G’Day again you bloodthirsty vinyl vultures and welcome back to Viva La Vinyl, Music Feeds‘ bi-monthly record club where we and shoot the sh*t about some of the most iconic albums that every collector worth their PVC should own.
This time around, we’re un-sleeving Back In Black by AC/DC; not just an iconic metal album, but a game-changing comeback for Australia’s gods of hard rock, who were still in recovery mode following the tragic death of their famed frontman Bon Scott at the time of its release.
Sadly, our Viva La Vinyl spotlight on Back In Black also coincides with the recent death of Acca Dacca’s beloved rhythm axeman Malcolm Young, whose percussive string-thumping pounds throughout this album like thunder.
So Have A Drink On AC/DC, and join us as we look at why Back In Black is a deadset must-have for any self-respecting vinyl collector’s record crate.
A Bit Of Background…
Recorded after legendary frontman Bon Scott choked to death following a tragic drinking spree, the rockers’ seventh studio album Back In Black represented both the end of an era and the dawn of a new one. The surviving members of AC/DC were anxious and uncertain about their future when they entered a Bahamas recording studio with new vocalist Brian Johnson just months after Bon’s death, with Angus Young later admitting to Rolling Stone that he felt distinctly “jittery”.
Produced by their go-to guy Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the record that came out of those sessions reverently saluted Bon’s memory by using the colour black in both the title and on the album jacket, but did not dwell on his loss, instead soldiering ahead with 10 explosive new hard rock anthems. It was a critical record for the group, representing a make or break (or ‘rock or bust’, if you will) point in their careers, and you can only imagine how nervous they would have been on the day of its release on 25th July, 1980. But they needn’t have worried. Not only did fans and critics receive Back In Black with open arms…
…They turned it into an unprecedented success. Back In Black remains the world’s 2nd highest selling record of all time, behind only Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It hit number #1 in Australia and the UK, and it’s a staple on every definitive Greatest Albums Of All Time list worth the paper (or CMS system) it’s written on, including Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties and 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, VH1’s Top 100 Albums and Q magazine’s 40 Best Albums of the ’80s.
1) Brian Johnson hit a creative wall during the band’s Bahamas studio sessions after the Young brothers asked him to write lyrics for a song that they wanted to call ‘Hells Bells’. Then all of a sudden — as if by divine intervention — the island was hit by the “mother of all thunderstorms”.
As the Scotsman recalled to Louder Than Hell: the Definitive Oral History of Metal:
“I said, ‘Jesus, the noise of the thunder is coming in. [producer] Mutt said, ‘There you go, that’s a start, Brian, the rolling thunder’. And I went, ‘It’s f*cking pouring rain, look at the wind, it’s comin’ on like a hurricane. And look at that lightning flashing across the sky!’ Honestly, I was like a reporter. There as an alarm bell ringing, so I went, ‘Got my bell I’m gonna take you to hell. Gonna get ya, Satan get ya! Hells bells’. That was it. It was ten minutes and the song was done.”
2) ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ was used by the American military in 1989 as part of a military tactic. The US armed forces reportedly blasted it at the Papal Nunciatura in Panama City in a successful bid to get dictator general Manuel Noriega to surrender.
3) Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can’t name a single song off Back In Black.
From the sinister throat-tearing title track, to the ominous blast of ‘Hells Bells’, ‘Shoot To Thrill’, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ and ‘Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’, Back In Black is bursting with the kind of swaggering, innuendo-fuelled anthemic hard rock that’s made AC/DC one of the most iconic and enduring rock & roll bands the world has ever known.
ICYMI: Many of its ass-kicking tunes also featured on the soundtrack for the 2010 Marvel blockbuster Iron Man II.
A successful band gets stuck down by an unimaginable tragedy in the prime of their career and it very nearly finishes them off. But instead of breaking up, they regroup, plough ahead with a new frontman and record one of the greatest albums of all time.
Back In Black would still be considered AC/DC’s best-selling, most popular and critically respected LP even if it wasn’t for the insane circumstances that spawned it. But when you take those into account as well, this album becomes nothing short of legendary.
Not only did it signal a changing of the guard for AC/DC, but a changing of the game for music in general, becoming an inspirational pop cultural metaphor for getting hit by tragedy and bouncing back bigger and badder than ever before. Such was the strength of Back In Black that it not only saved AC/DC from extinction, but catapulted them into the stratosphere with an historic career that would endure for another four decades, nine albums, and a legacy that would last forever.
Why Own It On Vinyl?
Hearing those iconic riffs blasting out of an actual record player will definitely leave you Shook. All. Night. Long. Do your body a favour and get a copy, right here.
While brushing up on your air guitar skills inside your man (or woman) cave.
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