On April 19, 1980 32-year old English singer Brian Johnson joined AC/DC, replacing Bon Scott who had died after a drinking binge that February.At the time, Scott’s final album with AC/DC, “Highway to Hell,” had taken the band into Platinum territory. With a new singer, the hard rockin’ AC/DC’s future was uncertain.Of course, all those fears would be dispelled in 1980 when Johnson’s first album with the band, “Back in Black,” quickly became a worldwide phenomenon.All these years later, it is one of the world’s biggest selling titles.
Johnson worked his way up the rock and roll food chain, beginning his career in a group called the Gobi Desert Canoe Club.By 1970 he was going nowhere in the Jasper Hart Band, before he took his first step into the big time with the glam-metal Geordie.That group had been successful in England, enough so that when the surviving members of AC/DC put together a short list of potential singers, Johnson was on it.Ironically, before his death, it was Bon Scott who had commented on how good he though Brian Johnson’s singing was, tipping off Angus Young who would investigate further.
Since 1980, the marriage has been a successful one, the only huge bump in the road being Johnson’s recent hearing problems which resulted in the singer leaving the road and the band hiring Axle Rose to fill in on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates.Happily, it seems that Johnson has rejoined AC/DC in the studio for a new set of recording sessions.Typically secretive with their plans, we have no idea whether or not this will lead to a new album and a tour to follow.We can only hope!
Here’s AC/DC’s albums ranked from least-selling in America to best (but you probably already know #1 – it’s got a black cover!)
#20 “IRON MAN 2 Soundtrack (2010) – the lowest-selling titles of AC/DC’s career are also the most recent, but its not necessarily a reflection of a lack of creativity and content.It’s more of a function of how much less people buy albums in the age of downloading individual songs.Taken on its own, this collection of 15 hits and deeper tracks is fairly monstrous! (GOLD - 500,000 copies)
#19 “ROCK OR BUST” (2014) – This was a short album – only 35 minutes, but it broke two singles including the title track and “Play Ball.”A big seller out of the gate, it sold half a mill in the U.S. in a year, but has barely moved any copies since. (GOLD – 500,000 copies)
#18 “FLICK OF THE SWITCH” (1983) – the beginning of AC/DC’s mid-80’s slump following the huge success of 1981’s “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You” album and cannon-toting tour following it.This was a terrible affair with sub-par songs that recycled everything from far-better past glories.Too-much-time-on-the-road-and-not-enough-in-the-studio syndrome? (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION copies)
#17 “FLY ON THE WALL”(1985) – a continuation of the mid-80’s creative drought.Phallic fascinations drove the album’s most visible and sophomoric single – “Sink the Pink,” but fortunately “Shake the Foundations” helped to redeem this mess somewhat. (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION copies)
#16 “74 JAILBREAK”(1984) – for a five-song 12” EP of 10-year old tracks never released outside of Australia before, this was the little record that could.Featuring Bon Scott in his early glory and a band already committed to the relentless rock-steady heavy-metal beat that would take it into a far-distant future.“Jailbreak” became a U.S. radio hit a decade after it first came out overseas. (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION copies
#15 “STIFF UPPER LIP”(2000) – a fairly uninspired release, this album produced no hits for the band.After a year, the album had struggled to Platinum, mainly due to the band’s relentless touring schedule, which kept AC/DC on the road from August 2000 straight through to July of the following year. (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION COPIES)
#14 “IF YOU WANT BLOOD, YOU GOT IT”(1978)- This was AC/DC’s first live album and the only one with Bon Scott on it, recorded as it was on the 1978 “Powerage” tour.Quite brilliant, really, it captured AC/DC as a lean and clean fighting machine. (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION COPIES)
#13 “POWERAGE” (1978)-It’s just wrong that an album like “Fly on the Wall” moved a million copies and this one ONLY sold a million.This was a tremendous studio record that gave us “Sin City,” “Rock and Roll Damnation,” and “What’s Next to the Moon.”A cornerstone of the collection! (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION copies)
