(hennemusic) AC/DC made a concerted effort to pay tribute to their late vocalist, Bon Scott, when they regrouped to work on a record with new singer Brian Johnson in the months following Scott's death at the age of 33 after a night of heavy drinking in London in early 1980.
"The guys wanted it to be a good rock record in memory of Bon, but without all the emotion and crap that usually goes with it," explains Johnson in the latest episode of the group's "The Story Of Back In Black" 40th anniversary video series. "And they wanted the album to be black. I filled it with lines like 'nine lives, cat's eyes,' because Bon had lived on the edge for a long time, I guess, and always made it through, but I guess it was a shock for the lads that this time he didn't."
While the group's vision for what would eventually become "Back In Black" included cover artwork and some thematic lyrical ideas, Johnson recalls that the set's title track presented a specific challenge for the band.
"I remember 'Back In Black' was particularly difficult because the boys were saying 'we want this song in memory of Bon but we didn't want it to be sad or maudlin ... we want it to be a good thing, a positive song'," says the singer. "So it was pretty tough but I think we managed it pretty good. It's kinda slow but it's got a great riff."
"Well, it was different," adds guitarist Malcolm Young about the famous riff. "Completely different to anything that had come along before in rock; that was almost funky in nature, or soul...it's like a soul vibe."
Produced by Mutt Lange, "Back In Black" went on to become the best-selling hard rock album in history, with estimated worldwide sales of 50 million. Watch the video here.
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