Tag Archives: chord

Unleash the power of the Ebm – chord of the week

This week’s chord of the week is Ebm. As we’ll see, it’s a triad that lends itself perfectly for raw and powerful songs. Not so long ago we treated this chord’s big brother; the Eb. We learned that the Eb is a just an E played on a guitar that’s tuned down a semitone. This also applies to the Ebm.

Let’s start at the beginning. The scale of the key Ebm consists of the notes Eb, Fb, Gb, AbBb, Cb, Db. We can’t emphasize enough that one chords can be viewed two ways. A Ebm is a lowered Em, but at the same time it’s a higher Dm, so a D#m. Whatever we call it, the tone is the same.

Count Your Blessings – Mattiel

Okay, all theory aside, now it’s time for the fun part. “Count Your Blessings“, because now you can play along. And it’s not just any song, but one that we get very enthusiastic about. We spoke with diva Mattiel during the Dutch music festival TakeRoot, and she told us that her favorite chords are the E, G, and Dm. Is that also the case on this track?

Looking at the chord progression we can conclude that it’s not made up of her favorite chords. The three most important grips are Ebm, Dd, and B. Keep in mind thought that her guitarist is playing on a down-tuned guitar. Suddenly we see that the finger placements are the same as the Em, D, and C. Ha! There are those favorite chords.

Beat It – Michael Jackson 

The classic song “Beat It” from the King of Pop isn’t considered an obvious song for beginning guitarists. Eddie van Halen’s solo is not only phenomenal, but also imbues the listener with a feeling of unachievable genius. Well, that’s not totally true.

The most important songs of this composition are Db, Ebm, and B. Yup, only three chords. So, there’s a simplicity in this genius. What are you waiting for? Jam along!

This is America – Childish Gambino 

This controversial track by Childish Gambino is a mishmash of classic riffs and phat hip-hop beats. It is not a song that you start playing while visiting your grandma, but at an outing with your hipster friends, it’s a bull’s-eye throw.

The chord progression of this track very straightforward. It’s all about the Ebm, Gm, and the F. Now and then a C or Dm is thrown in the mix, but it’s mainly about the aforementioned triplet. Try it out yourself! Is singing along proving difficult? Ask you friend, sister or brother to jam along with you!

God is a Woman – Ariana Grande

What if you find out “God is a Woman”? Ever thought about that? Ariana did. And she’s not horsing around. This track isn’t just a nice addition to your autumn jam, but it’s also great for developing your skills. It teaches you how to convert a three-chord song into a four-chord song by incorporating an extra low note.

This song is for the advanced guitarist. If you look closely at the chord progression then you’ll see that it has notations such as Db/B and Dbm/Eb. This just means that there’s an extra base note inserted. For instance, if you play a Db chord and you place an extra finger on the B (which you’ll find at the second position on the A string). It’s not that hard, just give it a go! Happy jamming.

Bbm the ideal sound for all your autumn jams – chord of the week

What’s lower than a B chord? Bb minor of course. Low, melancholic, and robust – a perfect fit for the drizzly vibes. We’ve selected some colorful tracks that will go well with your autumn leaf collection. Time to adjust your setlist to the darker days.

Let’s start with the basics. The Bb minor scale consists of the notes Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, F, Gb, and Ab. We can expect these to pop up in the compositions written in Bb minor key. Go through the chords to loosen your fingers and to get acquainted with their positions on the neck.

When I’m Gone – Eminem

When I’m Gone” by Eminem is a surprise for every jam. It’s a sensitive song about family and being a father. It’s actually a very straightforward hip-hop song, but playing it on guitar or piano will release its poppy core.

The chord progression is suited for both the beginner and the more advanced guitarist, because the most important chords are Gb, Ab, and Bb, with a detour via Fm. Playing tip: tune your instrument to an Eb tuning.

This way you can play the flattened chords (those that are noted with a b) at more familiar positions. So, a Bb is B finger placement, an Ab is an A grip, et cetera.

Water Me – FKA Twigs

And now that we’re on the subject of adding surprising tracks to your jam. No one will see “Water Me” by FKA Twigs coming. This alternative pop song is sad and a bit of a challenge.

