BACK IN BLACK: 36 Years Of Shock 'n' Roll
AC/DC unleashed 'Back in Black' on July 25, 1980 and “...the walls started shaking, the earth was quaking...”
When a popular band loses its singer, it rarely bounces back to reach the level of success it had prior to the lineup shift. The most remarkable exception to this rule is Australian powerhouse AC/DC, which released the legendary album 'Back in Black' on July 25, 1980.
The album was dedicated to the band’s late vocalist Bon Scott, who died on February 19, 1980, after a night of heavy drinking. Though they were devastated by the death of their friend and briefly considered breaking up, AC/DC decided to carry on with a new singer.
When Geordie vocalist Brian Johnson was invited to try out, he wasn’t immediately interested. “Someone phoned up and asked me to join this thing, and I just said, ‘Nah, I’ve been bitten before,’” . “I had three Top 10 hits with Geordie. And after three years we were as broke as when we started. Those were the days of the great rip off. I was with a company called Red Bus Records, whose motto was, ‘You make the music and we’ll make the money.’ But it was written in Latin so we couldn’t understand it. I just said, ‘I’m not gonna do this again. I was away from home all the time, missed my daughters growing up. But then I got curious and thought, ‘Well, what’s the harm in trying out?’ So I went down, sang with the boys and…. Boing!”
While most other singers auditioned with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” Johnson tried out with Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits,” which earned the immediate approval and respect from the band, who were tired of playing “Smoke on the Water” and pleased Johnson listened to different styles of music. On April 8, 1980, following two auditions, Johnson agreed to sign a six-month contract with AC/DC, which would be evaluated after it expired. If at any point during the six months either the band or Johnson decided the pairing wasn’t working out, they could sever the deal. Of course, that was never an issue. Johnson fit AC/DC like a rubber glove.
To date, Back in Black has sold in excess of 50 million copies. It is the single biggest hard rock album ever released.
For the opening moments of 'Hells Bells' (and the album itself), attempts to record the Denison Bell at England’s Carillon Tower and War Museum proved fruitless due to natural bird sounds. Instead, Mutt Lange had a custom 2.000-pound brass bell created by a foundry that would remain perfectly in tune. Those flawless rings were eventually captured at Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio in England.
Two music videos for “You Shook Me All Night Long” exist. One, released in 1980, showcases the band playing live. The second was created in 1986 for 'Who Made Who', AC/DC’s combination greatest-hits and soundtrack album for the Stephen King cult movie, Maximum Overdrive. The 'Who Made Who ' video is a major comedyc production starring Johnson and buxom British Page 3 model and Benny Hill Show starlet, Corinne Russell.
'Shoot to Thrill' is one of the most widely used rock songs in movies, TV, and video games. Among the productions that have employed the song are Iron Man 2,Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, The Dukes of Hazzard, xXx: State of the Union, Red 2, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
In March 2014, Brian Johnson joined Billy Joel onstage at one of the Piano Man’s monthly Madison Square Garden concerts. Together they performed 'You Shook Me All Night Long'.