AC/DC’s Back in Black saw the transition of the group from Bon Scott to Brian Johnson on vocals, but though he didn’t live to record the record, Scott did hear some of what would eventually end up on the album. In a new interview with Paste Magazine, guitarist Angus Young clarifies a bit of the timeline of how things went down with the record and Scott’s involvement.
While there has been talk over the years of Scott’s involvement in what would become Back in Black, Angus reveals that the singer never had a chance to sing on a song or record a track.
“Bon never really got the chance,” says Young. “At the time, me and Malcolm were writing songs, which became the songs for Back in Black. We were in London in a rehearsal room, and Bon had come down, too. And what used to happen was, me and Malcolm would get together and get a drum kit, and Malcolm would get behind the drums sometimes, and I’d get on the guitar and just tap out a riff. Or other times, Malcolm would get on the guitar and he’d get me to just knock out a simple beat on the drums.”
He recalls, “We were working away, and it was on an intro which was actually what became the intro for ‘Hells Bells.’ So Bon showed up, and Malcolm said, ‘Oh, great, Bon! You can get behind the kit!’ Because originally, Bon started as a drummer. So Bon got behind the drum kit so we could try and work out this intro, how we wanted to do it. So we sorted that out how we wanted, and the other one was ‘Have a Drink on Me,’ a riff Malcolm was playing around with. So we worked out the intro on that and how the song was gonna go. So he had Bon tapped to do a demo for that. So that was it, really.”
Young adds, “If you were looking up what Bon had done, it was really just to help us with those demos on the drums. And he even said to us, as we were knocking off in the night time, ‘Look, we’ll hook up next week.’ He’d been working on some lyrics, and said, ‘We’ll hook up next week and maybe the three of us can just start going through stuff.’ But unfortunately, he passed before that.”
Reflecting on that period of loss, Young stated, “That was probably the hardest moment for us as a band at that time—whether we continue or stop. Because, you know, Bon Scott, when he died—with his own unique style and character and how he performed—we knew we were not gonna find somebody as unique who’d lived that character. So the choice for us really was, we had to find somebody who we felt had their own different character, and we were lucky that Brian had that. He had his own unique character.”
Back in Black would become not only AC/DC’s biggest album but one of the biggest rock records in music history. The album peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart back in 1980, but has since been certified as a Diamond record by the RIAA with over 25 million copies sold in the U.S.