Bon Scott: His Legacy and Contributions to Back in Black – Part 1
We just passed the 37th anniversary of the death of one of rock’s most notorious and iconic front men.
Ronald ‘Bon’ Scott died on February 19th, 1980 in the London suburb of East Dulwich. His tragic death almost spelled the end of AC/DC. They had just come off the wonderfully successful Highway To Hell album and tour and they were primed and ready to unleash their next hard rock masterpiece. According to guitarist Malcolm Young, Bon had his lyrics for the next album ready to go but he and his brother Angus needed more time writing the music. Bon decided to go to a local pub with a friend, since he had a few days off from his writing. He ended up drinking too much and passed out in the back seat of his friend’s car. Because of the position his neck was in when he fell asleep, he ended up asphyxiating in the middle of the night. By the time his friend came out to check on him, the Problem Child had already died.
AC/DC were devastated. Thoughts of stopping the Rock N Roll Train had engulfed the band but Bon’s family, specifically his parents, suggested they keep going. The band took their advice and began the near impossible search to find Bon’s replacement. AC/DC stumbled upon Brian Johnson, lead singer of the defunct British band Geordie. Both Brian and the rest of the band knew they had something right away. After jamming on a few songs, they decided to offer Brian the gig of a lifetime. Brian accepted. The band, still in grieving mode, headed out to the Bahamas to write and record what would become the second highest selling album of all time.
Back in Black (49 million ) trails only Michael Jackson’s Thriller (110 million) in worldwide record sales. That is an astounding accomplishment when you factor in that the album had a new lead singer, there was not a major crossover hit (like Stairway to Heaven or Free bird) on the album and, in 1980, hard rock was in ruins. Disco and New Wave were the genres of choice for most of the global music fans. For AC/DC to come back this quickly and this strong is nothing short of miraculous. To this day, Back in Black remains a hard rock staple. It does not matter how much you like AC/DC or rock music in general. I can guarantee you know many of the classics of that album. Yes, there was the radio friendly You Shook Me All Night Long, but you’ve also heard the crunchy title track and the somber Hell’s Bells. You’ve probably heard Shoot to Thrill on your local classic rock radio stations. You may not know it was an AC/DC song but it gets played on a consistent rotation.
Why was Back in Black so popular? Why was Back in Black, by far, the band’s highest selling album? I don’t know a single AC/DC fan that says Back in Back is their favorite album. In fact, most people tell me that 1978’s Powerage is their best album (it’s my favorite too!) There are a lot of myths about whether or not the band used Bon’s lyrics posthumously during the writing and recording of BIB. You see, Brian Johnson was officially hired in April of 1980. BIB was released just three months later and remember, Brian’s former band, Geordie, was not actively writing music at that point. So, taking all of this at face value, we are lead to believe in just three months time, the band wrote, rehearsed, recorded and mixed the second highest selling album of all time? My friends, I find that hard to believe.
In the upcoming part 2, we will look deeper and examine whether or not Bon contributed to Back in Black.
Two of my biggest passions are sports and rock music. Both of which, I have many strong and at times provocative opinions on.
My favorite bands are AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and 80s Metallica and well, I have to admit I listen to a lot of Kiss, too.
My teams are the Mets, Jets and Rangers(I know, they all suck)
I've never met a place for buffalo wings that I didn't like.
I am a customs house broker by trade but I have this yearning to express my views on a variety of topics and blogging has become a great outlet for my voice.
In the words of the immortal Bon Scott, "Lock up your daughter and lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life. The man is back in town, so don't you mess me around"