Friday, July 25, 1980

AC/DC released Back in Black

First posted 7/22/2012; updated 9/30/2020.

Back in Black

AC/DC


Released: July 25, 1980


Peak: 4 US, 12 UK, 1 CN, 11 AU


Sales (in millions): 25.0 US, 0.1 UK, 50.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: hard rock/heavy metal


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Hell’s Bells [5:09] (3/28/81, #50 AR)
  2. Shoot to Thrill [5:14] (4/11/81, #60 AR)
  3. What Do You Do for Money Honey [3:33]
  4. Givin’ the Dog a Bone [3:30]
  5. Let Me Put My Love into You [4:12]
  6. Back in Black [4:13] (12/20/80, #37 US, #51 AR)
  7. You Shook Me All Night Long [3:28] (9/6/80, #35 US, #38 UK)
  8. Have a Drink on Me [3:57]
  9. Shake a Leg [4:03]
  10. Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution [4:12] (11/29/80, #15 UK)

Songs written by Johnson, Young, and Young.


Total Running Time: 41:31


The Players:

  • Brian Johnson (vocals)
  • Angus Young (guitar)
  • Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar, backing vocals)
  • Cliff Williams (bass)
  • Phil Rudd (drums)

Rating:

4.665 out of 5.00 (average of 25 ratings)


Quotable: One of “hard rock's greatest achievements” – Greg Prato, All Music Guide


Awards:

About the Album:

With 1979’s Highway to Hell, AC/DC achieved its first gold album in the U.S. AMG and was “poised for worldwide breakthrough success.” AMG “In the middle of album rehearsals, singer Bon Scott went on a drinking spree; he choked on his own vomit and was found dead in the back seat of a car.” RS After two days of mourning, guitarist Malcolm Young called his brother Angus and they went back to work. Five months later, the result was “this smoking album with the most prophetic title ever.” ZS It “is the ultimate example of a band turning a career-threatening negative into a remarkable positive.” AMG

New vocalist Brian Johnson “was as willing to shred the upper end of his voice as Scott had been” TM and “had the same bluesy edge as Scott” AMG but “sang with more power and conviction.” AMG He stamped “his own personality, not to mention distinctive rasp, on the record.” VH1 He “sings as if he’s being tortured – and thoroughly enjoying it.” TL

Critics knocked the band for its “testosterone-laden paeans to sex, booze, and more sex and more booze,” RV but “AC/DC was never a band to bother with any niceties in their music.” CRS They charged forward with “completely straight-ahead guitar power chords, brutal beats pounded out in 4/4 time, and blistering vocals on top.” CRS “The rhythm section gets right near the boiling point and then hangs there, waiting for the schoolboy-uniform–wearing Angus Young to deliver demonically twisted lead guitar that pushes things over the edge.” TM

Producer Mutt Lange “made sure that every walloping rhythm guitar supporting Johnson’s tales of lasciviousness (check out What Do You Do for Money Honey) weighed in at industrial strength – and was executed with surgical precision.” TM Lange “helped the group focus its high voltage rock,” AMG crafting “a delicate balance of power and finesse that defined the commercial side of heavy music for years.” TM “It doesn’t get any simpler than this meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.” CRS

The “primo dance-metal banger You Shook Me All Night LongRS and the “eerie Hells Bells,” AMG “are arena anthems of uncorrupted hookiness and sonic quality,” TL not to mention “strutting blues-based guitar heat.” RS Also included are “such perennial rock anthems as the stomping title trackAMG with its “proud peacock strut,” TM “the melodic Shoot to Thrill, [and] the album-closing battle cry Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.” AMG

“Though unabashed in its misogyny – Let Me Put My Love into You would be nicer if it were a request rather than a command while Given the Dog a Bone breaks the rules of chivalry and grammar – this testosterone filled romp’s passion for bangin’ is less focused on hips than heads.” TL “Not a single weak track is included; even the lesser-known album tracks are strong (Have a Drink on Me, Shake a Leg).” AMG

