AC/DC – Back In Black (originally 1980, 2004 Epic DualDisc)
How many times have I bought Back in Black? How many times have you bought it? I know that I purchased it on CD first in 1990, and then four more times since. I currently own two copies: this DualDisc, and the one that came in the Bonfire box set. I don’t think I have it on vinyl, but I could be wrong. The DualDisc has a DVD side with some neat stuff including a documentary.
“The Story of Back In Black” begins in 1979, with Highway to Hell, fame and glory. New interviews with all five AC/DC members (Angus & Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Brian Johnson) provides a little bit of insight. We all know the story: February 19 1980, the death of Bon Scott, and the brave decision to carry on have become rock legend. But according to Angus, it was Malcolm who kept the band playing, if only to distract them from the pain of their loss. The band continued to jam and write without a singer, but producer Mutt Lange knew of one from a band called Geordie. Brian recalls a hilarious story of being invited to audition for the band. He went down to London and played “Whole Lotta Rosie” with AC/DC for the first time. They then went to the Bahamas with Mutt to record.
The band tells the stories behind several songs: “Hells Bells”, “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back in Black”, and “Shoot to Thrill”, while Angus and Malcolm demonstrate the riffs up close. Brian reveals “Back in Black” was a challenge, since it was intended as a tribute in song to Bon. No small feat to get the mood right. The 30 minute mini-doc ends with Back in Black selling 10 million copies. I guess they got it right!
You know the songs. You’ve heard ’em the radio, seen ’em on the video, hummed them in your sleep. “Hells Bells” is one of those archetypal AC/DC songs. When one pictures the “ominous AC/DC headbanger” song, “Hells Bells” should certainly come to mind. Then you can get your stompin’ shoes on for “Shoot to Thrill”. I do miss Bon Scott’s sly playfulness, but there’s nothing wrong with Brian Johnson’s full-speed-ahead screech either. “What Do You Do For Money Honey” is as catchy today as it was then, and has the benefit of being one of the songs that doesn’t get played every single day on the radio. I’m not as burned out on it. Same with “Givin the Dog a Bone”, but on that song all I can do is wonder what Bon would have done with that groove.
One truly outstanding track is the last song on side one, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”. Yes, that title is hardly clever. But the song kicks ass all over the place. It’s one of those late night prowls that AC/DC do so well, and it perfectly closes the first side.
The title track opens the second side with a bang. Then “You Shook Me All Night Long”, a classic that also needs no introduction. If you don’t know this song then you probably don’t listen to rock music. I can’t add anything to the discussion there.
“Have A Drink On Me” and “Shake A Leg” are both fine AC/DC songs. Nothing wrong with ’em, nothing exceptional about them. Thankfully they saved one of the best songs for last: “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”. This has been my favourite track since first getting the album 24 years ago. It’s an anthem, the kind of thing we can all agree on. Rock and roll ain’t noise pollution, baby. I’ll drink to that.
I don’t think Back In Black is the best AC/DC album, but it might be the best Brian Johnson album. It’s certainly the most important AC/DC album historically, and it’s a must for any serious rock fan to own. Choose your format according to your own wishes, but this DualDisc edition satisfies me fine.
For those times when you can’t use the internet to tell you what songs are on what albums.