Guest Blogger Pat Higgins: AC/DC – Back In Black

7 May

One good guest blog deserves another, so here’s Jinx Media’s Pat Higgins with his take on this week’s Recording.  Please “Follow” to make sure you don’t miss my own thoughts in my regularly scheduled Friday post.


I’d never heard AC/DC’s Back in Black before listening to it for this blog, and before I talk about the album itself I want to talk a bit about why.

Music is tied to our identities, of course, but never more so than when we’re teenagers. As our friends and classmates slam into the brick wall of puberty and fracture into different tribes, we may choose to nail our colours to a particular musical mast and allow that to represent us. To let the bands we follow make a statement for us; this is how I’d express myself if I had the ability. This band is the way I’d sound if you could hear me screaming into the tornado of my teenage years.

See, AC/DC could easily have been one of my bands. As a 14 year old, I was picking my way through the (in retrospect, rather endearing) landscape of 80s hair metal and dirty rock. I’d mow the lawn at my parents’ house listening to Guns n Roses Appetite for Destruction as loud as my Dixons own-brand Walkman knock-off would play. I’d crank up Def Leppard’s Hysteria and bounce around my room. I was a gloriously unselfconscious kid, cheerfully filing these newly discovered rebellions into a vinyl collection that otherwise included Paul Young and T’Pau albums bought in the months and years beforehand.

So AC/DC should have been a no-brainer. The guitars, the innuendo, the sheer big loud silliness of it all; how could a kid already cranking Def Leppard and GNR not fall into the loving arms of AC/DC’s most famous recording at some point or another?

Well, towards the end of 1989, a buddy played me a track from Pop Will Eat Itself’s still-brilliant album This is The Day, This is the Hour, This is This… and something clicked in my head. I’d found my tribe, and I nailed my colours to that particular mast hard enough to split the goddamn wood.

I became an early 90s indie kid. Looking for Senseless Things bootlegs in dodgy underground markets. Finding out about secret gigs by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and turning up hours early.

Wearing Ned’s Atomic Dustbin shorts.

In winter.

By 1991, my music collection showed no trace of GNR, let alone Def Leppard. I’m pretty sure that Sisters of Mercy were the *only* band to survive from my earlier collection to my new image-conscious one. And, like many people who dabble with one thing before settling on another, I held a real grudge against the big, brash, silly stuff that I’d enjoyed so much a mere summer beforehand.  In fact, I can remember standing staring at a cardboard standee of Angus Young in my local HMV and feeling a sort of anger. How could people listen to that *garbage* when they could be listening to, well, THE FIRST ALBUM BY GARBAGE?

Teen tribes subside, of course. My musical identity will always feel the closest allegiance to those UK indie bands of the early 90s (and if you ever wonder why such a thing would appeal, check out one of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s occasional reunion shows; they’re STILL awesome) but nowadays my iPod has got a lot more variety. I’ve reinstated the purged bands from my early record collection (yes, even the embarrassing ones, although I haven’t got around to reacquiring any Paul Young yet, for some reason) .

And so, when Avri asked if I fancied writing an entry for this blog, I realised that I was well up for listening to Back in Black.

God, that was a long introduction.

As befits an album with an entirely black cover other than the band’s logo (by no means the only disc to do this, but one of the best known), the first track starts moody and dark, with a tolling bell finally giving way to a pretty glorious mid-tempo riff and a set of opening lyrics that set out the album’s style pretty effectively; “I’m rolling thunder, pouring rain, I’m coming on like a hurricane…”

Subtle it ain’t, but it works. No wonder it still gets plundered for movie soundtracks over 30 years later.

The lyrics continue in pretty much this vein for the majority of the album; vague metaphors and similes about male prowess, often accompanied by equally vaguely worded threats. You aren’t going to find the meaning of life or the cancer cure here, but goddammit, that ain’t why you bought a ticket in the first place.

And make no mistake, this album still rocks in 2013. The production is clearly a product of the time, but so many more recent bands have still been trying to reproduce the feeling the album generates that it manages to vault free from the era and feel oddly timeless.

Well, more than T’Pau does, anyway.

Background research tells me that this was their first album with Brian Johnson after the death of Bon Scott (knew that names, didn’t know the chronology), but this doesn’t sound like the product of a band finding their feet with a new frontman. This sounds confident as hell, and very nearly as loud.

I could do without some of the crasser double entendres (“I’m just giving the dog a bone” really isn’t my style), but there’s a lot here that I really got a kick out of. Of course, even a Back in Black virgin such of myself had heard the title track already, but in the context of this set of songs it sounds even better than ever. A kick-ass, dick swinging swagger of a track which sounds like a stone-cold classic from the very first time you hear it, it’s a good enough reason to buy the album all by itself. The fact that it leads straight into You Shook Me All Night Long ensures that there’s no midpoint flagging of pace on this album; it’s as solid a chunk of rock as you’re likely to find anywhere on the record shelves.

The last track on the album, Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, is a crowing statement of victory, and a promise for the future. It sounds for all the world like a victory lap.

You really can’t blame them.


Born during a particularly close game of Scrabble between his parents in 1974, Pat Higgins spent his early life roaming the streets of Essex busily imagining that vampires and werewolves lay around every corner.

In 2003, Pat set up Jinx Media Ltd and directed his first film, TrashHouse. It was released on DVD in February 2006.

In the summer of 2006, Jinx Media shot two follow-ups, KillerKiller and Hellbride, followed by award-winning mockumentary The Devil’s Music in 2007. He was the original writer / creator of Strippers vs Werewolves.

Called the ‘Essex Auteur’ by Empire and ‘the Tarantino of budget gore flicks for style and dialogue’ by SFX, Pat is also the co-creator of the Death Tales series of films, with Jim Eaves and Al Ronald.

6 Responses to “Guest Blogger Pat Higgins: AC/DC – Back In Black”

  1. Mike May 7, 2013 at 10:48 AM #

    Pat, I have to say your intro was awesome: you put into much better words what I’ve tried to explain on my website as I work through the “grunge” albums listed in the 1000 Recordings. There is something so important about the bands you heard when you were a teenager, and although some ’80s Michael Jackson and Mr. Mister have made it back onto my iPod, ’90s alternative will always rule my taste in music. Great review and I wholeheartedly agree with the power of this album considering they had a new lead singer. Was a great discovery for me as well when I first heard it a couple years ago.

  2. nycavri May 7, 2013 at 8:38 PM #

    Pat’s intro also sadly explains why we weren’t closer the last few years of High School. When we weren’t trying to prove anything to anyone, we could just shamelessly enjoy Bryan Adams, Bruce Willis, and Paul Young. Once we “found” our scenes, it turned out they didn’t intersect cleanly and as a result we hung out far less than we could have / should have.

    FWIW, my hair-rock loving teenaged self never had a problem with Garbage.

    Or T’Pau.

  3. zcarstheme May 8, 2013 at 7:56 AM #

    Cheers Mike; how very kind and glad you liked it. I’ll head straight over to your blog once I’ve finished typing this.

    Avri – ah, those teen tribes were fun.. but, yeah, they got in the way of friendships!

  4. iained May 11, 2013 at 3:25 AM #

    Hi Pat, good post! I remember Barry Cryer doing something similar a few years ago on “I’ve Never Seen Star Wars” with the same reactions:


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