#12 “BLOW UP YOUR VIDEO” (1988) – Seriously, does anyone even remember this album?At least the single “Heatseeker” announced the beginnings of AC/DC’s recovery from its the mid-80’s creative coma. (PLATINUM – 1 MILLION copies)
#11 “BALLBREAKER” (1995) – this was not such a memorable album, but a relentless 11-month tour in ’96 and the song “Hard As a Rock” kept the album in the forefront for 2 million happy customers. (2X PLATINUM – 2 MILLION copies)
#10 “BLACK ICE”(2008) -AC/DC’s first album in eight years, this solid release generated great reviews from critics who were usually skeptical of AC/DC’s crotch-rocking sentiments.Worldwide, the album became 2008’s second-best seller of the year behind Coldplay.“Rock and Roll Train” was AC/DC’s best single since 1990’s “Thunderstruck.” (2X PLATINUM – 2 MILLION copies)
#9 “LET THERE BE ROCK” (1977)A Bon Scott masterpiece, the Biblical imagery of the title track fires up the band to produce a glorious creation.The album also features the fan favorite “Whole Lotta Rosie” in her voluminous presence.You simply can’t go wrong with this one. (2X PLATINUM – 2 MILLION)
#8 “HIGH VOLTAGE”(1976)The international release of AC/DC’s first album released in Australia a year earlier with a different track listing.Angus Young established the schoolboy pervert character on the cover and “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If you Wanna Rock n’ Roll)” insured the album’s immortality.Add in “T.N.T.,” “High-Voltage, and the band’s slow blues (about the Clap) “The Jack” for added turbo action. (3X PLATINUM – 3 MILLION COPIES)
#7 “FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK” (1981)This was AC/DC’s first #1 album in America and the followup to the massive “Back in Black” record from a year and a half earlier.This album was nowhere near as good, but the title track became a massive hit and inspired the canon fusillade at the end of AC/DC’s concerts of the time.Fire! (4X PLATINUM – 4 MILLION copies)
#6 AC/DC LIVE”(1992)Recorded on 1991’s “The Razor’s Edge” tour, this album was loud and relentless Brian Johnson-fronted AC/DC hanging it out onstage.It does not better the Bon Scott-fronted “If You Want blood, You Got It,” but it gets the job done.The sales total is a composite of two separate releases of this title. (4X PLATINUM for 3 MILLION copies of the 1-CD version and 2X PLATINUM for 1 million copies of the 2-CD Collector’s edition. Adjusted total is 4 MILLION albums sold).
#5 “WHO MADE WHO?”(1986)This was the highly-successful soundtrack to Stephen King’s film “Maximum Overdrive.”Of course, AC/DC music would be perfect for a movie about killer trucks!6 familiar songs with a new title track and two previously-unreleased instrumentals. (5 X PLATINUM – 5 MILLION copies)
#4 “THE RAZOR’S EDGE” (1990)Can you say comeback?“Thunderstruck” and “Moneytalks” framed a terrific album that put AC/DC’s unsteady mid- and late-80’s run firmly behind it. (5X PLATINUM – 5 MILLION copies)
#3 “DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP” (1976, 1981)Talk about a music-biz windfall!AC/DC’s American record label, Atlantic, declined to release this album when it first came out in 1976.In ’81, in the wake of “Back in Black’s tremendous success, the label put this five-year old Bon Scott-fronted release on the domestic market. Despite the change in singers from album to album, American bought this one in droves. (6X PLATINUM – 6 MILLION copies)
#2 “HIGHWAY TO HELL” (1979)It’s an ultimate tragedy that Bon Scott endured the long way to the top only to be dumped on the highway to hell shortly after.His final release with AC/DC, the album was beautifully produced by Matt Lange (who crafted Def Leppard’s later statements) and contained the band’s second-best batch of songs ever! (7X PLATINUM – 7 MILLION copies)
#1 “BACK IN BLACK”(1980)People could say AC/DC caught lightning in a bottle on this release, but there’s no luck or mystery in it.This is the band’s best collection of songwriting before or since.Containing the 80’s greatest riff in the title track, there’s also “Shoot to Thrill,” “Hell’s Bells,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Have a Drink on Me” – they’re all in there.You could just about change the name of this album to “Greatest Hits.”One of the world’s best-selling albums at an estimated 50 million copies, it is America’s 8th-largest seller. (22X PLATINUM – 22 MILLION copies)