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When a band loses their singer and one of their most recognizable focal points, there must be a lot of soul searching into whether they can continue in any viable format. Bands like INXS and The Doors have realized that without the singer, the fan base they have built up can quickly erode and splitting up appears to be the only option.
Devastated by the death of lead singer Bon Scott, at the untimely age of 33 and due in no doubt to his hard living ways, AC/DC were faced with the conundrum of what to do and were seriously contemplating whether they should disband. The fact that they didn’t and then went on to release not only their biggest record ever but one of the top selling albums of all time, says a lot for the hard work and effort shown by the act and new singer Brian Johnson.
A large part of AC/DC‘s appeal to their fans was that they sang about what their fans liked and lived the lifestyle. Yes, it is often purile and juvenile but ‘Back In Black‘ showed that the death of Bon Scott would do nothing to derail the party attitude of the band.
Songs of a sexual nature, drinking and rock n’ roll peppered the album and many of the tracks still feature prominently in the bands set-list. Although the album was titled and made in honor of the memory of Scott, the songs themselves were more in homage to the way that Scott lived his life as opposed to standing as a tribute to the late singer.
One of the most impressive things about the record was the speed with which AC/DC created and recorded ‘Back In Black‘. Bon Scott died on the 2nd of February in 1980 and ‘Back In Black‘ was released on the 25th July of the same year.
In this time, AC/DC had recruited a new singer in the shape of Brian Johnson. Then Angus Young and Malcolm Youngwrote all the new material with him before decamping to Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas through April and May to record it and then master it and release it. All this was achieved in only 6 months! Considering the length of time major acts take between releasing albums nowadays, this is an astonishingly short piece of time, especially considering the period of mourning and feeling of loss the band would no doubt have been feeling at this time.
There were many fans that had grave doubts about Brian Johnson taking over vocal duties but he very swiftly carved out his own niche as a performer and gained a positive reaction for his vocal performance. It helped that his screech was not a million miles away from Bon Scott‘s throaty growl.
For those who grew up with the Bon Scott era, ‘Back In Black‘ was a major turning point. However under the skin things had not changed too much. The Young’s were still driving the sound with their incredible array of riffs crafted into immaculate slabs of rock. They still had “Mutt” Lange on board who had been responsible for the big sound on “Highway to Hell”. In fact the only thing that changed was Brian Johnson and he still had the right sound and energy. But for many this was their introduction to AC/DC and as such it still hasn’t been bettered.
With the band still wowing live audiences around the world, ‘Back In Black‘ has sold over 45 million records (certified by the RIAA at 22 million copies in the US alone) and sits only behind Michael Jackson’ ‘Thriller’ with regards to albums sold worldwide. ‘Back In Black‘ has transcended the hard rock genre that houses the band and the record can be found in the collection of many different listeners around the world.
Accolades and Awards
In 1989, it was ranked at number 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 80’s
In 2003, the album was ranked number 73 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
- Angus Young — lead guitar
- Brian Johnson — lead vocals
- Malcolm Young — rhythm guitar, backing vocals
- Phil Rudd — drums, percussion
- Cliff Williams — bass guitar, backing vocals
- Robert John “Mutt” Lange — Producer
- Tony Platt — Engineer
- Benji Armbrister — Assistant Engineer
- Jack Newber — Assistant Engineer
- Brad Samuelsohn — Mixing
- Bob Ludwig — Mastering (original LP)
- Barry Diament — Mastering (original CD releases)
- Ted Jensen — Remastering (EMI/Atco reissue in 1995)
- George Marino — Remastering (Epic reissue in 2003)
- Bob Defrin — Art Direction
- Robert Ellis — Photography
- “Hells Bells” – 5:13
- “Shoot to Thrill” – 5:18
- “What Do You Do for Money Honey” – 3:36
- “Givin the Dog a Bone” – 3:32
- “Let Me Put My Love into You” – 4:15
- “Back in Black” – 4:16
- “You Shook Me All Night Long” – 3:30
- “Have a Drink on Me” – 3:59
- “Shake a Leg” – 4:06
- “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” – 4:26