“Coming after years of synthesized disco and overproduced AOR, Back in Black proved once again the resilience of live, loud, and melodic rock, and listeners immediately responded.” TB It was one of “the greatest hard-rock album of the decade” RV and “one of rock’s all-time classics.” AMG “For many, [it is] the essential hard-rock record of the modern era.” TB It “might be the purest distillation of hard rock ever;” RS it “is a ten-song feast of tightly wound, enormously disciplined stomp rock” TM infused with “the relentless logic of a sledgehammer.” RS

Resources and Related Links:

  • AC/DC’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • Mutt Lange’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Greg Prato
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • CRS Tim Morse (1998). Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin.
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • RS Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Pages 202-3.
  • TL Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light (11/13/06).
  • VH1 VH1. (2003). 100 Greatest Albums. Edited by Jacob Hoye. Pocket Books: New York, NY.
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 32.

Friday, July 18, 1980

Joy Division released Closer

First posted 1/26/2013; updated 9/13/2020.

Closer

Joy Division


Released: July 18, 1980


Peak: -- US, 6 UK, -- CN, 23 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, 0.25 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: goth rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Atrocity Exhibition
  2. Isolation
  3. Passover
  4. Colony
  5. A Means to an End
  6. Heart and Soul
  7. Twenty Four Hours
  8. The Eternal
  9. Decades


Total Running Time: 44:16


The Players:

  • Ian Curtis (vocals, guitar)
  • Bernard Sumner (guitar, bass)
  • Peter Hook (bass, guitar)
  • Stephen Morris (drums, percussion)

Rating:

4.686 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Quotable: --


Awards:

About the Album:

“Rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here.” AMG Closer is “lauded as a gothic masterpiece” PP because of “its impact on the subsequent goth movement – a paradigm shift for punk music.” ZS Author Colin Larkins says it is “deservedly regarded by many critics as the most brilliant rock album of the 80s.” WK It introduces “a new post-punk sound, which oscillated between unsettling beats to, even more surprisingly, mutated disco sound in the space of a few tracks.” GQ It “burns with distress and foreboding, the songs seeming to drag us deeper into the depths of Curtis’ despairing mind, as we bear witness to his tortured words.” PT It is “a colossal work of art; a post-punk pillar; an ingenious sonic landscape; a blinding existential vision of songwriting.” PT

The album “journeys through a bleak songscape of hopelessness and loss,” RV a fact which caused the album to be more scrutinized the wake of lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. As such, the album “is pervaded by a sense of eerie beauty, like the still before the storm.” PR Curtis’ vocals “haunt the stark, minimalist backdrop like a troubled earth-bound spirit, pleading for release.” PR “The tracks would be in danger of grinding to a complete standstill, enthralled by their own spectral grandeur” PR if not for “the momentum secured by [Peter] Hook’s melodic” PR and “icy bass lines” RS500 alongside the “occasional flashes of overdriven” PR and “droning guitars.” RS500

What also lifts the album is that it is “dark, depressed and innovative.” ZS “Differing mixes, differing atmospheres, new twists and turns define the entirety of Closer, songs suddenly returned in chopped-up, crumpled form, ending on hiss and random notes.” AMG The end result is a “harrowing and emotionally raw testament” ZS and “one of the most chilling albums ever made.” RS500

Epilepsy and Suicide:

Curtis was diagnosed with epilepsy in January 1979. “While the band and manager Rob Gretton insisted that no strobes or flashing lights were used when Joy Division performed, it’s at best doubtful whether Curtis should have been performing at all.” QT He would sometimes have seizures on stage and his condition certainly wasn’t helped by the rock-n-roll lifestyle.

In addition to physical problems, Curtis was dealing with depression and a failed marriage. He’d married young at 19 years old and already had a daughter. However he was having an affair with Belgian journalist Annik HonorĂ© and his wife, Deborah, wanted a divorce. On May 18, 1980, he hung himself at age 23 on the eve of the band’s first North American tour.