Pay attention to the count and the rhythm. The chord scheme consists of Gb, Db, Bbm, and Ab, with some detours via Ebm and Bbm7. Playing tip: use the transpose function to lower the chords a semitone, this will make the chord progression look more familiar.

Boo’d Up – Ella Mai

This next song is one for the lovers of minor chords, Billboard charts banger “Boo’d Up” by Ella Mai. This R&B track is a good variation on the songs that came before. It’s still comfortably melancholic, but it has a sparkle of hope.

The chord progression isn’t very difficult. Again, don’t let names like Gbm7 scare you, but just look at the finger placement. You’ll see that it’s only a variation on the Gb where the octave finger is placed a semitone lower.

Samurai Champloo – Shiki No Uta

But, enough sober songs. It’s time for one of the most colorful styles within pop music to take over: Asian Pop. For instance, the opening track of the series “Samurai Champloo” by Shiki No Uta. Do you want to make your nerd friends jealous? Jam along to this track.

The chord scheme mainly consists of three grips: Ebm7, Fm7, and Bbm7. We’ve touched on this before, the m7 chords revolve around the art of omitting. So don’t be scared about the names, but just try it out. The lyrics may take a bit longer to learn. Enjoy and happy jamming!  

Groove away with G#m – chord of the week

Oh yes, we’ve safely arrived at the more obscure-looking chords. At first sight, the G#m, also known as Abm, sounds a bit evil, like some aberration crawling out of the depths of hell. We soon find out that this isn’t the case at all when we take a look at the groovy tracks that have this chords in their composition.

It’s important to keep in mind that the shape of this chord (with a barre on the fourth fret) can be moved up and down the neck of your guitar. For example, played on the first fret this same shape is an F minor chord and played without barre this is an Em. The G#m is what you get when you place this shape on the fourth fret. So it’s not obscure at all!

The scale of the G#m consists of the notes G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, and F#. These are the notes that fit perfectly in compositions written in the G#m. It won’t come as a surprise then, that these notes are recurrent in the songs that we’ve listed below. 

Sing – Ed Sheeran

Let’s start with an all-time favorite, “Sing” by Ed Sheeran. Would you expect the song to consist of only two chords? No? Well, it does. But the blazing beat and on-the-mark vocal lines make you want to dance your socks off.  

Looking more closely at the track, we’ll see that the G#m7 and C#m7 are the only chords that Ed plays. While longer in notation, these chords are easy to play, you just lift up your fourth finger (pinky) from the D string. The same goes for the C#m7, just lift up your pinky. That’s all, now grab your guitar and play along!

Barbie Dreams – Nicki Minaj

Did you have Barbie dolls growing up? And did you dream about them? Well, Nicki does. And she sings about it. “Barbie Dreams” is a rough-rider track served up with a funky sauce of oldskool hip-hop influences.  

The chord progression consists of the G#m, E, Em, Dm, A, and F. In other words: a lot of basic triads. There’s an extra challenge on offer with this song; when you’re done practicing the chords, you can start on the riff that’s woven through them.

Never Recover – Lil’ Baby, Gunna and Drake

Still bouncin’ on those funky hip-hop vibes from Nicki? Good! ‘Cause there’s more where that came from. “Never Recover” by Lil’ Baby, Gunna, and Drake has been rockin’ the Billboard charts. Not without reason, because this song has a phat beat and three rappers that are mc-ing so tight that there’s hardly a pause for breath.  

“Is this a song for guitar?” Good question. And, yes it can be quite a challenge to incorporate this in your jam. No one will expect you to play this in your jam. Especially when you’re out for a tea at your grandma’s. What’s even better, it’s easier than you think. The chord progression revolves around the G#m and the D#m, with some excursions to the G# and the D#.          

Call Out My Name – The Weeknd

Did we mention that G#m is a groovy badass? No? Well, now we did. We’re staying in the hip-hop and soul corridors with this track, “Call Out My Name” by The Weeknd. This song starts out as a nineties R&B banger, but quickly changes to a hard-hitting soul track after the first chorus.

This twist is so surprising and heavy that you can totally lose sight of the chord progression. But actually, it stays the same throughout the song, alternating between the G#m, and the D#m. “Two chords again?” That’s right, so pick up your guitar and play along. Happy jamming! 

