AC/DC were Australia’s favourite sons by the mid-1970s. Having expanded beyond their native country, AC/DC were slowly rising up the ranks of hard rock’s elite as they began recording 1977’s Let There Be Rock. If you were an American who was a fan of AC/DC, though, you were unwittingly getting a different version of the albums that AC/DC themselves were producing in Australia.
The first two albums of the band’s career, 1975’s High Voltage and T.N.T., were only released in the band’s homeland. When the band signed with American label Atlantic Records, the label combined what they saw as the best tracks from the first two albums into a new version of High Voltage released in 1976. Although the album sold well, Atlantic didn’t like the band’s follow up, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and considered dropping the group while they declined to release the album internationally.
“There was always a siege mentality about that band,” originally bassist Mark Evans observed. “But once we all found out that Atlantic had knocked us back the attitude was: ‘Fuck them! Who the fuck do they think they are?’ So from that point onwards, it was: ‘Fuck, we’ll show them!’ We were seriously fucking pissed off about it. It didn’t need to be discussed. We were going to go in and make that album and shove it up their arse!”
That anger resulted in the Let There Be Rock album, featuring all-time AC/DC songs like ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and the album’s title track. The album also featured a hard-hitting closing track called ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’. Although Atlantic was still slicing up AC/DC’s tracklists for their albums, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ was kept as the closing song on all versions of the LP. According to Angus Young, the song was inspired by a particularly robust woman the band met just outside their native Australia in Tasmania.
“We’d been in Tasmania and after the show [Bon Scott] said he was going to check out a few clubs,” Young recalled to Vox in 1998. “He said he’d got about 100 yards down the street when he heard this yell: ‘Hey! Bon!’ He looked around and saw this leg and thought: ‘Oh well!’ From what he said, there was this Rosie woman and a friend of hers.”
“They were plying him with drinks and Rosie said to him: ‘This month I’ve slept with 28 famous people,’ and Bon went: ‘Oh yeah?!’ Anyway, in the morning he said he woke up pinned against the wall, he said he opened one eye and saw her lean over to her friend and whisper: ’29!'” Young continued. “There’s very few people who’ll go out and write a song about a big fat lady, but Bon said it was worthy.”
‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ proved to be a breakthrough for AC/DC, landing the band their first top 40 hit in the UK. Although it remains an integral part of the band’s live show, the lack of success for the ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ single in America didn’t help sway Atlantic’s opinion of their Australian black sheep hard rock outfit. It wouldn’t be until 1979’s Highway to Hell that an AC/DC album would contain the same tracklisting on all versions of its release.