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“An album made by heroes

This quote alone makes the whole thing a must-read far as I’m concerned: “No matter how good the newest rock or album is, ‘Back In Black’ will kick its ass.”

Yep, it’s another captivating slice of AC/DC history, that’s what. Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful.

In the seven years since AC/DC had formed in Sydney, Australia – with Angus, dressed for the stage in his old schoolboy uniform, an unlikely looking guitar hero – they had built up a strong international following via relentless touring and a series of brilliant, balls-out albums, including Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock and Powerage, the latter a favorite of Keith Richards. 

But it was with 1979’s Highway To Hell that they had a major breakthrough, their first million-seller. And in the new songs they demoed in London, with Bon playing drums, as he had done as a young man in his first groups back in Australia, there was such potential that Bon had told his mother Isa in a phone call: “This one is going to be it!”

It was only a few days after that call – on February 19, 1980 – that Bon Scott was found dead in East Dulwich, London. He had been out drinking with friends on the previous night.

Angus spoke for the whole band when he said, “You feel immortal until something like this happens.” But at Bon’s funeral in his hometown of Fremantle in Western Australia, his father Chick urged Malcolm and Angus to carry on with the band. And on April 1st, Brian Johnson, then aged 32, formerly of glam rock act Geordie, was announced as AC/DC’s new singer.

Those were big shoes that Brian Johnson had to fill. Bon had had it all: a powerful voice, a witty turn of phrase in his lyrics, and a macho stage presence that was the epitome of rock ’n’ roll cool.

As drummer Phil Rudd said, “Bon was such a character.” Moreover, he was, for Malcolm Young, a talismanic figure. “He pulled us all together,” Malcolm said. “He had that real stick-it-to-’em attitude. Bon was the single biggest influence on the band.” 

But in Brian Johnson, they found the right man for the job, and as it transpired, even Bon had been a fan of Brian’s. Back in the early ’70s, Bon’s old band Fraternity had opened for Geordie on a UK tour and witnessed what he later described to Angus as the best Little Richard impersonation he’d ever seen from a singer rolling around on the stage and screaming his head off.

As Angus said of that conversation: “It was rare that Bon ever raved about anything.” What Bon hadn’t known was that Brian Johnson had been screaming in agony that night, and had subsequently been rushed to hospital suffering from appendicitis.

As diehard an AC/DC fan as I am and always will be, there are plenty of fun facts in this piece that I didn’t know about before. It’s a killer for sure; don’t miss a single word of it.

5 thoughts on ““An album made by heroes

  1. As a guy who was a rock and blues musician for many years I adored AC/DC. Still listen to all the CDs I have of them.

    The one thing that always struck me was their discipline.  No matter how many times they played a tune they were pitch-perfect on what they recorded in the studio.

    The only dude that had the latitude for improv was the front man, the lead singer. And even he didn’t take too many liberties.

    One of the very few groups I never saw live that, to this day, I regret.

  2. Saw them at their first ever concert in Boston in in 1978 and then saw the original Back in Black Concert in Boston in 1980.

    I have seen them a bunch of times…great band with tremendous energy

    1. I was fortunate enough to see ’em myself, going all the way back to the Highway To Hell tour, with Bon. I’ve always said they were the greatest pure rock and roll band that ever was, or ever will be. Bonus cool points: back in the dying days of the disco era, all the girls just HATED AC/DC. Cost me more than one potential date back then, I can tell ya. And not one single shit did I give, either.

  3. Powerage may be the most ballsy rock out, pedal to the metal album ever made. I sometimes like it better than Back in Black. That cover shot of Angus with the wires coming out in place of hands, as if electricity was just blasting out of him everywhere, was cool too.

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