Tuesday, July 5, 2011
AC/DC - Back In Black
Critically, the album is a favorite. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 26 on its list of 100 Greatest Albums of the 80’s and number 73 on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.
This was the first album recorded by the group after the death of lead singer Bon Scott by alcohol poisoning (the record is dedicated to him). Brian Johnson joined the band as the new lead singer and also a lyricist. “Mutt” Lange was brought in to produce the record; he had previously worked with the band on the Highway to Hell album.
The chilling, tolling chimes of “Hells Bells” opens up side one, followed by the haunting guitars of Angus and Malcolm Young. I like the steady tempo of this one, setting a great tone. Through the lyrics, the narrator tells of how he will attack and drag his victim to the bowels of underworld. The song was released as the second single from the album and it went to number 50 on the US Billboard charts.
“Shoot to Thrill” kicks up the tempo a few notches with a song about living life on the edge. The song has appeared in many places over the years including TV shows like the Dukes of Hazzard and films like Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Iron Man 2. It is a hard-rocker with an amazing guitar solo just after the three minute mark. I like this one a lot.
“What Do You Do for Money Honey” asks a woman on the streets a very important question.
“Given the Dog a Bone” is another hard-rocker, this one with strong sexual overtones.
“Let Me Put My Love Into You” has an equally suggestive title. Again, the guitar work is amazing. Clearly the brothers Young, Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams love what they do and it shows in each track. But, we can’t forget Phil Rudd on drums; his beats are like thunder in the summer nights, rattling and relentless.
The second side kicks off with “Back in Black”, the third single. It went to number 37 on the US Billboard charts. The opening is a classic; it doesn’t fail to get my head popping within seconds. The guitar riff is unforgettable too - I am certain everyone who has ever picked up an axe has tried their hand to play that one at least once. The song is a tribute to Bon Scott and the lyrics are meant to celebrate his life. I love the cascading guitar chords that kick in around the 2:45 mark.
The first single released from the album was “You Shook Me All Night Long”. It went to number 8 in Australia, number 38 in the UK and number 35 in the US. This song is a signature AC/DC track that had a long play history even after its release. I remember all my years of going to bars in the 80’s - this song was a must-play tune to keep the party going in high gear. Everyone danced to it and shouted out the chorus with drinks raised high. The song is also a favorite of my wife’s. She would have been happy for us to have a simple wedding ceremony on the beach with just our family and close friends, with this song played afterwards. (This Thursday marks our 21st wedding anniversary, by the way. Happy anniversary, dear. You are the one that shakes me all night long.)
“Have a Drink on Me” opens with a bluesy guitar riff before getting heavy. The lyrics preach that we have to take each day one at a time, and sometimes leave the worry of tomorrow for tomorrow. This is another of the deep, non-hit tracks that I like a lot.
“Shake a Leg” features a nice progression on the drums by Rudd. He keeps up with the ever speeding guitars.
“Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” was the fourth single released from the album. It went to number 15 on the UK singles charts. The opening features the sound of a flame rising from a lighter and someone taking a long drag of whatever was lit. The groove on this one is slower but still very driving.
I heard a lot of AC/DC and Back In Black in the 80’s. The record was a staple of the album rock station we listened to out of Buffalo. It seems like everybody I knew from school had a copy in their house (either their own or, like me, one owned by an older sibling). As I mentioned before, the songs were very popular in the bars because of their high energy and hard edge.
I personally got a copy of the album on cassette at some point during my college years, mostly for the big hits. I would occasionally give the whole thing a spin though. The record holds up very well for being over thirty years old; its rock is timeless and truly classic. It certainly deserves all the accolades it has earned and will very likely continue to be a classic for generations to come.