By any metric, AC/DC’s 1980 classic Back In Black has been one of the most iconic rock albums of all time. The Australian band’s seventh LP boasts tens of millions of record sales, three singles that are ubiquitous at any stadium event or place that serves alcohol in “Hells Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track. Plus, all three of those songs unquestionably boasted the best riffs in rock ’n’ roll history. But numbers aside, Back In Black was a triumph for a band reeling from the loss of their original singer Bon Scott, who passed away from alcohol poisoning at the age of 33 in February of 1980. Months later, they enlisted U.K. rock veteran Brian Johnson to replace the late frontman and by July 25, they released their most successful album to date.
Back In Black solidified AC/DC’s place as the rock ’n’ roll behemoth they’ve been for the following decades, and remains Australia’s best selling album ever. Because of this, it’s kind of a shock fellow Aussie Georgia Maq, the frontwoman of Melbourne punk band Camp Cope, hasn’t heard it in its entirety. While Camp Cope don’t aim for the arena-filling bombast and guitar pyrotechnics, their songs are similarly both cathartic and fun. It’s an especially surprising gap considering AC/DC were Maq’s favorite band as a kid. “I really liked them when I was a little kid. But reading up the track list and I realize didn't know anything except "You Shook Me All Night Long" and the other singles,” says Maq.
“Everyone knows ‘Back In Black’ and ‘Hells Bells,’ but I don't know the rest of the record because I'm not really an albums person,” she continues.“I'd rather listen to the one song on repeat until I just feel it in my soul. With albums, I can’t deal with filler. It needs to be all killer, no filler.” Before Camp Cope’s headlining show at Chicago’s Subterranean, Noisey caught up with Maq to play her the full LP. Read on for her track-by-track reaction and check out Camp Cope’s excellent 2018 LP How to Socialise and Make Friends.
1. "Hells Bells”
Georgia Maq: Oh, here are the bells. Here we go.
NOISEY: It’s funny, they actually made a 2000-pound bronze bell just for this song.
Did they? They made it for this record? I guess that makes sense. Imagine recording it because you couldn’t go up to a tower to record it because I’m sure you’d get wind in the record.
The big issue for them was picking up the pigeons flying away after the bell tolls.
Right, so they made a fucking bell. Love it.
So to give a little context they had a few albums out already. Their last record, Highway to Hell , was their biggest yet.
Everyone knows Highway To Hell. Looking at the album cover of Back In Black, you can barely see the title. You can only see it if you move it into the light.
Well the LP cover is an interesting story because this is the first album AC/DC had made without their lead singer Bon Scott, who died a few months they recorded it. He passed away from alcohol poisoning and they wanted this album to properly memorialize him. They wanted the cover to just be all black but their label wanted the text and the band’s logo on it.
I think that’s fucking disgraceful for a label to come in and say this is what your image should be. Fuck you let the band mourn their dead friend in the way that they need to. Fuck that. Fuck labels. Our label is pretty good though. Poison City Records and the guy who owns it is named Andy. He’s the most beautiful man on earth. He lets us do what we want. Also I gotta say this is so good. It just makes you want to stand with your eyes closed and shake your head. It’s so good.
What a riff too. I remember learning guitar as a kid being just into classic rock and thinking I was invincible when I first learned this guitar intro.
I learned by just playing old Green Day songs. I’m wondering about AC/DC’s new singer. What happened after Bon Scott died? What’s this guy’s name?
His name is Brian Johnson. He’s actually from the UK and was raised in Newcastle upon Tyne. He’s the only non-Australian member of the band.
Oh was he? I’m wondering how he’s using his voice. I really listen to people’s voices and where they’re speaking from. I’m so interested in how people can make that scratchy sound and keep that longevity. How has he been able to do these sounds for that long? I hope his voice is ok.
They have been touring for over 30 years.
That’s insane. He’s got a voice like another Australian band called Cold Chisel. The guy there is Jimmy Barnes. How do they do it? I did it for like six months and got vocal nodules and had two years of surgery and therapy. It’s kind of back to normal but I’m still figuring it out and I’m just 24 years old. He’s singing from his diaphragm. I try to sing the from the bottoms of my feet, like I imagine that’s where the energy it is, and try to bypass the throat.
