This was released five months after lead singer Bon Scott died. The song is a tribute to Scott, and the lyrics, "Forget the hearse 'cause I never die" imply that he will live on forever through his music. With Brian Johnson on lead vocals, the Back In Black album proved that AC/DC could indeed carry on without Scott. (thanks, Nathan - Willow Spring, NC)
Brian Johnson made quite a statement with this song, quickly endearing himself to AC/DC fans and leaving little doubt that the band made the right pick to replace Bon Scott. Johnson had been in a group called Geordie, which Scott saw in 1973. After that show, Scott talked up the Geordie lead singer to his bandmates, and in 1980 when they were looking for a replacement, AC/DC's producer Mutt Lange suggested him. At the time, Johnson was working as a windshield fitter and had recently reunited Geordie.
The band got the idea for the title before writing any of the song, although Malcolm Young had the main guitar riff for years and used to play it frequently as a warm-up tune. After Bon Scott's death, Angus Young decided that their first album without him should be called Back In Black in tribute, and they wrote this song around that phrase. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The album had a black cover with the band's logo on it, which was a tribute to Bon Scott. They didn't want it to feel mournful, however, and needed a title track that captured the essence of their fallen friend. They were certainly not going to do a ballad, so it fell on Brian Johnson to write a lyric that would rock, but also celebrate Scott without being morbid or literal.
Johnson says he wrote "Whatever came into my head," which at the time he thought was nonsense. To the contrary, lines about abusing his nine lives and beating the rap summed up Scott perfectly, and his new bandmates loved it.
Bon Scott had several lyrical ideas for the album, but those were abandoned by the band in favor of new lyrics by Brian, Malcolm and Angus. Former AC/DC manager Ian Jeffrey claims to still have a folder that contains lyrics of 15 songs written for Back In Black by Bon, but Angus insists that all of Bon's notebooks were given to his family.
This song was recorded in The Bahamas and produced in New York by Mutt Lange. Back In Black
was one of the first big albums Lange produced. He went on to work with Def Leppard, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain (who he married in 1993). In the late-'70s, he produced two albums for the band Clover, which featured Huey Lewis on harmonica and Alex Call on lead vocals. Call explains Lange's production style:
"Mutt is a real studio rat. He is Mr. Endurance in the studio. When we were making the records with him, he'd start working at 10:30, 11 in the morning and go until 3 at night, night after night. He is one of the guys that really developed that whole multi-multi-multi track recording. We'd do 8 tracks of background vocals going, "Oooooh" and bounce those down to one track and then do another 8, he was doing a lot of that. A lot of the things you hear on Def Leppard and that kind of stuff, he was developing that when he worked with us. We were the last record he did that wasn't enormous, and that's not his fault, he did a really good job with us. Mutt is famous for working long hours. The story I heard about one of the Shania sessions, he had Rob Hajakos, who's one of the famous fiddle session men down here (Nashville). Rob was playing violin parts for like seven or eight hours and finally he said, 'Can I take a break,' and Mutt says, 'What do you mean take a break?' Rob goes, 'Have you ever held one of these for eight hours under your chin?' Mutt really loves to record, he loves music and he's a real perfectionist and an innovator. An unbelievable commercial hook writer." (Check out our full interview with Alex Call
This was the title track to AC/DC's most popular album. It has sold over 19 million copies in the US, the 6th highest ever. Worldwide, it has sold over 40 million.
The Beastie Boys sampled this on their 1985 single "Rock Hard," a single released in 1985 on Def Jam Records. They sampled it without AC/DC's permission, so AC/DC refused to allow the Beastie Boys to include the song on their 1999 compilation album Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science. (thanks, Jimoh - New York, NY)
A remastered version is included on the 1997 Bon Scott tribute album, Bonfire.
The Atlanta Falcons football team used this as their theme song for a while. The Falcons also went through an MC Hammer phase, when they used "2 Legit 2 Quit" and let the rapper roam their sidelines.
This was used as the backing track to a bootleg version of Eminem's 1999 hit "My Name Is
" The song fits surprisingly well under Eminem's rap.
Missy Elliott did a remix of this song called "Get Your Freak On (AC/DC remix)" that is played in the beginning of the movie The Rundown, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Sean William Scott. (thanks, Steve - Kitchener, Canada)
The Appalachian State Mountaineers football team use this song before and during their games, where it is a crowd favorite. The team colors are gold and black. (thanks, Laura K. - Toccoa, GA)
This features in a commercial for the 2015 Chevy Colorado pickup truck, where a mundane guy in a generic sedan is soundtracked with "Rainy Days And Mondays
," which becomes "Back In Black" when a much more exciting fellow comes into the shot and drives off in his black Colorado.
Kurt Cobain was given his first guitar for his 14th birthday, and this was the first song that he learned to play.