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The Meaning of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”

AC/DC live in 1981. Photo by Koh Hasebe.

AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is one of the Australian band’s later hits, first appearing on their 1990 album The Razors Edge, but it has nonetheless become a staple in their collection of hard rock anthems.

With a rising musical intensity, the lyrics describe the sudden end of a relationship followed by a bender in the heart of Texas.

In the first verse, Brian Johnson sings of being “Thunderstruck”, with images of being caught on railroad tracks with nowhere to go. He looks to his former partner for help, and they are nowhere to be seen. He knows that he’s all alone, and that train is going to hit him:

I was caught
In the middle of a railroad track (thunder)
I looked ’round
And I knew there was no turning back (thunder)
My mind raced
And I thought, what could I do? (Thunder)
And I knew
There was no help, no help from you (thunder)
Sound of the drums
Beating in my heart
The thunder of guns
Tore me apart
You’ve been
Thunderstruck

First verse to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

This verse describes an immediate and final breakup that comes unexpectedly, which some might say would hit you like a train. In this case, “the thunder of guns” represent the emotional storm that follows this kind of sudden breakup.

In the second verse, Johnson describes how he copes with the breakup the only way that a rockstar knows how: filling the void with an absolute bender down in Texas.

The lyrics tell of driving down with a few of your boys, ignoring the speed limit, and going off the rails:

Rode down the highway
Broke the limit, we hit the town
Went through to Texas, yeah, Texas, and we had some fun
We met some girls
Some dancers who gave a good time
Broke all the rules
Played all the fools
Yeah, yeah, they, they, they blew our minds
And I was shaking at the knees
Could I come again, please?
Yeah, them ladies were too kind
You’ve been
Thunderstruck, thunderstruck
Yeah, yeah, yeah, thunderstruck
Ooh, thunderstruck, yeah

Second verse to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

This represents a different kind of “Thunderstruck”, perhaps one having to do with the effects of cocaine or speed, or the excitement that one feels during a wild night of partying.

During this night of partying, there is a run-in with some professional women who are apparently very good at what they do, leaving Johnson “shaking at the knees” and asking if he can come again.

AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” was released as the lead single from The Razors Edge, and is one of the only songs from the post Back in Black (post Bon Scott) era that are considered part of the band’s main repertoire. Watch the music video below.

4 comments on The Meaning of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”

  • September 24, 2023 at 11:09 am

    How is it that no one has put together that Texas was the first place they played in the US? They had touring down, successfully traversing Australia and Europe for several years. The Let There Be Rock World Tour in 1977, led them to Austin, TX, their first show in the US. They found a new entourage there (think of the film “Entourage” 2015), some of whom they remained good friends with through the 80s.

    Thunderstruck is about that surge of energy you get from unforgettable, jaw dropping moments in your life, whether it’s a betrayal, meeting your new favorite groupie, or astoundingly good sex night after night.

    Reply
    • October 14, 2023 at 8:30 am

      Imo the song is about drug taking and the high that follows. Railroad track probably refers to lines of coke or possibly the scars that run up and down forearms, caused by excessive drug/needle use. The mention of Texas, as another commenter has said, probably references their 77 tour there. That coupled with the clear drug taking reference and the overall narrative coherence of the lyrics in comparison to other songs the Youngs wrote, leads me to believe Thunderstruck was actually written by Bon Scott. Remember also, that Scott described himself as the Thunderbolt in the middle of AC DC. Similarly the phrase BS walks in the song Money Talks is probably Bon Scott slyly referencing himself in what is another lyrically narratively coherent song superior to nearly everything else the Youngs penned. Remember also that Brian Johnson had been removed from songwriting duties (if he’d ever really been on them) for the Razor’s Edge album.

      Reply
  • February 21, 2023 at 10:41 am

    One of my absolute 💯 ❤️ favorite Rock and Roll Songs!!

    Reply
  • January 29, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    I had thought maybe the song Thunderstruck was inspired by 1987 Kevin Ives and Don Henry deaths on train tracks in Arkansas coming out of Texas that is linked to partying of teens led by drug traffickers to lead them to destruction of unable to escape getting murdered.

    Reply