16 Back in Black
In 1980, AC/DC were five albums into their career when 33-year-old lead singer Bon Scott went on a bender in London and choked to death on his own vomit in the backseat of a car. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, who had brought Scott into the band six years earlier in Australia, attended the funeral and returned to their respective flats in London, unsure if AC/DC would continue. ''My brother called me one day because we were mourning and said, 'Listen, rather than us sitting around wallowing, why don't we get together and write songs?''' Angus recalls. ''And that's what we did.''
They secured a rehearsal space in an industrial area of London where, according to Angus, ''the owner said, 'You can make as much noise as you want here.' Which was just the right environment for us.''
Six months later, AC/DC were ''Back in Black.'' They had taken on Brian Johnson, a vocalist with the proper scream reflex and, ironically, one who had first been brought to the band's attention by Scott. He had witnessed Johnson having an appendicitis attack on stage a bit of business Scott thought was part of the act. It wasn't.
Released as a tribute to Scott, Back in Black sported an all-black cover, and its first track began with the tolling of bells. But the other nine anthemic songs celebrated the concerns of teen boys, hanging on aching testosterone riffs and such carefully crafted lyrical insights as ''She was a fast machine/She kept her motor clean/She was the best damn woman that I ever seen.''
''We didn't want to do anything on the album that was soppy,'' Angus says. ''We wanted to do something AC/DC fans would understand.''
Albums sold in U.S.: 12 million
Peak Position: 4
Weeks on Chart: 131
Released: July 25, 1980
17 Bat Out of Hell
There was a time when no one was yet asking, ''Meat Loaf... again?'' Though Rocky Horror Picture Show backtalkers knew him as the cadaverous biker Eddie, Loaf was still a fresh commodity to most music fans when Hell unfroze in 1977. In fact, his debut got off to such a slow kickstart that it never made the top 10, though it's resided in Pop Catalog heaven since. Some critics, suspicious of the presence of E Streeters Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg, heard Springsteenian echoes in his hyperdrive, but Jim Steinman had penned most of the material well before Born to Run. The hellfire-and-Firestone title track was a crackling homage to ''Teen Angel''-style death songs; other inspirations feeding the album's gleeful grandiosity included Phil Spector, musical theater and movies, and...basic '50s rock.
''In its scope it's bigger,'' Loaf admits, ''and granted, in the '50s a song was a minute and 57 seconds long, or a long one was 2:52. But if you break 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' up, it's a lot of 2-minute-52-second segments.'' Originally, there were more bits still. "The original 'Paradise' was, like, 23 minutes long, and it went off here and there. And [producer] Todd [Rundgren] went, 'Whaddya doing? You gotta make this a record!' So he made it nine minutes long; he said, 'Now, that's a record!'''