AC/DC – ” Back in Black “, Released 40 Years Ago on July 25th

Posted: July 23, 2020 in MUSIC
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AC:DC - Back In Black

Rock’s biggest-selling album ever — AC/DC’s Back in Black — is turning 40 years old this month,. In a joint effort with Gibson Guitars, we’re presenting “Back in Black 40th Anniversary: A Virtual Celebration”. The online stream will take place Friday, July 24th, premiering at 5:00 p.m.

Going into 1980, it most certainly seemed like it would be smooth sailing across the finish line for AC/DC. After several years of slowly climbing up the ladder of success Stateside and in Europe (they were already gigantic in their homeland of Australia), 1979 had perfectly set the stage for a bona fide worldwide breakthrough in the new decade.

Their last album, Highway to Hell, had peaked at No. 17 in the US and went gold (while the album’s anthemic title track reached No. 47 on the singles chart), and the band — then comprised of singer Bon Scott, guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young, bassist Cliff Williams, and drummer Phil Rudd — were about to make the transition from opener to arena headliner. And then …tragedy struck.

Well-known for his fondness for partying and in particular, for alcohol, Scott was found dead on February 19th, 1980, at the age of 33 in the backseat of a car in London (his death certificate lists the cause as “death by misadventure” — for many years it was assumed caused by alcohol, but in recent times, the possibility of a heroin overdose has come to light). A decision was eventually made by the surviving members to carry on, with former Geordie singer, Brian Johnson, officially being named Scott’s successor on April 1st. Soon after, Johnson and his new bandmates (and the producer behind Highway to Hell, Mutt Lange), congregated at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas to get to work on AC/DC’s next studio LP. By May, the sessions had wrapped up, and on July 25th, the world was given one of rock’s all-time classic (and largest-selling) recordings, Back in Black.

AC/DC’s landmark 1980 LP, Back in Black”, turns 40 years old on July 25th, and they’re marking the occasion by releasing vintage videos from the era on YouTube. The newest one is a performance of “What Do You Do for Money Honey” from a February 1981 show at Nippon Seinenkan in Tokyo.

Original AC/DC frontman Bon Scott died slightly less than one year before this show in Tokyo, and this was their first time on the road with singer Brian Johnson. It’s a rare live video where Johnson isn’t wearing his trademark newsboy hat. He is wearing an Ohio State University shirt, which he probably picked up when the group played Columbus, Ohio, five months earlier.

While all 10 of the album’s tracks crediting both the Young brothers and Johnson as the sole composers, it later surfaced that Scott had some sort of involvement in the genesis of the material (at the very least, playing drums on a few demos — with others going so far as to allege he may have contributed a bit lyrically). But either way, the end result was simply stunning, as Back in Black (whose title was an obvious nod to their recently deceased bandmate) rocked hard from front to back — one of the rare albums where not a single weak track was included. probably more so than on any other AC/DC album, the classics outweigh the lesser compositions, including four songs that have never left their setlists (nor rock radio playlists) since their initial unveiling: “Hells Bells”, the title track, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”. And then there are tunes that would probably be most other bands’ A-listers — “Shoot to Thrill”, “What Do You Do for Money Honey”, and “Have a Drink on Me” .

There was initially some skepticism about whether or not AC/DC could flourish without Scott, but all doubts were put to rest the second that Back in Black hit. It was their biggest album to date, and songs like “Hells Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Back in Black,” “Shoot to Thrill,” and “Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” have been at the center of their live show for the past 40 years. “What Do You Do for Money Honey” has gotten slightly less love. They last played it on the 2001 Stiff Upper Lip tour.

The future of AC/DC is somewhat of a mystery at the moment, but there is photographic evidence that the group spent time at a Vancouver recording studio in 2018, suggesting that drummer Phil Rudd, bassist Cliff Williams, and Johnson are back in the fold. By the conclusion of the Rock or Bust tour in 2016, they had all departed from the group for various reasons. There were widespread rumours of a new album and tour earlier this year, but it’s quite possible that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their plans.

unlike certain rock albums that storm the charts and then become largely forgotten over time (or sound increasingly dated as the years progress), Back in Black has possessed incredible staying power in the consciousness of rock fans. So much so that at last count (December 2019) the album has sold a staggering 25 million copies … in the US alone. Looking back on Back in Black 40 years after its original release, it remains impressive both how the band was able to assemble and record the album so soon after the death of Scott and also how they happened to locate the perfect replacement behind the mic (something that is quite difficult to do in most cases.

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