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No. 4: AC/DC, ‘Back In Black’ – Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

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It’s a lesser statistic, but somehow it speaks most loudly: AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ received the RIAA’s Master Ringtone Sales Award (Gold and Platinum) in 2006 and reached 2x Platinum status in 2007.

It’s a Top 100 Classic Rock Song that is so omnipresent, so beloved, so kick-ass that millions want it to play every time they get a phone call.

Certainly, that opening riff is one of the most recognized guitar bits of all time. If there’s a certain type of guitar player who has to pluck out the opening notes of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ every time he picks up his axe, then there’s another type who’s just as likely to hit the signature BUM-ba-da-DUM-ba-da-DUM of ‘Back in Black.’ It’s gained a level of pop culture awareness that makes it instantly identifiable with a certain attitude — it’s appeared in films from ‘Iron Man’ to ‘The Smurfs.’

It screams “tough guy” or “bad ass” or “here comes trouble,” whichever you happen to need. So it’s a form of shorthand for filmmakers, and for us too, hearing it on the radio or the iPod. Admit it — ‘Back in Black’ comes up on shuffle, and you strut with your head held just a bit higher than normal. You aren’t looking for a fight, but you’ll take one if it comes. “Nine lives, cat’s eyes, abusin’ every one of them and running wild.”

The ‘Back In Black’ album is one of the great titanic bestsellers of all time, currently at No. 3 on the list of best-selling albums worldwide, right behind ‘Thriller’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Produced in 1980 as the band was coming to terms with the death of original lead singer Bon Scott, then-new lead singer Brian Johnson was asked to write lyrics for ‘Back In Black’ as a tribute to Scott.

It’s sold an estimated 49 million copies. That’s one hell of a tribute. And when a record gets that deep into the collective consciousness, sure, it’s easy to ignore it, or take it for granted. It’s easy to forget its greatness.

But it’s impossible not to listen when those chords blare out — from a movie soundtrack, a stereo, or a fast car driving by with the windows cranked as low as they’ll go. Those unmistakable, unstoppable chords — BUM-ba-da-DUM-ba-da-DUM. The period seems unnecessary.

Next: We Seek Shelter

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Watch AC/DC Perform ‘Back In Black’

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