Eb is a rocker’s best friend – chord of the week

Eb is a rocker’s best friend. Want to know why? Well, it’s quite simple actually. In the past, a great many rockers were men and men don’t have very high voices. So to be able to sing along in tune, without damaging their vocal cords, they tuned their guitars down a half step. And what happens if you drop a semitone in E tuning? Yup, your guitar is tuned in Eb instead of E.  The scale of the key Eb – or the D# depending on how you look at it – consists of the Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, and D. These are the notes that make up the chord forms and progressions of songs written in Eb. Now here’s the fun part: when you tune your guitar in Eb the sound is lower, but you can still use the fingering of the chords as if it were in E. Use the Chordify transpose tool to do so.

Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Jimi Hendrix

When you think of a rock legend, you think of Jimi Hendrix. The man whose influence on the genre  can still be heard today. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” is one of his gems. Listening to the song feels like being sent on a music-induced trip by a friendly wizard. https://youtu.be/IZBlqcbpmxY When we look at the chord progression we notice that it’s quite basic. If you’ve already tuned your guitar one semitone lower (to Eb) you can use Chordify’s transpose function and convert the song to E. Since your guitar is in Eb the chord grips are the same.

1979 –  The Smashing Pumpkins 

“Voodoo Child” is a classic and of course very cool to play along with, but rock has also evolved since then. In the ’90s bands like The Smashing Pumpkins broke through to the mainstream. In the song “1979” frontman Billy Corgan looks back on his youth. The track won an MTV Video Music Award in 1996 and was voted best Smashing Pumpkins song ever in 2012. https://youtu.be/4aeETEoNfOg Transpose the chord progression to E again and watch how the triads get a lot more familiar. Do you still have your guitar in a normal E tuning? Then don’t transpose anything and challenge yourself. The song consists of about seven chords, some more difficult than others.

Chop Suey! – System of a Down

Remember when “Chop Suey!” was released by System of a Down? Maybe you do or maybe you just weren’t born yet. But still, it was quite a happening. This is one of the first hard-rock tracks with a successfully applied touch of Armenian folklore. In 2002 the song was nominated for a Grammy. “Chop Suey!” is the epitome of a System of a Down song, and its signature sound that has kept listeners enthralled over the years. https://youtu.be/CSvFpBOe8eY This is perhaps the only song in this list where the chords seem somewhat familiar, in standard tuning. So tune your guitar to E (you can use Karang for this) and watch how the chord progression develops. In this song the strumming is very important. You’ll have to hold some chords for a long time, which might seem easy. However, if you don’t play it tightly, the soul goes out the window and the whole track with it. Therefore practice your wrist and keep up with the rhythm of the song.

Valerie – Amy Winehouse

Rock ‘n’ roll is not only made by men. Thank God. But it is kind of hard to find girl rockers singing in the key of Eb. “Valerie” is a great example of a song where this does happen. We’re talking about Amy Winehouse’s hit version, which is actually a cover of a song by the Zutons. https://youtu.be/d_EADBnXjXc After playing System of a Down you can tune your guitar back to Eb. Ready? Great! Now transpose the chords from Valerie to E. What you see is a sequence of some jazzy chords. Don’t be scared. The Emaj7 and B7 aren’t your common triads, but it’s good to practice them. Looking a bit closer at the F#maj7 and the G#m, you can maybe see a possibility to simplify them to power chords. Do you like to rock hard? Then play some power chords. Do you like a challenge? Then take the original Eb chord progression. Whatever you do, go for it. Enjoy and happy jamming!

Rock it hard, rock it slow, Bm always steals the show – Chord of the week

Now that we’ve gone over most of the basic major chords it’s time to delve a little deeper into the minor differences. One of the best chords to play after the Am is the Bm. Do you know why? Because it’s the same shape moved down two frets on the neck. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. 

When you’re looking at chords you can approach the neck from different angles. The most obvious way is to look at each position separately. After all, they are all different chords. The other way is to consider that there are a limited number of shapes that sound different at each position.

That makes it a lot clearer, don’t you think? Just look at the Bm. You have to put your index finger in barre to simulate the nut, but in fact, the figure is the same as the Em, the Fm, the Gm and so on and so forth.

Green Eyes – Coldplay

The Bm scale from which the Bm chord results consists of B, C#, D, E, F#, G, and A. It is therefore not strange that variations on these notes can be found in the form of chords in tracks written in Bm, such as “Green Eyes” from Coldplay.

