Hells Bells! AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ celebrates its 40th anniversary on Saturday

Sony Legacy

This Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the release of AC/DC‘s landmark 1980 album Back in Black — the best-selling hard-rock album in U.S. history.

Reeling from the tragic death of their charismatic, gravel-voiced lead singer, Bon Scott, who died in February 1980 of acute alcohol poisoning at age 33, the Australian rockers briefly considered disbanding but decided that Scott would’ve wanted them to continue.

By April, the band had hired a new frontman with a sandpaper shriek of a voice, Brian Johnson, who previously had sung with the Newcastle, U.K.-based glam-rock group Geordie.

AC/DC recorded Back in Black in April and May at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. It was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who also produced the band’s previous album, 1979’s Highway to Hell. Enlisting Johnson to write lyrics, AC/DC sibling guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young came up with a set of memorable, riff-heavy tunes.

They included “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track, which, became the band’s first two songs to reach the Billboard Hot 100’s top 40, respectively, peaking at #35 and #37. The album also features several other tunes that continue to be classic-rock radio staples, including “Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.”

The album’s all-black cover was an homage to Scott, as was the title track, which mourned the late singer while also declaring that AC/DC was back to rock the world.

After its July 25, 1980, release, Back in Black climbed to #4 on the Billboard 200 chart. More impressively, it’s gone on to sell over 25 million copies in the U.S., making it the fourth most successful album ever in the States.

Here’s the album’s full track list:

“Hells Bells”
“Shoot to Thrill”
“What Do You Do for Money Honey”
“Given the Dog a Bone”
“Let Me Put My Love into You”
“Back in Black”
“You Shook Me All Night Long”
“Have a Drink on Me”
“Shake a Leg”
“Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”

By Matt Friedlander
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