February of 1980, the band finds legendary vocalist Bon Scott dead due to alcohol poisoning after a night of binge drinking. Some have rumored that Bon Scott also died of an asthma attack. After vocal auditions after Scott’s parents urged AC/DC to continue to push forward without Bon Scott, AC/DC found their new frontman in former Geordie frontman Brian Johnson. They heard Brian sing “Whole Lotta Rosie”, and a few days later, they hired Brian Johnson as the new frontman of AC/DC.
AC/DC flew out to the Bahamas and they once again tapped producer Mutt Lange to create one of the biggest rock albums in the history of rock, “Back In Black”. They went with an all black cover to remember the death of Bon Scott. On a worldwide scale, “Back In Black” is the number two worldwide selling album of all-time, only behind “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. The album would sell more than 50 million copies worldwide, including 22 million copies in the United States alone. The album spent 131 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts and it reentered the Billboard 200 charts in 2014. Six music videos were created in Breda, Netherlands, including “Back In Black”, “Hells Bells”, “Shoot To Thrill”, “What Do You Do For Money Honey”, “Let Me Put My Love Into You”, and “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”. “You Shook Me All Night Long” was released as a video in 1986. Here is “Back In Black” below.
AC/DC went back in the studio to create their follow-up album entitled “For Those About To Rock We Salute You”. In a 1992 interview, Malcolm Young declared his disgust for the album due to the overproduced feel of the album. The album fell well short of selling 22 million copies, it went number one for the first three weeks it was released and would end up selling four million copies. It included the title track. Check it out below.
The band wanted to return to their original raw sound, so they let Mutt Lange go as a producer. Desperate to recover the magic of “Back In Black”, they created a new album entitled “Flick Of The Switch”, which the album cover was hand-drawn by Angus Young. There was also dissension in the band as Phil Rudd left the band after fighting with Malcolm Young before a concert in Uniondale, New York. They recruited Simon Wright of Dio to fill the void behind the kit that Phil Rudd left. In the song “Badlands”, it showcases Angus Young on the slide guitar. There was tension in the band. The album received little promotion, however, it ended up selling one million copies in the United States.
Commercial success began to decline for AC/DC. Tensions in the band which led to the firing of Phil Rudd as their drummer. In 1986, AC/DC released “Who Made Who”, which was the soundtrack to Stephen King’s film “Maximum Overdrive”. The album, which was a compilation record of sorts, was also released with a video release of the band’s music videos. The song “Who Made Who”, would peak at No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and the album would sell five million copies in the United States. Check out “Who Made Who” below.
In 1988, AC/DC would be inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association’s Hall of Fame. In 1988, AC/DC would start seeing the return of commercial success with the release of “Blow Up Your Video”. George Young began to get concerned about his brother Malcolm’s drinking problem. This would be the last album that Brian Johnson would write lyrics for. Angus and Malcolm would assume songwriting lyrics while Brian Johnson was going through a divorce. During AC/DC’s worldwide tour, Malcolm sought help for his drinking problem citing that he didn’t want to end up like Bon Scott. The album would sell one million copies in the United States and include the singles “Heatseeker” and “That’s The Way I Wanna Rock and Roll”.
Simon Wright would leave the band to return to Dio and Chris Slade would replace Simon Wright behind the kit.
In 1990, Malcolm and Angus would assume songwriting duties and the band released “The Razors Edge”. The album was recorded in Dublin, Ireland and Vancouver, Canada. The album would include two major AC/DC hits “Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks”. “Angus Bucks” would rain down from the sky when AC/DC would perform “Moneytalks” live. “Moneytalks” would peak at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 while “Thunderstruck” would be a top five mainstream rock track. AC/DC would tour worldwide and headline the Monsters Of Rock festival in front of almost one million people in Donington. Tragedy struck at an AC/DC concert in Utah where people stampeded and rushed the barricade, killing three people in attendance. The families of the deceased would settle with the band out of court. Also, a fun fact “Mistress For Christmas” is a song written about Donald Trump. “The Razors Edge” would sell over five million copies in the United States.
In 1991, AC/DC would create the song “Big Gun” for the “Last Action Hero” soundtrack, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Big Gun” would peak at number one on the Mainstream Rock tracks.
In 1994, Chris Slade left the band and Phil Rudd rejoined AC/DC behind the kit. AC/DC would tap Rick Rubin as producer and in 1995 they would release “Ballbreaker”. “Hard As A Rock” was the lead single from the album, and the album would have AC/DC return to their roots due to Rubin’s obsession with getting AC/DC back to that sound. “Ballbreaker” was AC/DC’s most political album as it talked about David Koresh’s compound, pedophilia, and theocratic governments. The album would sell two million copies in the United States.
In 1997, AC/DC would release the boxset entitled “Bonfire”. “Bonfire” would include a remastered “Back In Black” album, “Volts”, which was a collection of outtakes, B-sides, and rarities, and two live albums. In 2000, the band would release “Stiff Upper Lip”, which saw the band dive deeper into their blues roots. The album would sell one million copies in the United States, and include the songs “Stiff Upper Lip”, “Satellite Blues”, and “Safe In New York City”.
In 2002, AC/DC signs a multi-album deal with Sony, which included a remaster and re-release of their entire discography in 2003. AC/DC was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003. AC/DC would also perform with The Rolling Stones and Rush in Toronto in front of 500,000 people to raise awareness for the SARS epidemic. In 2007, a live DVD of AC/DC was released entitled “Plug Me In”, and AC/DC would be featured in the video game “Rock Band 2”.
In 2008, AC/DC would release “Black Ice” exclusively via Wal-Mart. The album included a unique marketing campaign where a “Black Ice” truck would travel around blaring AC/DC music and make stops selling AC/DC merchandise. It was the second best selling album of 2008, behind Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida Or Death And All His Friends”. They would tap Brendan O’Brien to produce the record and he wanted the raw classic AC/DC sound. In the 2010 Grammys, AC/DC would win a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song “War Machine”, and the album would sell two million copies in the United States. “Rock and Roll Train” would hit No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock charts. AC/DC would enjoy an 18 month worldwide tour due to the success of “Black Ice”.
In 2012, AC/DC released their first live album in 20 years entitled “Live At River Plate”. In 2010, AC/DC released the “Iron Man 2” soundtrack. In 2014, Malcolm Young announces that he has dementia, and Brian Johnson vowed that AC/DC would continue to make music. Stevie Young, Malcolm’s nephew, would join the band in Malcolm’s absence. Phil Rudd would also release his first solo album entitled “Head Job”. In 2014, AC/DC would release “Rock Or Bust”, and the album would sell 500,000 copies in the United States. The track “Play Ball” was used to promote the 2014 Major League Baseball playoffs.
On November 6, 2014, Phil Rudd was charged with attempting to procure a murder, threatening to kill, possession of meth, and possession of marijuana. The procuring a murder charge was dropped the next day. Chris Slade rejoined AC/DC replacing Phil Rudd. In 2016, Brian Johnson took a leave from the band due to hearing loss and Axl Rose of Guns ‘N’ Roses would replace Brian Johnson on the “Rock Or Bust World Tour”. Cliff Williams also left the band in 2016. The future of AC/DC remains up in the air.
Madness To Creation’s take: I enjoy the Brian Johnson era, but I love the Bon Scott era more. I felt that Bon’s voice sounded more natural whereas Brian’s voice sounded more forced. I just love the raw feel of AC/DC of the 1970’s. Overall, they are one of the greatest rock bands of all-time and they deserve the accolades. For Brian Johnson era, 8 out of 10, Bon Scott era gets 9.5/10.