When the Young brothers did a casting of singers to try to achieve the seemingly impossible: fill in for the late Bon. They were eventually convinced by a candidate named Brian Johnson who looked like a trucker on off duty just out of a pub. He did not reach the levels of expressiveness of Bon Scott, however, what he did, he did it well. And above all, Brian managed to blend his voice timbre with the sound of the band. Obviously, his entry altered the whole chemistry of the process, because it was like having changed one of the main ingredients of a dish: it will never taste the same. And during the recording there was an atmosphere of nervousness: AC / DC knew that with that album they were playing practically everything and they weren’t quite sure how the public would react to the new formula.
You Shook Me All Night Long
Back in Black’s first single, and is perhaps, to this day, one the band’s best-known song. You’re not hearing AC/DC right if your next-door-neighbor can’t hear them too. According to Brian Johnson, AC / DC was filming Black in Black in the Bahamas when he saw a couple of beautiful American women on television.
“I’ve always wanted to f— one!” he said. “They looked fabulous. They had everything standing up.” It inspired him to write one of the most memorable lyrics in the AC / DC catalog, including “I got knocked out by your American thighs” and “he told me to come, but I was already there.”
Brian Johnson would often hang himself on a rope while the giant bell stamped with “AC / DC” echoed through the stadium, driving the crowd crazy. Regarding the iconic first sentence (“I’m a thunderstorm / torrential rain”), Johnson recalled that during the recordings in the Bahamas: “the weather was shit, and suddenly thunder broke in the sky, and [ producer] Mutt [Lange] came in and said, ‘I have an idea for you, Brian … “.
Back in Black
Brian Johnson recorded this as a tribute to the late Bon Scott, the title track of AC / DC’s seventh studio album became one of the band’s anthems. But according to Angus Young, his brother Malcolm at first doubted the song’s bluesy and arrogant riff, but of course, Brian brought this song to life.
Shoot to Thrill
Back In Black is so full of hits that the studio version of “Shoot to Thrill” (a song so overwhelming that most hard rock groups of the time would have quietly given away their leathers and jewels for a song that was half as powerful) was never released as a single but performed by Brian like the best song from the album!
Let’s Get It Up
When they released “Let’s Get It Up” in December 1981, AC / DC had all the attention of the rock world – thanks to Brian Johnson – since it was the first single from For Those About to Rock (We Salute You), the successor to the highly successful Back in Black. They decided to use the occasion to show a song about the glories of erections. “Loose cables cause fires,” growls Brian Johnson.
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
How do you get over a record whose first song begins with a huge chime? Start the next one with a song whose climax is the sound of guns. The pyrotechnic theme is also one of AC / DC’s most gigantic and epic compositions. Wait till you hear the thunderous shout of Brian Johnson, “FIRE!”
Who Made Who
Considering their lyrical preoccupations were generally more earthly than dystopian visions of machines overpowering their human creators, AC / DC was an odd choice to compose the theme for Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King’s 1986 gore-camp classic. Gladly, we got Brian Johnson to chant to sing and us, marching.
In the studio, they did several takes of the song, but mixing engineer Mike Fraser says that, in the one left, Angus plays his iconic guitar line in one take, the entire song. It was so catchy that since then it was a must at concerts where Brian Johnson providing us the vocals that would always strike!
Brian Johnson’s brilliant contribution to the soundtrack of The Last Great Hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lackluster film, was bluesy, muscular rock heavily indebted to AC / DC’s early days, thanks to a boogie riff in the verse and a shifting guitar by Angus Young in the chorus.
Rock or Bust
Rock or Bust is an ode to the simple pleasure of hanging out in a bar with your friends. Rocking it out as you listen to Johnson sings, one of the epic performance of this song was when they performed at the 2015 Grammy Awards!