Charlie's 80s Blog

This Day In 80s Music, December 26th

On this day in 1981: AC/DC started a three-week run at #1 on the U.S. album chart with ‘For Those About To Rock We Salute You’ which was the follow-up to their highly successful album ‘Back In Black’. The name of the album was inspired by a book Angus Young read, entitled ‘For Those About to Die, We Salute You’, about Roman gladiators. The gladiators’ final words to the emperor were “Ave Imperato, morituri te salutant” – or, “Hail Emperor, those who are about to die salute you”. Angus Young explained “We had this chorus riff, and we thought, ‘Well, this sounds rather deadly.’ We were trying to find a good title…and there’s this book from years ago about Roman gladiators called ‘For Those About to Die We Salute You.’ So we thought, ‘for those about to rock.’ It’s a very inspiring song. It makes you feel a bit powerful, and I think that’s what rock n’ roll is all about.”

In July 1981, the band began work on the album at EMI Pathé-Marconi Studios in Paris with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange. The first point of order for Lange was capturing the drum sound, which he would use as the foundation stone upon which to build the rest of the album. Mark Dearnley, Lange’s engineer on the Paris sessions remarked “Mutt has a picture of the way he wants to hear it in his head, and will keep on bashing away until we hit that particular note that he has, and sometimes it can take some time. They spent the first three days in Paris just on the snare drum sound. It got to the point where at the end of day two Mutt said: ‘What do you think of that?’ I said: ‘I haven’t got a clue!’” In the end it took nearly 10 days for Lange to decide he was never going to find the sound he wanted, eventually opting to record the basic tracks in an old warehouse on the outskirts of Paris with the Mobile One studio, with vocals later recorded at Family Sound Studio and overdubs done at HIS Studios. Johnson and the Young brothers spent much of their time perched on a large sofa, waiting for Lange to finish tinkering. “Bored shitless”, Angus says succinctly. Malcolm was even less impressed, pissed off at what he saw as Mutt’s “fannying around”. In September the album was finished. Malcolm Young said “I don’t think anyone, neither the band or the producer, could tell whether it sounded right or wrong. Everyone was fed up with the whole album. Engineer Tony Platt stated in AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll, “I think there was a general feeling that ‘Back in Black’ was the pinnacle of how produced AC/DC should ever be. ‘For Those About to Rock’ was a bit overproduced in terms of what the band were about.” The LP offers up the group’s usual litany of sexually-infused metaphors on songs like ‘Let’s Get It Up’ and “Inject the Venom,” but the LP is perhaps best remembered for its title track, which has gone on to become the band’s perennial show closer accompanied by the firing of stage prop cannons. 

After the album’s release, the band embarked on its first arena tour of North America, in late 1981 through early 1982. For the title track, large cannons were placed on stage, set to go off in accordance with the song on the album. During the tour, 100,000 watts of power were used for the front of house sound. The cannons were flown above the speaker arrays. The title track’s popularity was such that in almost every live concert AC/DC has done thereafter, the song is performed as an encore and is always accompanied by firing cannons on stage. Subsequent tours had to deal with crossing international borders with big cannons used as a prop, creating “interesting” situations with customs officials.

Here’s what was happening on the U.S. singles chart on this day back in 1981: (The Top 20)

1 1 PHYSICAL –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-13 (6 weeks at #1) (1)
2 2 WAITING FOR A GIRL LIKE YOU –•– Foreigner (Atlantic)-12 (2)
3 3 LET’S GROOVE –•– Earth, Wind and Fire (ARC)-13 (3)
4 6 I CAN’T GO FOR THAT (No Can Do) Daryl Hall and John Oates (RCA)-7 (4)
5 5 YOUNG TURKS –•– Rod Stewart (Warner Brothers)-11 (5)
6 8 HARDEN MY HEART –•– Quarterflash (Geffen)-11 (6)
7 7 WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE –•– Diana Ross (RCA)-11 (7)
8 10 LEATHER AND LACE – Stevie Nicks (with Don Henley) (Modern)-10 (8)
9 9 DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’ –•– Journey (Columbia)-9 (9)
10 11 TROUBLE –•– Lindsey Buckingham (Asylum)-10 (10)

11 23 CENTERFOLD –•– The J. Geils Band (EMI-America)-8 (11)
12 13 YESTERDAY’S SONGS –•– Neil Diamond (Columbia)-8 (12)
13 14 COMIN’ IN & OUT OF YOUR LIFE Barbra Streisand (Columbia)-7 (13)
14 15 TURN YOUR LOVE AROUND George Benson (Warner Brothers)-10 (14)
15 16 THE SWEETEST THING (I’ve Ever Known) –•– Juice Newton (Capitol)-11 (15)
16 21 HOOKED ON CLASSICS (Medley) –•– Louis Clark Conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RCA)-9 (16)
17 18 TAKE MY HEART (You Can Have It If You Want It) –•– Kool and the Gang (De-Lite)-11 (17)
18 19 COOL NIGHT –•– Paul Davis (Arista)-8 (18)
19 4 OH NO –•– The Commodores (Motown)-14 (4)
20 12 EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC –•– The Police (A&M)-14 (3)