2. "Shoot to Thrill"
Have you heard this one?
Not sure. You got such a great opener in “Hells Bells.” You gotta start with something weird. I want to what he’s singing about. Where does he get his inspiration? I can’t imagine living that way where I’m singing about shooting to thrill. That’s so bold.
I have the lyrics here if you want to take a look.
“All you women who want a man of the street / But you don't know which way you want to turn.” Oh, this is so fucking deep. “Just keep a coming and put your hand out to me / 'Cause I'm the one who's gonna make you burn.” So it’s about being a sexy man. I love that.
It’s fun. For most AC/DC fans, it’s about the guitars and the rhythm section and how fun it is. The lyrics aren’t really the selling point.
It’s all about Angus Young. Angus is my favorite name. If I have a kid, I want to name him Angus. But yeah, it’s definitely not about the words but unless it’s a sing-along chorus. They’re more of a chorus band. It’s about the riffs and the raw power. I can imagine how fun it would’ve been to see them.
They might be reuniting and touring again.
But didn’t Malcolm Young die recently?
He did but his nephew Stevie Young had been filling in for him even before his death.
Wow. That’ll be beautiful but so bittersweet and so fucking cool.
It’s not confirmed. I’ve only seen rumors online.
This kind of rock ’n’ roll lifestyle they’re living. I wonder how the health effects of living this way. Touring really affects your health.
Brian Johnson no longer tours because of hearing issues.
Yeah, like the hearing issues. Your ears are ringing. You can’t sleep. What did they secretly suffer behind the scenes?
I mean, Bon Scott did pass away through alcohol poisoning. He was 33.
That rock ’n’ roll lifestyle is so dangerous. I can’t imagine how people do it. I need eight hours of sleep, I need coconut water, a bunch of weird tonics, and eat kale salads like every day. Or else I can’t tour. I can’t fathom how anyone can drink at night, get up early the next day, and get in the van. It sounds horrible. I need to eat healthier
3. "What Do You Do for Money Honey"
His screaming. He’s like a banshee. It’s good that they found him. I can’t imagine replacing a lead singer. So Bon Scott died. What happened next?
Back In Black came out in July of 1980. Bon Scott died in February of 1980. AC/DC tried out several singers but went with Brian Johnson in late March, who fronted a band called Geordie in the ‘70s. Everything went super fast.
There must’ve been a lot of pressure on them from the big fat cats with all the money. Oh my god, wait. Hold on. In this song he says, “you bitch.” I don’t like this song. It’s really whorephobic. He’s singing about this sex worker and asking her, “What do you do for money?” Fuck you sex work is just another fucking job.
I will say that, lyrically, AC/DC does not hold up in 2019.
I don’t like it. This is quite misogynistic. I thought it was about a man at first. When you flip it to make it a woman, it’s like, “oh, she must be a whore.” Fuck this song. Fuck that old-school attitude. I’m so happy that part of rock ’n’ roll is pretty much dead. Men are not allowed to get away with this shit anymore, which is fantastic and a testament to the times that we’re in. I’m glad we’re doing this.
I loved AC/DC as a kid but I really had no idea what they were singing.
Me too. When I would listen to “You Shook Me All Night Long,” I didn’t know they were singing about rooting. I thought they meant they were physically shaking another person because they were having fun. I had no idea.
4. "Given the Dog a Bone"
Here’s another one. It’s called "Given the Dog a Bone"
OK. Is it about sex?
Yeah, as many AC/DC songs are.
Wow. Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. I hate it! At the same time, I’m so conflicted because I love AC/DC as a classic Australian band but if you dig a little deeper it’s so problematic. They probably treated women horribly and got away with it because it was accepted at the time up until like three fucking years ago. If AC/DC were a band starting out today with lyrics like this they’d probably…
Maybe be on Warped Tour.
Oh my God, exactly. Also, am I being too mean? I think I’m being too mean.
No, you’re not. These are valid criticisms. You don’t need to love the album. When I was researching this LP for the interview, I was also shocked because I didn’t remember the lyrics being like this during my big AC/DC phase.
