“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.”
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.” Will Byers from The Guardian said “AC/DC’s judicious use of space” in the song helped make it a “classic metal anthem”.
The song was ranked No. 4 by VH1 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs. In 2009, it was named the second-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. The song was also ranked No. 187 on Rolling Stone‘s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. 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.”
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.
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. It officially charted on the UK charts after 31 years in release; peaking in at no. 27 because of the band’s music becoming available on iTunes. It also reached no. 1 on the UK Rock Charts in the same week.