Making of the Album/Martin Hannett:

The band started recording the album on March 18, 1980 at Britannia Row in London where Pink Floyd recorded Animals and parts of The Wall. It was produced by Martin Hannett, who’d also done Unknown Pleasures. His production was “more intentionally claustrophobic and confrontational” on Closer than Unknown Pleasures. PT He “was all about creating space – a kind of musical inner space” QT so he deliberately “bathed the tracks in effects and mixed them to sound hollow and cavernous.” DG Sumner didn’t like the mix because he wanted it to sound more like the band’s aggressive live performances. Hook said hw wanted the band to sound more like the Clash. QT Hook said Hannett referred to the band as “three idiots and a genius” QT and that Hannett preferred to work alone in the studio with “the genius” (Curtis). QT

The Album Cover:

In the wake of Curtis’ suicide, there was some controversy over the album cover. Released only two months after his death, Closer sported a cover with mourners gathered around a man lying on a bed. The band was accused of bad taste and cashing in on Curtis’ death. However, the cover had been approved by all four members before Curtis killed himself. The photo, taken by Bernard Pierre Wolff, was taken from a trendy art magazine called Zoom. It was of a statue created in 1910 by sculptor Demetrio Paernio. Called “The Lamentation of Christ,” it depicted the Virgin Mary, St. John, and Mary Magdalene mourning the recently crucified Jesus. The statue was from the Appiani family tomb in the Staglieno cemetery in Genoa, Italy.

“Atrocity Exhibition”

Lead song Atrocity Exhibition “sets the tone for the album’s sound: metallic rhythms, damaged synthesizers and jagged guitars are laid bare against brutal and sparse lyrics.” RV It “was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded.” AMG Hook and Sumner actually traded instruments on the track so Sumner played bass and Hook played guitar. Meanwhile, Morris added a tribal drum pattern influenced by krautrock band Can. Morris said, “I was probably trying to do ‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ or something by Captain Beefheart. I remember making them put in synths through fuzzboxes and making a horrible ambient racket, which you could barely hear on the record, but it's like a buzz saw.” GQ

The title came from a J.G. Ballard collection of what he called “condensed novels.” Ian liked the title and wrote lyrics before reading the book. DG The song is about a person locked in a mental institution because he feels he has no control over his body. People come to tour the asylum and see the freaks. The song ends up being a commentary about people’s fascination with the grotesque.

“Isolation”

“The squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits IsolationAMG integrated elements of synth-pop and electronic music with a “dead-simple drum machine track” DG cranked in the mix by Hannett. Ironically, considering the song title, it may be Joy Division’s most upbeat song. CS Morris said it sounded like a song people could actually dance to. He also recalled it being the first song they put together in the studio around synths. GQ Hook said it is “one of my best riffs and probably the closest we get to my actual live bass sound on either album.” BV

“Passover”

Morris noted that the song doesn’t have a regular beat and that the lyrics reflected an interest Curtis had in divinity. GQ With lines like “Is this the role that you wanted to live?” and “This is a crisis I knew had to come/Destroying the balance I’d kept” this also reads like a suicide note. In retrospect, the whole album feels like a suicide note.

One can read a detailed breakdown of the song musically by professional musician Gordon Moakes at Medium.com.

“Colony”

The title is a reference to Franz Kafka’s 1919 short story “In the Penal Colony” CS in which the narrator “described the origins and uses of an elaborate torture device at a prison colony.” BV Morris said it is probably his favorite Joy Division song. “I really thought Ian’s lyrics on that one were absolutely fantastic.” GQ He was also proud of the drum riff, which he said was inspired by a Captain Beefheart song. BV Hook said it was “more of a traditional Joy Division rock song – probably the straightest on the LP.” BV

“A Means to an End”

Hook said this one was “a bit more poppy than ‘Colony.’” BV He explained that the bass was “centered around octaves – something that I nicked from disco songs. We would also later use that same octave technique on the synths for ‘Blue Monday.’” BV Morris noted that the song had an unusual vocal line that made it awkward to sing. GQ

“Heart and Soul”

The song demonstrates “minimal instrumentation masterwork, Peter Hook’s dangerous bassline clashing with the controlled drum beat.” PT Morris said it has a “hypnotic rhythm that just doesn’t stop. I remember in the studio doing it and you go into a bit of a trance while you're just playing the beat over and over because you couldn't just sample it.” GQ This song and “Twenty Four Hours” are “as perfect a demonstration of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard.” AMG

“Twenty Four Hours”

On “the jaw-dropping, wrenching” AMG Twenty Four Hours “Curtis embodies despair and pleas for an escape from loneliness. It’s a declaration of frustrated rage that remains subtle with unrelenting eerieness.” RV He sings: “Now that I've realized how it's all gone wrong / Gotta find some therapy, this treatment takes too long / Deep in the heart of where sympathy held sway / Gotta find my destiny, before it gets too late.”