I know! I wasn’t expecting this. But it’s so easy to sing along to. It’s still fun. There are still AC/DC cover bands going strong in Australia. I still can’t get over how fast Brian Johnson joined the band after Bon Scott’s death.
It must’ve been so crazy for everyone. If I was in that position of losing a friend, I’d need at least a year before making music or starting a world tour with such a loss.
I seriously can’t imagine. If somebody dies, or if people in bands who have died, even after a year, have said that they can’t play without the person. I guess it depends on what they wanted. It was maybe a way of healing for them. They were carrying on that person’s memory.
It definitely was.
It’s just so fucking fast.
5. "Let Me Put My Love into You"
What’s this one called?
Uhhh, it’s titled "Let Me Put My Love into You"
That’s definitely another sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll song. I don’t like it at all. When people sing about sex, it makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t know why. I do like how the inside of the album is just photos of them rocking out and wearing their own band t-shirts, which I think is pretty cool. There’s Angus in his little school boy uniform. He’s very rebellious, almost like a little demon. It’s cool.
This LP was produced by Mutt Lange, who produced Highway to Hell . Fun fact, he’d later produce an album by his then wife Shania Twain in Come on Over.
Oh wow. Those are pretty similar records. I’m excited to listen to “You Shook Me All Night Long.” It’s a great song but I just don’t like the lyrics on this album. I know it was a different time but it still sucks.
One of my favorite things about the band is that they end almost all their songs the same way with like a crunching power chord. Someone made a supercut of it and it’s so funny.
I feel like we do that. I feel like everyone does that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This record is going for too long. I want to cut this short. I feel like I’m being punished.
Ah man, we started off so strong!
I know and then I read the lyrics. I’m just not an album person. I need to listen to the hit over and over again.
6. "Back in Black”
Here we go. Start of Side B. This is good. This song’s just about being back in black and stuff that’s not just his dick, which is good.
It’s a celebration and tribute to Bon Scott. I love the opening riff.
Apparently Malcolm Young, who wrote the riff, showed it to Angus one night and said, ‘What do you think? I don’t know if it’s crap or not.’” And it’s one of the most iconic guitar parts in music history and he wasn’t sure if it sucked!
Oh my God. That’s nice. Everything that I write, I think sucks too so it’s nice that even Malcolm Young felt that way too. The song structures are all quite similar here but again, it’s not broken so they shouldn’t fix it. This sound is so good. “Back in Black!” I hope I don’t fuck the lyrics singing along because it’s being recorded. The way they mix Brian Johnson’s voice is really cool. It’s not smacking you in the face but it’s sitting nicely at the top. It’s like an instrument. It’s so amazing that he can still sing like this at 63 or 64.
He’s actually 71 now.
Wow! Old! I’m honestly enjoying just rocking out to AC/DC right now.
7. "You Shook Me All Night Long”
Here’s our favorite song. It’s so good. It’s good, simple, rock and it’s fucking great.
This is apparently the first song Brian Johnson wrote with the band.
It’s just so fun. It makes you want to move. I remember being 12 and just loving this song. I remember the “American thighs” line and not knowing what that meant. It’s about rooting! Ugh, gross! Ew!!
Did you know that Celine Dion has covered this song?
She’s so underrated. I hope she’s doing well. I’m sure she is after Titanic. I should’ve picked one of her albums. I know she still works but she doesn’t have to work another day in her life after how big “My Heart Will Go On.” She’s like Chumbawamba with that “Tubthumping” song.
Might be the first time those two artists have been compared but I agree.
This is kind of song that you’d cover with your high school band.
Oh, absolutely. I wanted to cover this in my high school band but I think we went with Jimmy Eat World.
Two great bands. We were listening to Jimmy Eat World in the van today. Them and Florida Georgia Line, who are actually my favorite band. They’re so fucked up but they’re really fun.
They’re my grandpa’s favorite band too.
In like a totally non-ironic way?
He loves it! He moved to Nashville a while ago and got really into radio country.
