For those of you men who are younger you might not know the background to the AC/DC Song Hells Bells.
Perhaps you are interested.
In Australia in the 70s there were a number of leading bands all vying for “top of the charts”. Bands like Cold Chisel, Skyhooks, Sherbet, Angels, Midnight Oil were some of the leaders. And then there were the renegades. The leaders of the renegades was this strange Rock and Roll band that called themselves AC/DC.
This was the band your mother would not let you listen to if their song came on the radio so you wondered what you were missing. Angus Young dropping his pants on stage had become legendary so mothers everywhere banned their sons from listening to “the devils music”. Of course, as soon as you tell a teen boy “I will never allow that music in my house” the lad is going to be all the more keen to hear it.
And so it was with AC/DC. In the 70s all us teen boys were wondering what all the fuss was about and so we would go around to the houses of our mates who had their albums to listen to the whole album.
After a while their act was toned down a bit and they were played more often on the radio and made it on to the music show on Sunday night more often. They were “lovable rogues”! And Australians love a “lovable rogue”. They had some massive hit singles and were finally coming into their own.
Then, in early 1980 tragedy struck the band. The dynamic lead singer, Bon Scott, died, at the age of just 34.
Those of us who had grown to love the band were shocked. He was such an energetic and up beat character, loving every minute of his chance at fame and glory. To be dead at 34 was just a real shock to us all.
The band made announcements that their future was “uncertain”. No one could imagine AC/DC without Bon Scott out the front. Who could ever replace him? No one could ever be like him so if the band carried on they would have to have a whole new character out front. After so many years hard work all seemed lost.
Eventually the band made an announcement. Their future was uncertain but of one thing they were certain. They wanted to do one more album in honour of Bon Scott. That was the announcement. Very much “we will do this one for Bon, after that, we will see.”
So it was with the greatest of expectations that us fans of AC/DC waited for this next album. No one had ever heard of the new singer, Brian Johnson. He had never been to Australia but he had opened a few sets for the band in the UK and the band said they liked the guy so that was enough for us.
And then the fateful day came. I remember it well. The first new song on the album was to be performed on our national Sunday night music show called “Countdown”. It was a very emotional show.
The boys came out on the stage….and soon a loud bell rang out…and they moved into what has now become a legendary tune.
This song is still played in football stadiums in the USA today, 35 years later.
I sat through this song and at the end just shook my head and wondered what I had witnessed. Of course, by now AC/DC were big enough that I was allowed to buy the album and play it on my cassette player.
I LOVED “Back in Black” even if my mother didn’t. It captured everything about the band and was just a wonderful tribute to Bon Scott. The songs were raunchy and everyone’s mother hated the album for its sexually explicit content. Hell, I was 16, and this was GOOD STUFF!!
The commercial success of the album in Australia was overwhelming. Everyone wanted a copy.
Hells Bells rang out across the land for a fallen “lovable rouge”.
And then, as they say, a miracle occurred. Slowly but surely everyone else in the world started to realise this was a GREAT album and this was a GREAT band. AC/DC were launched on to the world stage like no one could have ever imagined.
Not so long after the band gave a press conference saying they had decided to keep going despite the loss of Bon Scott. With the success of Back in Black it was an easy decision to make I presume.
Over the years the album just got more and more popular. It now stands as tying for the second biggest album of all time with Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd which most people thought would NEVER be caught by anyone else let alone a hard rock band like AC/DC.
So. For you viewing and listening pleasure. Here is the lead song from the tribute album to one of the most lovable of “lovable rogues” in Australian rock history.
Hells Bells for Bon Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980)
Only men can make music like this.
Let us celebrate the man, Bon Scott, in this tribute song to him and his life.
If you would like to see a live version from 11 years later then this 1991 gig at Donnington Park in the UK is just great!
And here is a version from River Plate in 2009.