This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #391: Back in Black by AC/DC.
In 1979, Australian rockers, AC/DC had a big hit on their hands with an album/song called “Highway to Hell”. The album was produced by a man named “Mutt” Lange (who went on to marry the pride of Timmins, Ontario….Shania Twain). At that time, AC/DC consisted of singer, Bon Scott, lead guitarist, Angus Young, his brother and guitarist, Malcolm Young, along with bassist, Cliff Williams and drummer, Phil Rudd. The future was looking bright for the band until the night singer Bon Scott went on a celebratory drinking binge. A friend of Scott’s thought it would be prudent to let him sleep off the effects of his bender in the backseat of his car. When the friend went to check on Scott again in the morning, it turned out that he was dead. He had choked to death on his own vomit. Needless to say, the remaining members of AC/DC were shocked. There was much talk about breaking up the band. In the end, it was decided that the best way to honour Scott’s memory was to continue. The first album they worked on with new singer Brian Johnson was called Back in Black. The album cover was solidly black to signify that the band was in mourning. But, instead of sadness, the band wanted to celebrate Scott’s life the best way they knew how and that was by rocking out. So, the lead single from that album was a tribute to Scott called “Back in Black” as well.
One of the cool things the original band members did to help make the transition from Scott to Johnson complete was that they asked Johnson to help cowrite the song “Back in Black”. Based on his knowledge of Scott and the band prior to joining it, Johnson contributed the lyrics: “I’ve got nine lives, cat’s eyes, abusing every one of them and running wild“. In this way, the new singer got to give a tip of the hat to the old singer and just like that AC/DC was reborn.
The album Back in Black went on to become one of the most successful albums of all-time with sales of over 50 million copies worldwide. In addition to the song “Back in Black”, the album also spawned “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Hells Bells” and “Shoot to Thrill”. The opening guitar riff in “Back in Black” is hailed as one of the most iconic opening riffs in all of Rock n’ Roll history. Overall, the band has sold more than 200 million albums and was a first-ballot inductee to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
The video I am going to share is from the band’s appearance in Toronto in 2003 at the SARSfest concert at Downsview Park. As someone who was living not too far away from Toronto in 2003, I can attest to how scared people were when the SARS virus struck and subsequently, how important it was to have the city declared safe after the virus was brought under control. The SARSfest concert was a huge step forward for everyone in declaring Toronto to be a safe place to live in and to visit. Much gratitude is given to The Rolling Stones, Rush, AC/DC and others for putting on this show. From those in attendance, the general consensus was that AC/DC stole the show that night. This video for “Back in Black” lends credence to that assertion. In particular, Angus Young put on a terrific performance. I will offer one word of caution: there are some scenes of nudity from the crowd. But I imagine if you are someone who rocks out to AC/DC then a little skin probably does not shock you.
I will end this post by admitting my own bias in this matter. AC/DC have been one of my favourite bands since the very first time I heard them way back in 1982. I was at a friend’s bungalow along the Mira River in Cape Breton after my high school prom. “Back in Black” was the first song that was played that night. I remember my head dropping backwards as my first booze buzz ever took hold and thinking to myself that this song is excellent! I have thought that about AC/DC ever since. From one huge fan to hopefully, many others, here is “Back in Black” by AC/DC from SARSfest in Toronto in 2003. Enjoy.
The link to AC/DC’s website can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the creation of this post. A link to their very own website can be found here.
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