There exists no song that has made better use of a simple four-on-the-floor percussion rhythm than AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” a song iconic for its hard-hitting riffs, raw attitude & generally easy-to-learn structure. While there are certainly a bevy of bells & whistles which make this song so damned entertaining to listen to, it’d be unwise to overlook the importance of its barebones approach to Rock music, as it not only embodies the sheer power of the Genre but provides the scaffolding from which many Rock musicians first learned how to play, boasting a drum pattern that remains essentially unchanged from start to finish & a fairly simplistic guitar riff that occasionally allows you to show off with Bluesy licks – That’s it. Sure, it helps that the tempo for this song is at an absolute snail’s pace & each melodic instrument plays in unison, but other than a few guitar solos, “Back In Black” is step one in your Rock history lessons, essentially the blueprint for what people see when they think of Rock’N’Roll as an institution.
Now, aside from being one of the most recognizable songs in existence, “Back In Black” is also a character-appropriate tribute to former singer Bon Scott, the death of whom made way for Brian Johnson to join the band, maintaining its legacy & elevating it somewhat in the process. As has been observed many times, his lyrics are meant to be seen from Scott’s point of view, a declaration of his arrival akin to a sort of resurrection for an unholy Christ, back from the dead to keep on rockin’ until the end of time; Lines like “I’m let loose from the noose,” “forget the hearse ‘cause I’ll never die” & the most entertaining one “I got nine lives, cat’s eyes, abusing every one of them and running wild” are meant to show just how tenacious Scott is in his unwillingness to let death be the end for him, immediately creating this deified presence for a man who was simply the lead singer of a Rock band – Considering the many ways in which a tribute can be performed, this is about as respectful as it gets in the music industry, remembering someone for their wild behaviour instead of trying to represent them in some sort of innocent light, as nobody is truly perfect. As if it could’ve been any other way, the accompanying music video sees the band performing on a big dark stage with harsh lights, everyone playing their hearts out as the camera swoops along; It’s exactly the same as every music video they had recorded at the time, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s not necessarily the most visually captivating piece of film ever set to music, but then again substance over style is AC/DC’s whole style.
Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Brian Johnson
"Back in Black" is a song by AC/DC, appearing as the first track on side two of their 1980 album of the same name.