So we see that the A, the B, the D, the G, and the E form the basis for this song. These are beginner chords that are good for practicing as often as possible. Therefore this track is suitable for both beginners and advanced players. The latter should pay close attention to the touch. This sounds easy but is fundamental for the correct interpretation of the song.

Swan Lake – Madness

Rock ‘n roll occurs in many forms. Upbeat ska mixed with a touch of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” is a good example of this. Madness’ song has everything a pop song needs to find the edges of the genre.

The chord progression leads you along almost all notes of the Bm scale. Therefore it’s a challenge for the beginning guitarist. Although, with the loop function you can learn the song piece by piece. Pay attention to the ska attack.

911 – Wyclef Jean ft. Mary J. Blige

“Someone please call ‘911′“, because this track is sick! Last week we already had Wyclef Jean together with The Fugees, this week we can’t ignore it again. This track with Mary J. Blige is simple when it comes to the chord progression, so you can do anything with it. As a beginner you can just practice on the E, Bm, A and G chord scheme.

As an advanced guitarist, the guitar lick may be the bigger challenge. Pay attention to how the tune of Wyclef Jean subtly goes through the scale of Bm. If you really want to impress people with your jam, you can try to alternate between the chords and the guitar riff.

Move on Up -Curtis Mayfield

We conclude this week’s chord with a groovy classic. “Move on Up” by Curtis Mayfield is a track that appeared during the seventies in America. Fun fact: the original track is longer than nine minutes. To make it suitable for radio it was shortened to less than three minutes.

Because of the orchestration the song seems more difficult than it is. Although the tempo in which the chords follow each other up and the fingerings themselves are quite difficult in the beginning. Therefore we advise you to take your time for this. Start with the chords first, without practicing the track and only then play along. Cancel all your appointments, because this will make your weekend sweet. Happy jamming!

In case you didn’t know, the G minor is always there for you – chord of the week

From the Beatles to Damien Marley everyone loves the G minor (Gm). This chord of the week is a cherishable barre, and its sound lends itself to every genre. Want to see more Chordify awesomeness? Follow us on Instagram.

First, let’s take a look at the Gm scale. This will give us an insight into which tones go well with our chord of the week. In this case, these are the G, A, Bb, C, D, Eb, and F. These tones are fundamental tones that form the basis for variations on chords that result from them, so we can get a picture of what awaits us.

Welcome to Jamrock – Damien Marley

Welcome to Jamrock” is Damien Marley’s breakthrough. The son of the great reggae star certainly sticks to his roots but gives it his own spin. He developed a style that’s a beautiful crossover between reggae and hip-hop.

What remains characteristic of the Jamaican style is the simplicity of the chord scheme. This song mainly consists of the Gm, the D, and the Bb. Try it out and throw it in a spontaneous jam. Pay attention to the attack of your strum.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd

The song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is a suite in pop music, which means the structure of the track is reminiscent of a classical piece. The song is about Syd Barrett, a band member who was expelled, because of his drug problems. The song is drenched in melancholy and love.

The intro is made up of a subtle guitar solo accompanied by keyboards. In it, the Gm, Dm, and Cm play the leading role. The second part of the song is dominated by the Bb, F, G, and E. Overall, the track is quite clear and even recommended for the beginning guitarist. If only to get a feeling for barre chords.

Bone Dry – EELS

The track “Bone Dry” by the Los Angeles-based band Eels takes you on a journey through the scale of Gm. The song largely consists of a long riff that descents along the scale through F, Eb, Dm, Bb, Cm, and Gm.

The advantage of this track is that both advanced beginners and newbies can practice switching grips at a manageable pace. Moreover, this song is a nice addition to your setlist. Let your audience sing along with the bitter “shalalaa”.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles

We will end this week with another classic. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is one of the few Beatles songs written by George Harrison. It is a melancholic blues with a topping of pop.

Don’t be surprised when you see chords like C/E or Gm/F. The second note is an extra bass tone. So a C with an E in the bass, or a Gm with an F as the lowest tone. The rest of the chord scheme speaks for itself. The song is full of basic chords like Em, Bm, G, C, D, and F. In other words: the ideal exercise during your weekend. Happy jamming!

