In 1980, Australian rockers AC/DC released their seventh studio album, Back In Black, featuring a title cut by the same name. It was the first AC/DC album that featured Brian Johnson on vocals, who replaced Bon Scott, who had died only a couple of months prior to heading into the studio. The album became a success of historic proportions with over 50 million copies sold worldwide. Along with commercial success, the album also garnered serious critical acclaim as well, which helped propel the album to appear on numerous lists counting down the greatest albums of all time.
It has been argued that the 10-track album doesn’t have a weak cut on it. The title track, “Back in Black,” is track six, or the first song on the flip-side for vinyl lovers. Written as a tribute to Bon Scott, Louder Sound rates the song’s riff as one of the greatest that’s ever been written. It’s hard to argue it isn’t one of the most recognized metal riffs in the world. VH1 ranked it No. 4 on their list of greatest metal songs of all-time, and it holds spot 187 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest song of all-time. With a pedigree like that, it is no wonder it has been covered numerous times by some of the biggest names in the music industry.
Released in 2005, Shakira’s live album and video, “Live & Off The Record,” was recorded on her Tour of the Mongoose. It featured a cover of “Back in Black” that begins like something that might be heard in a smoky piano bar, before guitarist Tim Mitchell breaks in and gets the tune rocking. Shakira’s unique vocal style gives the song some serious bite, and is very respectful of the original, while still maintaining a level of individuality that is really impressive. If that isn’t enough, Shakira lays down some serious dance moves in the video version that make it well worth the watch.
To ring in 1983, MTV was hosting a pajama party to get the year started, and it was a pretty epic one as the Foo Fighters were one of the featured bands. The guys shredded through a set and had everyone pumped up and going, but once Dave Grohl went to that classic “Back in Black” opening riff and Jack Black ran onto the stage to belt it out in his own unique way, the joint blew up. The hall quickly filled with high energy, head banging, and delivered everything you could want in a cover of the classic except for Black pulling a Dewey Finn style stage dive.
Not everyone is familiar with 2Cellos, but they have done some amazing covers over the years, and “Back in Black” is a staple of their live show. Their performance of the AC/DC classic with the Sydney Orchestra, however, is possibly their best version of it yet. It has a full, rich sound, their drummer tore it up, and the orchestra went full Spinal Tap, cranking it up to 11 to give it that extra nudge instead of leaving it on 10.
With hundreds of covers of this classic cut on YouTube and other video sites, you can find everything from dubstep, to country, to reggae versions to suit your taste and mood, but it would be hard to top the ones listed here.