This was the first AC/DC single featuring new lead singer Brian Johnson. He replaced Bon Scott, who died February 19, 1980 after a drinking binge. Scott's father made it clear to the band that they should find a new singer and keep going.
Brian Johnson came up with the line "She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean" when he realized that cars and women were very much alike - they go fast, let you down, but then make you happy again when you see the new model. AC/DC has never been known for deep, meaningful lyrics.
Brian Johnson said that the inspiration for this song came from seeing images of American girls while recording in the Bahamas for the album Back In Black.
Angus and Malcolm Young have received lots of praise for their guitar work on this track. The song has made many lists of top guitar solos in rock.
Brian Johnson told UK's Absolute Radio about the inspiration behind the song. "The boys had a title," he recalled. "Malcolm and Angus [Young] said, 'Listen, we've got this song. It's called 'Shook Me All Night Long.' That's what we want the song to be called.' And if you listen to the chords, [the chorus] just fell into place so I can't claim any credit on that thing."
"It was as quick as it had to be, which was that night. I guess I had to try and impress somebody," he continued. "It was just a thing that came at the time, and I still think it's one of the greatest rock and roll riffs I've ever heard in my life."
Some copies of the single were pressed incorrectly - they play a song called "Shake A Leg" and are considered collector's items.
MTV wasn't on the air when this song was released, but in Australia and England, there were some TV shows that would show videos, so bands popular in those countries would sometimes make them. AC/DC made one for this song, which was directed by David Mallet, who also did some of Blondie's videos. He based the video on the comic strip character Andy Capp, which was very popular in England. Brian Johnson took on the drunkard persona of the character, and we see him come home to a room of scantily clad women, one of which is riding a mechanical bull. Mallet also directed their video for "Thunderstruck
The album has sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
AC/DC played this when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who inducted them, sang on it with them.
This is a very popular song at strip clubs (or so we're told...). The lyrics and groove go very well with pole dancing.
This plays over the end credits of the movie A Knight's Tale
Shania Twain sang this on her Up! Close And Personal
TV special (also released as a DVD). Her then-husband, Mutt Lange, produced Back In Black
In 2002 Celine Dion covered this song together with Anastacia at a VH1 Divas Las Vegas concert. The French-Canadian singer came on stage playing air-guitar and proceeded to belt out this track. Though never released as a single, some radio stations played her version of this classic heavy metal track. In a 2008 poll conducted by a panel of experts in the Total Guitar magazine her rendition was awarded the dubious honor of worst cover song of all time. Total Guitareditor Stephen Lawson commented "Celine Dion covering AC/DC is sacrilege." Two more covers by pop acts of legendary tunes by rock acts followed Dion in the survey. Sugababes and Girls Aloud 2007 version of Aerosmith and Run DMC's "Walk This Way" came second on the list and Westlife's 1999 version of "More Than Words" by Extreme, a track on their self-titled debut album, came third.
Johnson told USA Weekend that this song is for him the highlight of the band's catalog because: "It was the first song I wrote with the guys, and it has a special groovy beat that won't let you go. It has such a special place in my heart, and I still love to sing it onstage. To me, it might be one of the best rock songs ever written - if I do say so myself."
One of the more unusual covers of this song can be found on the 2001 album, A Hillbilly Tribute To AC/DC, by the AC/DC bluegrass tribute band Hayseed Dixie.