Hip-hop, blues rock you name it and the C minor’s got it – chord of the week

This week we tune into the C minor. Wait, there no reason to be sad. Minor is not always a synonym for tearjerkers and sad songs, on the contrary. From hip-hop to blues and pop, our chord of the week fits everywhere – and everywhere in between. It’s an honor, and a real pleasure to present to you: the C minor (Cm).

Our chord of the week is – not surprisingly – build up out of notes from the Cm scale, which consists of C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, and Bb. You might recall, from other blog posts, that the notes from a scale often appear as chords in compositions. But enough theory. Time for action!

Since I’ve Been Loving You – Led Zeppelin

Let’s start with a classic. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin is an example of a song in which blues and rock converge, and it’s written in Cm. The track is a nice crossover between seventies rock and the fertile ground from which this genre originated: the blues.

The song starts with a solo by Jimmy Page. The accompanying melody immediately covers the entire spectrum of the basic tones of the Cm scale – it passes through C, Eb, F, G, Ab – and variations thereupon, that follow each other in quick succession. As such, this song is a good exercise for the advanced beginner.

Skyfall – Adele

We all know the sweet soulful voice of Shirley Bassey that symbolizes the sound of the first Bond movies. ‘No diva can beat that’, you might say, although Adele will certainly come close with “Skyfall”.

The verse of “Skyfall” consists of Cm, F, Fm, Gm, and Ab. The chorus is extended with a D and an Eb. Don’t be put off by the fast succession of chords, rather make it easy for yourself by cutting the song into pieces. First practice only the verse, and then only the chorus. Use the loop function for this. This way you don’t have to rewind each time.

Rich Bitch – Die Antwoord

We promised you pop and hip-hop, and if we promise something, we deliver on it. Die Antwoord is one of the most controversial hip-hop acts of the moment, and this South African duo is anything but boring, as we can hear in the track “Rich Bitch.

This song is suitable for the beginner who is up for an experiment. The chord scheme is not very difficult since it only consists of two triads: Cm and Fm. Diversions to Gm and D are good for some variation. Play this song in a jam and see if your audience recognizes it.

Africa – Weezer

“Rich Bitch” may not fly at your grandmother’s birthday party, but you can lighten the mood with this classic song in a new look. Weezer made a quite literal cover of the Toto song “Africa“. The track is exactly the same as the original, with the only difference that it is set in Cm instead of C#m.

This track is a challenge, even for the advanced guitarist. If you thought “Since I’ve Been Loving You” has a fast chord progression, then the pace at which the triads in this song follow each other may feel like warp speed. Of course, nothing is impossible. Use the loop function and cut the song into pieces, it will become much easier to comprehend. Happy jamming!

Rapper Juice WRLD addresses the elephant in the room with new video Lean Wit Me

Rapper Juice WRLD is only 19 years old and one of the first of his generation to address the elephant in the room; casualties of drug abuse. Last year rapper Lil Peep died from an accidental overdose. But the 21-year-old artist isn’t the only one to bite the dust after abusing substances. Too many legends left this world too early due to drug abuse, according to Juice WRLD.

Michael Jackson, Prince and Ike Turner are just a few examples of top-notch artists that died after intentionally or unintentionally taking drugs. The track “Lean Wit Me” by Juice WRLD is about them and, maybe more important, about the new generation that experiments with different kinds of substances like Xanax and Fentanyl.

Lean Wit Me

In his new video, released on August 2, we hear Juice WRLD’s message loud and clear: if you have a problem don’t be afraid to ask for help before it’s too late. The track starts off with a catchy guitar tune written in the key of E. We see the rapper talking about his problems in a meeting where the twelve steps (an addiction recovery program) are mentioned.

The video ends with Juice WRLD getting arrested after he calls the police telling them that his girlfriend has overdosed. The last shot shows the text: “RIP to too many young legends that left us early. If you or somebody you know is suffering from addiction call 1-800-662-HELP to take the first step.”

Goodbye & Good Riddance

“Lean Wit Me” is a single from the rapper’s debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance, which you can check below. Juice WRLD released the record in March after which it reached number six in the Billboard 200. If you like jamming along with “Lean Wit Me” also check out the rapper’s other single “Lucid Dreams.” Happy jamming!

