By early 1980, the band’s hard work ethic and songs about life had them on the summit. The next album was crucial. Bon Scott was living the dream with women and booze, Angus Young was getting married and the band started writing the follow-up to “Highway To Hell”.
Bon Scott was involved in early sessions (as a drummer) for songs that would become “Have A Drink On Me” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You”. After those sessions, Bon said to meet up in a weeks’ time as that would give him time to write some lyrics, however that next session never eventuated.
By mid-Feb, 1980, Bon Scott was found dead in his car, and depression set it on the Young brothers. By mid-March, and on the back of words said by Bon’s father, Malcolm called Angus to start working again, just the two of them, no one else. In these sessions post Bon’s death, “Back In Black” would be written.
They finally auditioned some singers and Brian Johnson was hired. With the band complete, they went to the Bahamas to start writing and recording in stormy weather. And as much as the storms come to disrupt our lives now and then, they also clear the path. The bad weather led to “Hells Bells”. “Rock And Roll Aint Noise Pollution” was the last song written.
For the lyrics, a lot of ideas, choruses and melodies were already written by Malcolm and Angus before Brian joined. Stories exists that the brothers took the lyrics from Bon Scott’s notebook, which Angus denied in a Guitar World interview, saying, that all of Bon’s notebooks went direct to his parents.
Released in July, 1980, it was certified as Gold and Platinum in October, 1980 in the U.S.
And these U.S certifications continued as AC/DC kept on releasing albums in the 80’s which no one bought, because everyone was still buying “Back In Black”.
By October, 1984, it was 5x Platinum and by October 1990 it was 10x Platinum. 10 million in sales. By June, 2004, it was 20x Platinum. The period between 1990 and 1999 is the” CD’s replacing vinyl/cassette’s period”, so it’s hard to quantify the real fans.
And now in December, 2019, its 25x Platinum.
I think it’s important to recognise the commercial and cultural impact of “Back In Black”.
All black, to signify a band in mourning due to the passing of Bon Scott. The opposite of the white album from The Beatles, and it’s funny how another band would use a similar black cover for their biggest selling album. And the label didn’t want it all black, so the grey outline on the logo was created.
Acca Dacca weren’t the first, as Pink Floyd employed a similar concept for “Dark Side Of The Moon” and so did Black Sabbath for “IV”
Even though the album isn’t a heavy metal album, it is still seen as an influential metal album. But it’s the crossover appeal which sent the album to the stratosphere. Guitarists who don’t normally play rock or metal, would still learn the songs from “Back In Black”. There is no escaping the title track, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Hells Bells” and “Shoot To Thrill”. Actually there isn’t a song on the album that I would skip or not wanna play.
Mutt Lange’s production on the album is still seen as the go to sound for how hard rock should sound and he did it in six weeks, which is short for Lange’s standard.
And how hard rock should sound, Lange style, is the same as Bob Rock’s production on “Dr Feelgood” and the self-titled “Black” album and how those albums are seen as the heavy rock/metal standard.
Lange’s focus on perfection for each breath, each note, changed the way bands would record in the 80’s, and his attention to detail, pushed recording budgets into the millions. Good for him, as he got paid well and bad for bands who didn’t sell what the budget paid for. And Lange, brought his methods to the mainstream in a super big way on the backs of AC/DC, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain albums.
And AC/DC is still doing its victory lap on the back of this album. They kept working, put their emotions towards creating and in the process delivered an album for the ages.