BACK IN BLACK AT 40

July 26th, 2020

BACK IN BLACK at 40.

July 25th, 1980.  Just a little over six months removed from the tragic passing of the legendary Bon Scott.  Who would have guessed AC/DC would not only find a new lead singer, but write and record arguably the greatest hard rock album of all time?  The sales figures are staggering; either the second or third highest selling ever depending on what list you’re looking at.  420 (insert joke here) weeks straight on the Billboard charts.  AC/DC’s first ever top 40 single.  Urban legends a plenty of Nashville venues using it to test their sound boards, along with Motorhead.  How does one celebrate its birthday?  With a completely unnecessary ranking of all the tracks!  Sit back as I rank each track from great to somehow greater!

10. “SHAKE A LEG” - On a record filled with ten nearly flawless hard rock tracks, one has to go at the bottom. If there’s one track on Back in Black I occasionally forget is on the album, it’s this one.  Still most bands would kill to write a song this catchy, with a well intentioned riff that never lets up, and a solid chorus.  It’s an 8 on an album filled with 10s

9. “WHAT DO YOU DO FOR MONEY HONEY” - Now AC/DC has never exactly been known for “subtlety” in their lyric writing and they certainly aren’t here! Even the band tended to ignore this track for about 20 years.  But even with all that said….man that chorus rules.  How do you get your kicks?

8. “LET ME PUT MY LOVE INTO YOU” - It tells you all you need to know about the quality of Back in Black this song ranks at eight.  One of the all time great AC/DC bass lines, it’s a much needed change of pace.  It’s no one’s favorite track but Brian’s vocal performance is an album highlight. A hint of subtlety to break up an album of unrelenting riffs.

7. “ROCK AND ROLL AIN’T NOISE POLLUTION” – For the record every song the rest of the way is a 10, but this is the song I struggled to place the most. At one point It was as high as three, another down at nine.  So here feels just about right.  The slow build to the rocking chorus combines best with one of Angus Young’s most underrated riffs.  The chorus is either the dumbest chorus of all time or the greatest statement on rock and roll ever.  Which is kind of the point of rock to begin with if I do say so myself.  Is it the best song AC/DC ever wrote?  No.  Is it the ONLY song that could have closed this record?  Absolutely.

6. “GIVIN’ THE DOG A BONE” - A song that even the band can’t figure out what exactly the title is called (Sometimes it’s labeled “Giving the Dog a Bone” or “Given the Dog A Bone”). So that whole subtlety thing I mentioned earlier?  These don’t even get credit as being “double entendres.”  Brian is clearly having a ball, laughing along with how asinine the lyrics are.  Sometimes rock is just fun, and that’s what this song is.  Also Angus, well done on that solo.

5. “YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG” – You know an album is a masterpiece when I’ve got this at five. One of the most flawless recordings of all time, and one of the all time great guitar/drum pairings.  It’s lean, it’s mean, and it’s the AC/DC song pretty much everyone’s done at karaoke.  Hell it’s even a pop hit.  For the record, “She told me to come but I was already there” is the all time greatest double entendre in rock history.

4. “HAVE A DRINK ON ME” – On any other record this is my favorite track. Rock and roll has always been about the camaraderie of the band and amongst the fans.  While it might seem a bit insensitive to Bon Scott, it’s a perfect tribute.  Musically the band reminds you they can do the blues just as well as anyone.  We’re gonna make a big noise.

3. “HELLS BELLS” – Hi Bon. Opening the record with a literal ten bell salute to their fallen friend was the only way to go.  The atmosphere of that build up with its relentless riff sets the stage for the entire album to follow.  Brian’s vocals head straight for the heavens, shredding the vocal chords of anyone who even attempts to stick with him.  It’s one of his all time best performances, as AC/DC stares death in the face and gives it a middle finger.

2. “BACK IN BLACK” - You know what’s actually a really hard thing to do in rock and roll? Simple. It can come off calculated, it can come off uninspired, and it can come off cheesy.  But when you do it right?  That’s where the magic’s at.  This is a relatively simple riff.  It’s an extraordinarily simple chorus.  What does that lead to?  Everyone remembering every single portion of this song.  From the first power cord, it orders you to head bang.  For 4 minutes and 15 seconds the band stays locked into maybe the most perfect mid tempo riff in rock and roll history, and never let’s up.  Brian wails over top, and it all comes together with two of rock’s great solos.  This is the definition of a perfect rock song.

1. “SHOOT TO THRILL” – This is the definition of a perfect rock song. Some bands are lucky enough to get one. AC/DC got two on the same record.  They’ve always been at their best when they settle into a groove, and this song is the definition of groove.  Particularly on the breakdown, just before Angus launches into maybe his all time greatest solo.  The buildup is the highlight of Back In Black as a whole.  Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams own this track with their flawless mid-tempo rhythm and Brian’s vocal melody is just the icing on the cake.  One of the top five tracks in the history of hard rock.