By 1980, AC/DC had survived the biggest trial of their entire career. Lead singer Bon Scott had died the previous year, throwing the future of the band into doubt. Scott had such a unique voice and stage presence that it seemed like an almost impossible task to replace him. With the support of Scott’s family, however, that’s exactly what Angus and Malcolm Young set about doing.
They came across a Newcastle band named Geordie whose singer was a raspy, thickly-accented lad named Brian Johnson. Miraculously, Johnson’s voice held some of the same unique qualities as Scott’s, with an extra emphasis on high-pitched squeals. Johnson had been a personal favourite of Scott’s, so the replacement felt natural. Within a year, AC/DC had survived the death of their singer and released one of the single biggest albums of all time, Back in Black.
The story doesn’t end there, though. AC/DC was now solidly on top of the hard rock world, but the Australian rockers hadn’t made it there by taking time to celebrate their victories. Even as Back in Black was still on the album charts, AC/DC began work on their follow-up LP with producer Mutt Lange. The formula stayed the same – massive power chord-heavy hard rock plugged in at maximum volume.
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) doesn’t quite have the same number of memorable songs that Back in Black does, but it does have one essential and unimpeachable track that will forever be in the AC/DC canon: ‘For Those About to Rock’. Featuring one of Angus Young’s most memorable guitar intros and one of Johnson’s most exciting calls to arms, ‘For Those About to Rock’ seemed tailor-made for AC/DC’s ravenous audiences.
That made it a perfect addition to the band’s live shows, which were growing increasingly extravagant by the early 1980s. A gigantic multi-ton brass bell was now being lugged around from venue to venue in order to ring out the opening salvo for ‘Hells Bells’, and the cannon shots in ‘For Those About to Rock’ provided another opportunity for some live theatricality.
With some well-timed stage pyrotechnics and light flashes, the bombastic explosions featured in the track could be replicated for audiences every night. Initially, Johnson’s calls to “fire” were modest, as can be seen in the 1981 live performance down below, but as the band continued to play massive stadiums throughout their career, the explosions continued to get bigger and bigger until AC/DC had their own version of the ‘1812 Overture’ on stage show after show.
Check out a live version of ‘For Those About to Rock’ from 1981 down below.