We saw them in a massive arena in Melbourne and it was whitest thing I’ve ever seen. So many Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots. It was so much fun. I have a Florida Georgia Line tattoo. There’s something about them.
8. "Have a Drink on Me"
What do you think of this?
Well, I don’t drink so I can’t relate to this one at all. Actually, I had one glass of an alcoholic drink when we went to a club in Los Angeles last week.
How was it?
It was really dark and it tasted bad and made me feel dumb. I didn’t like it. But listening to this, all of these songs would be so fucking cool live. Just think of the production!
These songs are made for stadiums and pyrotechnics.
Yes! Oh my God. It would go off.
I’ve never seen them live but I love their concert videos. Angus Young is such an incredible performer.
I’m 24 and I don’t have his energy. I get exhausted like halfway through our sets and we only play for like 50 minutes. But that’s long.
I can’t imagine being up on stage for that long. While I respect those artists who can do 3-hour shows, I have to be a super fan to really appreciate it without getting bored. I prefer the short set.
Music is such a personal thing for me I don’t really like going to shows. That’s not how I appreciate the music. I appreciate it by either sitting in the dark alone with it or driving to it. I want to be moved by it and feel it in my soul.
9. "Shake a Leg”
All in all, I don’t think I’ll listen to this album again. It’s not emo enough for me. It’s not what I need it to be but I can appreciate it for being a very cool record with a casual misogyny which is not ok. If they were around as a new band, you’re right, they’d be on Warped Tour. I hate to think about that.
This is the second to last song and they’ve only played it once.
This feels like a filler song.
I do like a lot of the riffs, especially how it builds into the chorus.
They sound like such a live band. I’d have fun listening to this in headphones, but it feels like this is the kind of thing you’d hear live in a barn and get drunk and play pool and smoke cigarettes with your friends to. Horrible! That’s not for me. I don’t like having fun like that. I like structured fun like going to the arcade or going to the movies. I can’t do it. This is too much fun for me.
I forgot to mention that this was recorded in the Bahamas.
What? That’s so weird.
I was reading about how crabs would interrupt the tracking sessions by sneaking into the studio.
What? Literal crabs, like from the ocean, waltzing in there and fucking up an AC/DC record. And they built the bell in the Bahamas?
No, that was built in the UK It was added later.
Imagine having that much money that you can just build a bell. I wonder where it is now.
I don’t know. I know they tour with a bell but I don’t think it’s the original one.
It sounds evil. It’s really fucking cool. I wonder where they’d go to build to bell. If me, Georgia Maq, needed a bell, who would I call?
I don’t think I have a bell guy but they did make it from a foundry in the U.K. called John Taylor & Co. Bellfounders.
I need an industrial bell. How do you even make a bell? You need a big cast. Who invented the bell? Where the hell did that come from? How would all these churches feel about a bell being used in a record like this. Can I email John Taylor & Co. Bellfounders? Can VICE buy us a bell?
10. "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
I’m guessing this is "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.” This is dumb. I guess it depends on who you ask. My nana would probably think rock was noise pollution but a punk teenager would probably disagree.
A punk teenager is definitely on the “Ain’t Noise Pollution” side. This is a song that you blast when the cops are called at a loud party.
Oh my God.
I like this one. It has a little more of a bluesy-swing than the other songs. There’s a really good Angus Young quote where he says, “I'm sick to death of people saying we've made 11 albums that sounds exactly the same. In fact, we've made 12 albums that sound exactly the same.”
Ha. And they’re living off this. What’s Angus Young’s net worth? Do you know the Wiggles? They’re so rich. The red one is worth like 20 million.
According to Google, his estimated net worth is around 140 million.
Wow. If I get to keep the vinyl you brought, I’ve upped my net worth by $27.
Final Verdict: I feel like I’ve told you everything already. I probably won’t listen to it again but I’m happy we did this. If the lyrics were different, I’d probably be into it way more. I might put this on in someone’s garage if people were drinking, playing pool, and smoking cigarettes. I’d put it on for a bit of a fun laugh but not for very long. I’d put on “Back In Black” or “You Shook Me All Night Long” and it’d be fun for about four minutes but that’s about it.