Back in Black (song)

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"Back in Black"
ACDC Back in Black Single Cover.jpg
Single by AC/DC
from the album Back in Black
A-side"What Do You Do for Money Honey"
Released21 December 1980 (1980-12-21)
Format7 inch
RecordedCompass Point Studios, The Bahamas, spring 1980
GenreHard rock
Producer(s)Robert John "Mutt" Lange
AC/DC singles chronology
"Hells Bells"
"Back in Black"
"Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
"Hells Bells"
"Back in Black"
"Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
Alternative cover
Cover of the Spanish release
Cover of the Spanish release
Audio sample
Music video
"Back In Black" on YouTube

"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.


Known for its opening guitar riff, the song was AC/DC's tribute to their former singer Bon Scott. His replacement Brian Johnson recalled to Mojo magazine in 2009 that when the band asked him to write a lyric for this song, "they said, 'it can't be morbid – it has to be for Bon and it has to be a celebration.'" He added: "I thought, 'Well no pressure there, then' (laughs). I just wrote what came into my head, which at the time seemed like mumbo, jumbo. 'Nine lives. Cats eyes. Abusing every one of them and running wild.' The boys got it though. They saw Bon's life in that lyric."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

In a retrospective piece on "Back in Black", Metal Hammer magazine hailed the song's riff as one of the greatest riffs ever and wrote, "There are rock songs that appeal to metal fans. And there are metal songs that appeal to rock fans. Then there is Back in Black – a rock and metal song that appeals to everybody, from dads to dudes, to little old ladies beating noisy kids over the heads with their sticks – and it all hangs on that monumental, no-nonsense, three-chord monster of a riff."[2] Will Byers from The Guardian said "AC/DC's judicious use of space" in the song helped make it a "classic metal anthem".[3]

The song was ranked No. 4 by VH1 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs.[4] In 2009, it was named the second-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[5] The song was also ranked No. 187 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[6] The same magazine has also ranked the song No. 29 on their list of "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time", and wrote of the song in an accompanying piece: "Angus and Malcolm Young's dual-guitar masterpiece is the platonic ideal of hard rock."[7]

In 2010, this song sits at No. 2 in Triple M's Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown in Melbourne, Australia. The Top 5 were all AC/DC songs.[8]

Commercial performance[edit]

As a single, "Back in Black" peaked in the U.S. at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1981 as well as at No. 51 on Billboard's Top Tracks chart, which debuted in March 1981. "Back in Black" received the RIAA's Master Ringtone Sales Award (Gold and Platinum) in 2006 and reached 2× Platinum status in 2007.[citation needed] It officially charted on the UK charts after 31 years in release; peaking in at no. 27[9] because of the band's music becoming available on iTunes. It also reached no. 1 on the UK Rock Charts in the same week.[10]


In 1984, the Beastie Boys sampled "Back in Black"[7] without permission for their song "Rock Hard". In 1999, when they wished to include it on an upcoming CD compilation release, they sought permission but AC/DC refused. Mike D of the Beastie Boys quoted Malcolm Young's reason for refusing as: "'Nothing against you guys, but we just don't endorse sampling.'"[11]


Covers and other versions[edit]

Two live versions of the song later appeared on both versions of the album Live, as well as the Australian tour edition of Stiff Upper Lip. It has been covered by a number of artists, including Living Colour and Shakira.[7] Other versions include:

In popular culture[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[25]
2× Platinum 80,000^
Italy (FIMI)[26] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[27] Gold 30,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[28] Gold 500,000^
United States (RIAA)[29]
2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Back In Black by AC/DC". Songfacts. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Why AC/DC's Back In Black is one of the best riffs of all time". Metal Hammer. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  3. ^ Byers, Will (1 October 2008). "School of rock: What makes a classic metal anthem?". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  4. ^ "40 Greatest Metal Songs (40–31)". VH1. MTV Networks. 1–4 May 2006. Archived from the original on 13 September 2006.
  5. ^ "Vh1 Top 100 Hard Rock Songs". Archived from the original on 4 January 2009.. VH1. Prefix Magazine. 1–5 January 2009.
  6. ^ "Back in Black". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 28 May 2007.
  7. ^ a b c "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Triple M's Ultimate Rock 500". Triple M. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  10. ^ a b "2012 Top 40 Rock & Metal Singles Archive – 1st December 2012". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  11. ^ "AC/DC nix Beastie Boys sample" (LexisNexis Academic Search). NME. 11 November 1999. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  12. ^ "Jazz Fest Live – live recordings from New Orleans Jazz Fest". Archived from the original on 1 January 2011.. Jazz Fest Live.
  13. ^ Bianco, Robert (23 January 2003). "Super 'Alias' will bowl you over". USA Today. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  14. ^ "AC/DC's Music Featured In 'Riley's First Date' Short Film". 16 October 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Back in Black – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  16. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MARCH 7, 1981". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 18 September 2012.
  17. ^ "ARIA Top 100 Singles – Week Commencing 3rd December 2012" (PDF). ARIA. Pandora. 4 January 2013. p. 3. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  18. ^ " – AC/DC – Back in Black" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  20. ^ "GAON 노래방 CHART – 2013년 4월 3주차" (in Korean). Gaon Music Chart. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014.
  21. ^ "AC/DC Chart History (Digital Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Hard Rock Digital Songs: January 12, 2013". Billboard. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  23. ^ "Hot 100 Recurrents: December 8, 2012". Billboard. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  24. ^ " – AC/DC – Back in Black". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  25. ^ "Canadian single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black". Music Canada.
  26. ^ "Italian single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana.
  27. ^ "Certificaciones" (in Spanish). Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Type AC/DC in the box under the ARTISTA column heading and Back in Black in the box under TÍTULO
  28. ^ "British single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 15 December 2017. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Back in Black in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]