Depending on who you ask, AC/DC’s Back In Black is somewhere between the 9th and the 5th highest selling albums of all time, having sold between 30 and 50 million copies. It also helped the band heal after the passing of their original lead singer, Bon Scott just weeks before.
THE PASSING OF BON SCOTT:
Bon Scott was the original lead singer for the band starting in 1974. Just like Malcolm and Angus Young, Bon was born in Scotland and moved to Australia as a kid. The first time Scott saw the band play was in 1974. 3 years later he would join them. The band released 5 albums including Let There Be Rock and Powerage and saw marginal local success throughout Australia, and Europe. But in 1979 they would have their first worldwide success with Highway To Hell, which was the first time the band broke into the American top 100. That record was produced by Mutt Lange, a world renowned rock producer. As Highway To Hell launched the band into worldwide success and fame, they took off on a yearlong tour. After the tour but before they started working on their next album, Bon was out partying with friends on February 18th, 1980. Bon passed out in his friends back seat on their ride home, so the friend let him sleep it off in the car. The next morning he was found unresponsive. The coroner’s official cause of death was “death by misadventure”, however he choked in his sleep due to the drinking and died at age 33.
Here’s the plaque laid at Bon Scott’s memorial in Perth Australia.
THE HIRING OF BRIAN JOHNSON
After Bon’s passing in February, the band was ready to call it quits. But knowing Bon would want them to continue, and with the encouragement of Mutt Lange, the rest of AC/DC started looking for a new singer. Mutt suggested Brian Johnson, at the time the singer for an English band called Geordie. Brian got the audition call in mid-March, and shortly after auditioned with the band doing Whole Lotta Rosie, one of the band’s more popular songs recorded with Bon. Just a week or so later Brian was officially in AC/DC. Now they needed to make a record. Brian officially joined the band on March 29th, and by mid April they were in the Bahamas in a studio recording what would become Back In Black. Mid-April to mid-May is also hurricane season for the Bahamas, and a huge storm blew over the band while they were there recording. During a power outage due to the storm, Brian began writing lyrics to what would be Hell’s Bells, the very first track on the album.
“I’m rolling thunder, pourin’ rain. I’m comin’ on like a hurricane. My lightning’s flashing across the sky. You’re only young but you’re gonna die.”
After the recording sessions were finished the band mixed the album at Jimi Hendrix’s world famous Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Bon died February 19th 1980. Brian joined AC/DC March 29, 1980. They recorded the album from mid April to mid May 1980. Back In Black was released on July 25, 1980. And the world hasn’t been the same since.
BACK IN BLACK, THE ALBUM
Back In Black wasn’t just a commercial success. It was a monster hit around the world. With a simple all black cover to convey the band mourning Bon’s death, everything about this album is iconic and memorable for many generations. The album is packed with amazing power driving songs including Hell’s Bells, Shoot To Thrill, Given The Dog A Bone, Back In Black, Have A Drink On Me, Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, and the band’s biggest commercial hit to date, You Shook Me All Night Long. The band launched 4 singles with accompanying videos to promote the album and all of them were monster hits.
I know I remember exactly where I was when I first saw the video for “You Shook Me All Night Long”. And I’ve been a fan of leg warmers ever since. And AC/DC too. Take yourself back to 1980 with these mega-hit videos from possibly the greatest hard rock record ever made.