Thursday, September 20, 2012

AC/DC: Back In Black

Only 6 more posts are planned; however, you can request that “Reading between the Grooves” continues by filling out the survey found at

AC/DC’s “Black in Black” has been used in so many commercials that I should have used it as a TV Thursday tune many posts ago, but alas, it wasn’t until I heard it recently being used in a Wal-Mart layaway commercial that I considered it. The characteristic opening provided by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young may be one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of the present time.

I saw AC/DC in concert in 1978 when they opened for Cheap Trick in Huntington, WV. I wasn’t that familiar with the band at the time, but Bon Scott and Angus Young put on a mean show. A several points in the concert Young, dressed in his school boy outfit, even went out into the crowd with his characteristic Gibson SG guitar. When lead singer Scott died from misadventure in 1980, it was a loss for the music world.

However, their loss inspired the band to write a couple of tribute songs – one of which was “Back in Black.” The music was composed by the Youngs, and Scott’s replacement, Brian Johnson, was tasked to author the lyrics – on the condition that they could not be morbid. Depicting Scott as a cat with nine lives fulfilled the obligation.

While the single only peaked in the US at #37 in 1980, its popularity eclipsed its chart performance. Being that it is heavier than most single releases, the Top 40 radio stations were probably playing it during late afternoon and evening hours; however, AOR stations played “Back in Black” around the clock. I can remember playing it in morning drive during my short stint as an AOR jock in 1983.

Another reason for its popularity doing better than its chart position is that AC/DC fans were not buying the single, but rather the entire album of the same name. The LP “Back in Black” is either the second or third bestselling album of all time in the world – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is number one and there is debate whether “Back in Black” or Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” landed in the second slot.

With 22 million copies sold in the US, it is the sixth bestselling LP in America and is ranked behind “Thriller,” the Eagles “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975),” “Led Zeppelin IV,” Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” and Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II.” Two of those albums, “The Wall” and Joel’s “Greatest Hits,” were double albums.

The song “Back in Black” is one of the more often used ringtones with over two million downloads purchased. I hear often in public. VH1 ranked “Back in Black” as the second greatest hard rock song only to be bested by Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”

In the mid 80s, I had the opportunity to play this tune with The Second Story Band. Being that I was the keyboardist and there were no keyboards present on this cut, I played claves.  I remember playing them so hard one night that I shattered one of the claves into three pieces.  All for the price of rock 'n roll. 

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