22 Things You Might Not Know About AC/DC's 'Back In Black'

By Dave Basner

July 23, 2021

AC/DC In London
Photo: Getty Images

On July 25th, 1980, AC/DC released their seventh album, Back in Black. To mark the 41st anniversary of Back in Black, here are 22 things you might not know about the iconic album:

1.Back in Black was the band’s first album with Brian Johnson, who replaced late original singer Bon Scott.

2. The group started working on the record just three days after Bon’s funeral. When asked why, guitarist Malcolm Young explained, “I thought, ‘Well, f**k this, I’m not gonna sit around mopin’ all f***ing year.’”

3. Even though Bon had written some material for it, AC/DC refused to use any of Scott’s work on the album, not wanting to seem as though they were profiting from his passing. Instead, Brian wrote all the lyrics and melodies while Angus Young and Malcolm Young took care of the music.

4. Mal once said of the album, “With Bon’s death we wanted to put everything down right, we were really focused on that album and it turned out to be timeless and I think it’ll stay that way. I think maybe AC/DC had come to a peak at that point.”

5. The effort was recorded from April to May of 1980 in The Bahamas. It took a while because tropical storms kept hitting the area, causing problems with the studio’s electricity.

6. The bad weather influenced Brian’s songwriting. He references it in the opening lines of “Hells Bells” with the lyrics, “I’m rolling thunder, pourin’ rain. I’m comin’ on like a hurricane. My lighting’s flashing across the sky. You’re only young but you’re gonna die.”

7. Most of the band’s gear got held up in customs, adding to the delays in recording the album.

8. At one point, the sessions were interrupted by a crab shuffling across the studio’s wooden floors.

9. The sound quality of Back in Black is so perfect that studios in Nashville, a.k.a Music City, and elsewhere, use the album to check the acoustics of a room. Motorhead used the record to tune their sound system.

10. The record was mixed at New York’s Electric Lady Studios, where classics like Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti were crafted.

11. The album has an all-black cover, a sign of mourning for Bon Scott. Their label at first refused to do it but acquiesced after the band agreed to put a grey outline around the AC/DC logo.

12. The title track is a tribute to Bon Scott. When Brian was tasked with writing it, he was told it couldn’t be morbid, it had to be a celebration. He wrote what came to his head, which was, “Nine lives. Cats eyes. Abusing every one of them and running wild.” He thought it was nonsense but the band loved it and saw Bon’s life in the lyric.

13. Malcolm had the riff for “Back in Black” for three weeks before he asked Angus to record it. After he was done, he asked Angus, “What do you think? I don’t know if it’s crap or not.”

14. The bell used in “Hells Bells” was a perfectly tuned 2,000-pound cast bronze bell the band had custom-made. Originally, they tried to use the bell in the Carillon Tower in England, but the sound of pigeons flying away at each bell hit ruined the sound.

15. “You Shook Me All Night Long” became the band’s first Top 40 hit in America, peaking at number 35.

16. “You Shook Me All Night Long” has been named one of the most played songs at American strip clubs.

17. Some of the most sought-after AC/DC collector’s items are singles of “You Shook Me All Night Long” that play “Shake a Leg.” They were mistakenly released to the public.

18. During the intro to “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution,” Brian Johnson lights a cigarette and smokes it.

19. “Shoot to Thrill” has been used in many movies, TV shows, and video games including Iron Man 2, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, Red 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

20.Back in Black stayed on the album chart for 131 weeks but never hit number one.

21. The album went to number one on the UK chart and made AC/DC the first band since The Beatles to have four albums simultaneously in the British Top 100. Highway to Hell,If You Want Blood You’ve Got It andLet There Be Rock all re-entered the charts after Back in Black came out.

22. The album became the band’s best-selling record and is the second all-time best-selling album worldwide, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller. In the US, it’s the sixth best-selling album of all time, having gone platinum 22 times, meaning it’s sold more than 22-million copies. 

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