/DC when Johnson's ears couldn't take any more so the crossover between the two is undeniable! However, for me AC/DC just about edge it.

Dominic Lee

Guns N' Roses

Emerging out of a scene with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple at their peak, AC/DC didn’t have a massive job to do. The ball was already rolling; they just had to give it a kick or two.

For Guns N’ Roses, this wasn’t the case. The ball was over the fence of an old man’s garden, covered in make-up and waterlogged with cheesy lyrics. Regardless of which band kicked the ball further, Guns N’ Roses had much more of a job to do. 

The job was fulfilled and then some. Their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, emerged from the ashes of glam with a Motörhead-shaped phoenix. Despite its initial slow reception, the commercial world eventually clicked on to what they were hearing and went nuts. The opening riff of 'Sweet Child ‘O Mine' still haunts guitar shop employees in lockdown. 'Nightrain', 'Out ta Get Me' and 'My Michelle' give the hard rock riff a worthy final trip before it was put out to pasture by grunge.  

Rock wouldn’t be the same without either AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses. However, it is clear that the late-‘80s needed a new rock band much more than the mid-‘70s. Think of it like this: both bands have given you a pen when you didn’t have one. However, AC/DC gave you one during class, whereas Guns N’ Roses gave you one five minutes before an exam. For this, we salute both bands, but give Guns N’ Roses an extra nod in appreciation. 

Josh Smith

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