Back in Black was the seventh studio album by AC/DC and it was released on this day July 25th 1980, (forty years ago today.) We are massive fans of the band here at Finbar Hoban Presents and we could not let today go by but not marking the album’s anniversary.
One of the best Hard Rock albums of all time. Phenomenal guitar work from Angus and Malcolm Young and an equally phenomenal first appearance by new vocalist Brian Johnson. Rounding out the band is Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd. However, what makes a band is the music and “Back in Black” has got that covered with “Hell’s Bells” and “Back in Black,” two of the most recognizable songs in rock history. Even the slightly lesser known songs like “Shoot to Thrill” and “Have a Drink on Me” manage to maintain what makes the album so great.
“Hells Bells” sets a mournful tone with its slow ominous build, but once Brian Johnston leans into the mic, the band is back in business. From there on out, it’s a masterful metal adventure that features some of the heaviest and most fist-pumping music of their career, including “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and the tune that’s probably inspired more late-night sing-alongs than any other, “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
After the untimely death of Bon Scott (who drank himself to death), the future of AC/DC was very much in doubt. But in an unprecedented move, the band picked up Brian Johnson from Geordie and then proceeded to make arguably the best album of their career. These guys have always been riff monsters with great beats and choruses, and they take those elements to another level here, while Johnson gave the band a highly distinctive new screecher who if anything had an even cooler voice than Bon.
And in a rare case of just desserts, the album deservedly launched the band into the commercial stratosphere; as of 2008, over 40 million copies have been sold worldwide. Anyway, Johnson fit right in with the band, who, in a fittingly tasteless toast to their fallen comrade, lovingly wrote “Have A Drink On Me,” which brought them criticism but which Bon almost certainly would’ve loved had he lived. Besides, since when did AC/DC ever try to please anyone but themselves and their fans?
Their blues-based thunder, endearing bravado, and knowing humor come across more powerfully than ever on this landmark release. In addition, Mutt Lange’s production is phenomenal and every song on the album is distinguishable from the next, quite a feat for an AC/DC album. “Back In Black,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and “Hells Bells,” are all certified hard rock classics, but lesser known album tracks like “Shoot To Thrill” (actually this one also still gets regular radio airplay), “What Do You Do For Money Honey,” “Let Me Put My Love Into You,” “Have A Drink On Me,” and “Rock n’ Roll ‘Aint Noise Pollution” are also outrageously good (the latter two you sometimes hear on “classic rock radio” as well).
Sure, “Shake A Leg” recycles the riff from “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” far too closely, and “Given The Dog A Bone” is cartoonishly unsubtle even for them, but these are minor quibbles about what is definitely a major hard rock album. Simply put, at this point in time AC/DC (not The Clash and certainly not The Rolling Stones) was the best band in the world.
I feel bad saying this is AC/DC’s best album since it almost discredits all the strong material that came before with Bon Scott, but I strongly believe that the material the Young brothers were putting together reached a climax at this point (they got increasingly better since their debut). Unfortunately the climax on this album was so high that the only way things could go from here was down since this was a very high standard they set for the genre.
I should also mention that the new singer Brian Johnson (AKA the garbage man) sounds hungry and eager to please , which thankfully did justice to all the memorable riffs of this legendary album. The production (drums especially) make this an explosive album and it should be no surprise that more than one song on here are drinking/sports anthems played at stadiums all over the world. The first two songs get that message across in strong fashion with amazing performances all around that would remain concert staples for the remainder of their careers. The only songs I believe don’t match the intensity of the rest of the album are “Honey What Do You Do For Money” and “Shake A Leg” which are maybe fillers but at least fit the cohesive nature of this album with the production from Mutt Lange.
Is it possible that he set the standard for eighties hard rock mixes with this album? “Let Me Put My Love Into You” is one of my personal favorite hidden gems (if you will) complete with greats riffs and a nice vocal harmony on the chorus by the new guy. “Have A Drink On Me” also has a great riff that drives an anthem which encourages over consumption perfectly. “Back In Black” is possibly the best song they ever wrote, I love every second of it; riffs, leads, Johnson rapping and of course loud ass drums.
“Shook Me All Night Long” is overplayed as hell, but I still can’t deny it’s status as a hard rock classic. Then there’s the closer which ends the album on a perfect note. I get the imagery of a drunk bar band having a good time which wraps up a classic hard rock album as well as anyone could’ve asked for.
It is no wonder this is one of the best selling albums of all time, and kind of makes me proud of these Australian boys especially if you consider the company they’re surrounded by on the top of that list. They are definitely the underdogs but they earned their spot by staying true to their sound which kept getting better until it culminated in this stone cold hard rock classic of an album