Hook said this was one of the last songs the band wrote together, BV but Morris said it was one of the first things the group did after Unknown Pleasures. GQ

“The Eternal”

This song, with “the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan” AMG showed how “keyboards…took the fore more so than ever.” AMG It evokes the mood that emo music would go on to convey. PT

Curtis told Morris the song was about someone with Down’s syndrome. Curtis would see him in the park playing and he never seemed to age. GQ

“Decades”

“The album ender of album enders.” AMG It is “a long, slow crawl down and out, Curtis’ portrait of lost youth inevitably applied to himself soon after, its sepulchral string-synths are practically a requiem.” AMG This and “The Eternal” both showcase Morris’ “powerful and unsettling percussion.” PP Morris recalled that the song originally had a bossa nova beat GQ and that Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records to which Joy Division was signed, was trying to get Curtis to sound like Frank Sinatra. BV


Notes: A 2007 CD remaster added a bonus disc with a live performance from the University of London Union.

Resources and Related Links:

Monday, July 7, 1980

The Beginning and End of Led Zeppelin: July 7

Originally posted July 7, 2011.


Led Zeppelin


In an interesting twist, the birth of Led Zeppelin and its demise can both be tied to July 7. The first time around was in 1968. The Yardbirds broke up after playing a gig at Luton College of Technology in Bedfordshire, England. Although the band was only five years old, they had undergone significant changes. Jimmy Page was the band’s third lead guitarist, following Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. By 1968, manager Peter Grant pushed the band to be heavier and more experimental. Page embrace the direction, as he was intrigued with the psychedelic blues-rock of groups like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

However, singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty, who’d been with the band throughout, wanted a more folk-influenced sound. By March 1968, they’d decided to leave the group, but Page and bassist Chris Dreja persuaded them to stick it out for another tour.


The Yardbirds, the Jimmy Page era


After the breakup, Page and Dreja reassembled a new lineup, originally called “The New Yardbirds”. Page wanted a singer named Terry Reid, but he was committed as an opening act for Cream’s 1968 U.S. tour and recommended Robert Plant, a then-unknown singer who Reid had seen perform. Plant brought along his childhood friend John Bonham for drums. After Dreja opted to pursue a career as a rock photographer, Page recruited bassist John Paul Jones, with whom he’d worked as a session musician. With Dreja holding the legal rights to the name “Yardbirds”, the new lineup was christened Led Zeppelin.

The name is credited to Keith Moon, drummer for The Who. He did not, however, make his famous “it’ll go over like a lead balloon (or zeppelin)” comment about the “New Yardbirds”. His was actually referring to a supergroup including Page, Moon, and Jones which gathered in 1966 to record “Beck’s Bolero” with Jeff Beck (with whom Page worked briefly in the Yardbirds) and pianist Nicky Hopkins.

Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums from 1969 to 1979. Three of them rank in the Dave’s Music Database list of the Top 100 Albums of All Time and four others the Top 1000 list. Seven of the albums topped the UK charts; six hit #1 stateside.

Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Click to see the DMDB page for ‘Led Zeppelin IV’


The group became a staple of classic rock by pushing albums over singles. They still had some very successful songs; “Whole Lotta Love” was a top five U.S. hit and “Stairway to Heaven” is a mainstay at the top of most classic rock station playlists. The latter song is featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

Sadly, it came to an end in 1980. A concert on July 7 in Berlin was the last appearance of the four original members. On September 25, 1980, John “Bonzo” Bonham died of asphyxiation after drinking excessively and choking on his own vomit. The group officially disbanded by the end of the year.



Like their predecessor, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As influential as the Yardbirds were considered, however, Led Zeppelin took things even further. They rank in the Dave’s Music Database list of the Top 100 Acts of All Time and also received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. With 111.5 million certified album sales in the U.S., they are the country’s second best-selling band of all time. W-L Rolling Stone magazine called them “the heaviest band of all time” and “unquestionably one of the most enduring rock bands in history.” W-L




Resources and Related Links: