http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/11248db7aa34410fc5e7f8f3115eb6a4a6f667c2.jpg Back In Black


Back In Black

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 5 0
February 10, 2005

Literally thousands of bands have talked about making an album like Back in Black — a singular blast of red-blooded, riff-driven rock & roll — but only AC/DC have succeeded so wildly. In February 1980, just after the Aussie fivesome had broken stateside with 1979's Highway to Hell, singer Bon Scott choked on his own vomit in the back of a car. The band initially returned to the studio as a form of therapy, but six weeks after Scott's death, it had found a replacement and soon after hopped a plane to the Bahamas to begin recording. If AC/DC were beset by sadness or uncertainty about how to proceed, they kept it to themselves. Indeed, Back in Black might be the leanest and meanest record of all time — balls-out arena rock that punks could love.

Now reissued with slightly crisper sound and a skimpy making-of DVD, Back in Black is the rare classic record that actually sounds timeless. Synergistically soused brothers Angus and Malcolm Young conceived the songs' riffs first, defining each track with adrenalized blues blurts so archetypal that the sheet music ought to be chiseled on stone tablets. With future Def Leppard producer (and Mr. Shania Twain) Robert "Mutt" Lange emphasizing the hooks amid the racket, the results were body-rocking rather than overblown. Scott's replacement, Brian Johnson — who, appropriately enough, was toiling on an auto assembly line in England when he was called in for an audition — worked the grooves like a street brawler on jukebox shout-alongs such as "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Hells Bells" and the defiant title cut.

Back in Black is so explosive that people forget that it was intended as a tribute to Scott. The same spirit that made the band tell the Grim Reaper to go fuck himself also made for some Spinal Tap-esque moments — particularly on the locker-room epic "Givin' the Dog a Bone." The 20 million people who bought this album didn't care. Back in Black marked AC/DC's artistic peak, but how couldn't it? You could spend a lifetime trying to imitate music this perfectly simple.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Road to Nowhere”

    Talking Heads | 1985

    A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

    More Song Stories entries »