Back in Black (song)

"Back in Black" is a song by Australian rock band AC/DC. It was released as the lead single from their seventh album of the same name in 1980 through Atlantic Records. It is notable for its opening guitar riff. The song was written as a tribute to their former singer Bon Scott, who died in February 1980. In 1981, it reached number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2012, it reached number 65 in Australia and number 27 in the United Kingdom.

"Back in Black"
Single by AC/DC
from the album Back in Black
B-side"What Do You Do for Money Honey"
StudioCompass Point, The Bahamas
GenreHard rock[1][2]
Producer(s)Robert John "Mutt" Lange
AC/DC singles chronology
"Hells Bells"
"Back in Black"
"Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution"
Alternative cover
Cover of the Spanish release
Audio sample
Music video
"Back In Black" on YouTube

In January 2018, as part of Triple M's "Ozzest 100", the 'most Australian' songs of all time, "Back in Black" was ranked number 22.[3]


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."[4]

Critical reception

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."[5] Will Byers from The Guardian said "AC/DC's judicious use of space" in the song helped make it a "classic metal anthem".[6]

The song was ranked No. 4 by VH1 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs.[7] In 2009, it was named the second-greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[1] The song was also ranked No. 187 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10]

Commercial performance

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[11] because of the band's music becoming available on iTunes. It also reached no. 1 on the UK Rock Charts in the same week.[12]


In 1984, the Beastie Boys sampled "Back in Black"[9] 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.'"[13]

Covers and other versions

Brian Johnson performing "Back in Black" alongside Muse (guitarist Matt Bellamy pictured) at the 2017 Reading Festival

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.[9] In 2007, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews & Orleans Avenue recorded live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.[14] In 2017, Muse performed the song at the Reading Festival with Brian Johnson on vocals; this was Johnson's first performance in almost two years, as he was previously ordered to halt live performances in order to prevent further hearing damage.[15]


Weekly charts

Year-end charts

Chart (2019) Position
Portugal (AFP)[27] 355


Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[28]
2× Platinum 80,000*
Italy (FIMI)[29] 2× Platinum 100,000
Mexico (AMPROFON)[30] 4× Platinum+Gold 270,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[32]
3× Platinum 3,000,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. Winistorfer, Andrew (5 January 2009). "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  2. Ertegün, Ahmet (2001). 'What'd I Say?': The Atlantic Story: 50 Years of Music. Welcome Rain Publisher. p. 546. ISBN 978-1-56649-048-1. Back in Black includes one of their best known songs, 'You Shook Me All Night Long' (#35 Pop), and hard rock classics 'Hells Bells', 'Back in Black' (#37 Pop) and 'Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution'.
  3. "Here Are the Songs That Made Triple M's 'Ozzest 100'". Music Feeds. 27 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  4. "Back in Black by AC/DC". Songfacts. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  5. "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.
  6. Byers, Will (1 October 2008). "School of rock: What makes a classic metal anthem?". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  7. "40 Greatest Metal Songs (40–31)". VH1. 1–4 May 2006. Archived from the original on 13 September 2006.
  8. "Back in Black". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 28 May 2007.
  9. "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010.
  10. "Triple M's Ultimate Rock 500". Triple M. Archived from the original on 29 February 2012.
  11. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  12. "2012 Top 40 Rock & Metal Singles Archive – 1st December 2012". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  13. "AC/DC nix Beastie Boys sample" (LexisNexis Academic Search). NME. 11 November 1999. Retrieved 15 February 2007.
  14. "Jazz Fest Live – live recordings from New Orleans Jazz Fest". Jazz Fest Live. Archived from the original on 1 January 2011.
  15. Barsanti, Sam (29 August 2017). "AC/DC's Brian Johnson recently performed live for the first time in nearly 2 years". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 21 September 2019.
  16. "Back in Black – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  17. "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MARCH 7, 1981". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 18 September 2012.
  18. "ARIA Top 100 Singles – Week Commencing 3rd December 2012" (PDF). ARIA. 4 January 2013. p. 3. Retrieved 6 June 2014 via Pandora Archive.
  19. " – AC/DC – Back in Black" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  20. "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  21. "GAON 노래방 CHART – 2013년 4월 3주차" (in Korean). Gaon Music Chart. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014.
  22. "AC/DC Chart History (Digital Song Sales)". Billboard. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  23. "Hard Rock Digital Songs: January 12, 2013". Billboard. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  24. "Hot 100 Recurrents: December 8, 2012". Billboard. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  25. " – AC/DC – Back in Black". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  26. "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  27. "Top 3000 Singles + EPs Digitais: Semanas 01 a 52 de 2019 de 28/12/2018 a 26/12/2019" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  28. "Canadian single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black". Music Canada.
  29. "Italian single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 8 April 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Back in Black" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  30. "Certificaciones" (in Spanish). Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Retrieved 10 October 2020. Type AC/DC in the box under the ARTISTA column heading and Back in Black in the box under TÍTULO
  31. "British single certifications – AC/DC – Back in Black". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 5 April 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Back in Black in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  32. "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.