"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." It peaked in the U.S. at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1981 and was 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 2x Platinum status in 2007.
The song was ranked No. 4 by VH1 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs, and in 2009, it was named the second greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. It was also ranked No. 187 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The same magazine has also ranked "Back in Black" No. 29 on "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time".
It officially charted on the UK charts after 31 years in release; peaking in at no. 27 as a result of AC/DC music becoming available on iTunes. It also reached no. 1 on the UK Rock Charts in the same week.
In 1984, the Beastie Boys sampled "Back in Black" 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.'"
Art Brut usually began their song "Formed a Band" with the intro to "Back in Black" when they played it live. A recorded version of this can be found on their 2006 Nag Nag Nag Nag EP. Eminem released a version of his hit, "My Name Is", with "Back in Black" as the bassline. The song was also heavily sampled by the Evolution Control Committee in creating the song "Rocked by Rape". In 2010, Limp Bizkit samples the song during live performances of "My Way."
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. Other versions include:
1989 Red Hot Chili Peppers started using "Back in Black" as an intro and outro jam to some of their own songs at various live shows. In 1990 they played it as an ending jam to their own song, "Sexy Mexican Maid" on the television show, Night Music. In 1999 the band once again used "Back in Black" as an intro jam to their songs at a few of their live shows.
1995 Kid Rock, demo with no vocals, he scratched over the riff and added a hip hop beat to it; he also covers it in concert usually just the riff in the middle of "Devil Without a Cause", but he will cover it fully occasionally.
2007 Public Enemy, "Black Is Back", a revamped version done in tribute to AC/DC. This is a reworked version as the original that was unreleased on album due to legal red tape, but it can viewed freely on YouTube.
2010 Muse played the song on the third day of Big Day Out in Australia, with Nic Cester from Jet on vocals. Since then, Muse play the "Back in Black" solo as an outro to "Hysteria" in most live performances.