AC DC “Back in Black” 40th Anniversary

AC/DC Back In Black 40th Anniversary

Classic Rock 97LAV Celebrates the celebrates the 40th anniversary of AC DC “Back in Black”  

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Back in Black Album Facts

Recording

Like their previous album, 1979’s Highway To Hell, Back In Black was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange. His straightforward studio approach on Highway To Hell gave AC/DC their first platinum album in America.

AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott passed away unexpectedly on February 19, 1980, leaving the band’s future uncertain. With the encouragement of friends and family, Angus and Malcolm Young began a brief search for a new vocalist, quickly choosing former Geordie frontman Brian Johnson (a singer whom Bon admired). Brian was working on a British Leyland assembly line, roofing cars, when he got the call from the band.

No foolin’: Brian Johnson was announced as AC/DC’s new vocalist on April 1, 1980.

Initially slated to record Back In Black in London, AC/DC and Mutt Lange took advantage of a sudden opening at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Upon arriving to the island to record, Malcom Young evaded arrest when a customs agent briefly seized his guitar—spurring him to quickly seize it back!

The sessions were complicated by tropical storms that disrupted electricity, and in one case, even the sudden appearance of a crab scuttling across the wooden studio floor.

About The Songs

Finding the perfect bell for opening track “Hells Bells” was no easy task. Attempts to record existing church bells resulted in flocks of birds scattering every time a bell was rung. A foundry in Leicestershire created a 2000-pound bronze bell for the band, recorded by a mobile studio owned by Ronnie Lane of The Rolling Stones.

In 1993, Army pilot Michael Durant was located after a crash in Mogadishu, Somalia after search teams played “Hells Bells,” his favorite song, from the rescue aircraft. (The events were later dramatized in the 2001 film Black Hawk Down.)

“Hells Bells” was used as the entrance theme to San Diego Padres pitcher and Baseball Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman from 1998 to 2010. It was one of the first times a rock song accompanied a pitcher as they approached the mound.

The iconic opening riff to “Back In Black” was based on an idea Malcom came up with during a soundcheck on the Highway To Hell tour.

“Back In Black” was chosen to accompany the astronauts of SpaceX’s Dragon craft as they boarded the manned space mission to the International Space Station in 2020.

Tracks from Back In Black (the title track and “Shoot To Thrill”) were used to score pivotal scenes in Marvel’s first two Iron Man films in 2008 and 2010. AC/DC released a collection of songs in conjunction with the release of Iron Man 2.

The track “Let Me Put My Love Into You” was infamously cited as one of the “Filthy 15” by the Parents Music Resource Center, which sparked a debate about adult content in rock music and resulted in the creation of the Parental Advisory sticker.

“Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” was reportedly written in 15 minutes after the band realized they needed one more song to fill out the album.

Listen closely during the intro to “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and you’ll hear Brian Johnson light a cigarette and take a drag off of it before starting his vocal.

Release

The album’s all-black cover was a tribute to Bon Scott. At the insistence of Atlantic Records, their label at the time, the band allowed the text to be bordered in grey.

Back In Black became AC/DC’s first No. 1 album anywhere, reaching the top spot in their native Australia as well as the United Kingdom. It became their first Top 10 album in America, reaching No. 4.

The singles from Back In Black included AC/DC’s highest-charting singles in Australia up to that point—“You Shook Me All Night Long” (No. 8) and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” (No. 7)—and also gave the band their first American Top 40 singles with “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back In Black.”

Back In Black is far and away AC/DC’s best-selling album. It has sold a reported total of 50 million copies around the world—only Michael Jackson’s Thriller has sold more.

Accolades

The song “Back In Black” was included on VH1’s list of the greatest hard rock songs of all time (ranking at No. 2), No. 187 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and No. 29 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

The song “Back In Black” belatedly reached the U.K. Top 40 in 2012, after AC/DC made their catalogue available on iTunes for the first time. The song also topped the U.K.’s rock chart and Billboard’s Hard Rock Digital Songs chart that same month as a result.

In 2010, Australian radio station Triple M aired their Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown. All top five slots were held by AC/DC songs, with “Back In Black” at No. 2.