Friday, November 1, 2013

73 Back in Black (1980) ACDC

  1. Hells Bells
  2. Shoot to Thrill
  3. What Do You Do for Money Honey
  4. Given the Dog a Bone
  5. Let Me Put My Love Into You
  6. Back in Black
  7. You Shook Me All Night Long
  8. Have a Drink on Me
  9. Shake a Leg
  10. Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

The list of best selling albums of all time contains a lot of hard work. Dedicated effort went into some of the really big names. Thriller took six months and a huge roster of musicians to record, Dark Side of the Moon was a monster work that occupied the band for the better part of a year and Rumours had eight producers who worked over five separate recording studios.

Back in Black is just five guys who took a few weeks to record 10 songs. The went into the studio, playing their regular stage instruments and walked out having produced an album that would go on to sell 50 million copies, more than double the current population of their native Australia. They did it by basically sticking to the formula that served them so well throughout their career up to that point: loud, rocking songs with rude lyrics based around a guitar riff. True the person singing the rude words might have been different to the one they had in the past (who died a few months before they went into the studio) but other than a new guy behind the microphone it was business as usual.

The difference between Back in Black and their other albums is that the ratio of hit to filler is better than anything else they'd done. Traditionally ACDC put two or three great songs on their LP's and padded it out with some lesser stuff which merely added to the album's running length. It was a format that endeared them to their fans and served them well for years but had never granted them world wide success. Back in Black was the first ACDC album to give the listener as much hit as pad. The filler material is still there: What do you do for money honey, Given the Dog a Bone, Let me Put My Love Into You, Have a Drink on Me and Shake a Leg are all fairly forgettable tunes that sound like they could have been written in a few minutes while the drums were getting set up. Two of them have gained a degree of notoriety thanks to the naughty lyrics. For thirty years now schoolboys have tittered when they've worked out that Given the Dog a Bone isn't about feeding a family pet and  from Let Me Put My Love Into You Girl isn't just a metaphor (although "Let me cut your cake with my knife" is a metaphor. Not a good one but a metaphor none the less. Probably more of a euphemism to be honest. Or to be more honest it's just a really crap way of saying "put my penis in your vagina").

On their own these five songs wouldn't have sold 50 copies of an album let alone fifty million. But they're just filler material for the hits.

Hells Bells begins with a bell tolling which is about the only thing on the entire album that the band can't replicate exactly onstage without their usual instruments. It quickly gives away to Angus and Malcolm's riffing which immediately calmed any long term ACDC fans who were worried that a change in lead singer might signal a change in direction. When Brian Johnson steps up to the mike to begin his take over of the band's singing duties he immediately sounds like he's always been the ACDC frontman and always will be. He's a perfect fit. The guitar solo comes exactly when you'd expect it and is a typically Angus solo- not too long, not to flashy and takes just enough time to impress before the song comes back.

Shoot to Thrill is exactly the same only without the bell.  Not that I'm complaining for a second because both tracks have a good enough riff and anthemic chorus to make them hopelessly enjoyable and entertaining. They're both great songs but neither is anywhere as good as the album's two monsters.

Back in Black has a rapid fire, scattershot, rap like lyrical structure which should fail dismally but doesn't. It works perfectly as it builds to the chorus that I defy you not to sing along with. It would easily the album's best song if it wasn't followed by "She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean... etc etc" I know a lot of people who don't like rock music much and can't stand heavy metal but they love You Shook Me All Night Long. It's the perfect funky, groovy rock song that even those who hate head banging can head head bang to. It's got a big, dumb shouty chorus line and everyone loves it.

The album closes with Rock and Roll Aint Noise Pollution which is a song so moronic if it was a human being it wouldn't be capable of using its own opposable thumbs. It's dumber than the stupidest person in any room and less intelligent than even the guy class dunces look down on. It's great though. And it makes exactly the sort of statement that an eighties rock fan needed to hear. Rock and Roll aint gonna die.

33 years after it was released, Back in Black has sold 50 million units and is still going strong. ACDC are still performing and selling out massive concerts all over the world. They've never topped this album but they've never needed to, and nobody else has either. It's the high point of dumb heavy rock and it's still fantastic.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Why do people like Brian Johnson so much? His voice is awful, mustardy, lousy, absurd, stupid, pathetic, lame, horrible and he only screams, dosent sing at all and this is one of the worst hard rock albums ever."

-Wait... mustardy? Did you really describe a guy's voice as mustardy? That's fantastic.

So is this Acceptably Cretinous or Decidedly Crap? Let me know below.


  1. Brian Johnston wears a great hat. Slash wears a great hat. Has any one done a top 10 of the best hats in Rock?

    1. Now that is a good question.

      The best I could find was a round of Guess the Hard Rock hat which was pretty cool in it's own right.