Warning! The versatility of the Dm can make you dizzy – chord of the week

This week we’ll discuss one of the most mysterious triads you can play at the top of the neck of your guitar. The D minor has something sad, something exciting, something tough and something scary in its sound. Therefore, it lends itself to many styles. From pop and rap to metal and folk, the Dm covers it all.

Our chord of the week is versatile, so take advantage of it by including some of the songs below in your jam. They’re not necessarily the easiest tracks, but a little challenge every now and then is good for your skills.

Fear of the Dark – Iron Maiden

Fear of the Dark by British metal band Iron Maiden is a classic; from the intro, on which the bass guitarist plucks a Dm, to the dramatic end. Due to the technical nature of the metal genre, a song like this sounds difficult, but nothing could be further from the truth. When we look at the chord progression of this track we quickly see that it mainly consists of the basic chords Am, C, F, G, E, D, Em and of course the Dm.

The Bb, the Fm and the Gm seem to be the more difficult chords, at first glance. If you look closely though, you see that these barre chords have almost the same finger placement. The only difference is that they are performed on a different position on the neck. With this in mind the level is not as difficult as it seems. But you really have to practice.

Chan Chan – Buena Vista Social Club

The hit single “Chan Chan” performed by the legendary musicians of Buena Vista Social Club is a nice track for the sultry summer evenings. The song is very laid-back and has a less predictable chord progression than many other pop songs.

Use this track to practice your basic chords and for training your motor skills, because there are a few quick transitions between Dm and G and Dm and F. Make sure that your grip doesn’t soften and that the triads sound bright and clear.

All Eyez on Me – 2Pac

Did we say how multifaceted the Dm chord is? Yes, we certainly did. The song “All Eyez on Me” by rapper 2Pac is yet another example of this. The melancholic harmony and the sturdy beat ensure that everything falls perfectly into place in this track.

As far as the chords go, this song is entirely built around a bass line that varies between the Dm and Gm. This makes it fun to experiment with filling in the time between these chords with some plucking. However, the rapping part is a completely different story. You really need to spend a little more time on mastering that skill.

In the Air Tonight

We saved the best for last. This pop classic will never sound the same again after you’ve seen the movie “The Hangover.” Yes, we’re talking about “In the Air Tonight ” by drummer, singer and songwriter Phil Collins. The drum break halfway through the song is epic.

This track is a good moment to borrow your sister’s keyboard. On the guitar the chords Dm, Gm and C sound beautiful, but the song is mainly written for synthesizer. So, if you’re able to experiment on the black and white keys, then this is the moment. Happy jamming!

Even in the darkest hour there is always a sparkle of light – the story behind AC/DC’s historic album Back in Black

What do you do as a band when your frontman dies tragically while you are on the verge of becoming world famous? Back in Black is much more than just a hard rock album. It is the story of the Australian band AC/DC who, in the middle of a mourning period, produce a record that goes down in history as one of the best-selling and hardest rock albums of all time.

The seventh album of the Australian rebels AC/DC Back in Black was released on the 25th of July 1980 and is one of the best-selling records ever. The album is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the best sold record by a non-American or British band in the United States. The band sold 50 million copies in total, of which 21 million in America. The story behind this record is one of sadness and joy.

Highway to Hell

At the end of the seventies there is a change in the musical field. Hard rock and metal acts such as Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath no longer dominate the terrain. They lose fans to emerging acts like Foreigner, Journey, and REO Speedwagon. With the beginning of the eighties a new genre is born: adult-oriented rock. It’s much softer, and more poppy than the hardrock which emerged in the seventies.

Between all this turmoil a raw sound comes from down under. AC/DC crashes through America for the first time with their record Highway to Hell. This is their moment. It seems as if the rock ‘n roll oriented hard rockers don’t care about the new trend. The fans share that opinion and the band’s tracks rise quickly in the charts with more and more people screaming: “I’m on a highway to hell!

Bon Scott

During the Highway to Hell-tour, brothers Angus and Malcolm Young–the founders of the band–write a lot of guitar riffs. All these ideas are ready to be worked out in the studio at the moment they are back from the road. In order to maintain the momentum of their last album, they decide not to waste any time and to jump right into the studio in London after the end of the tour.

Frontman Bon Scott is supposed to join the group later on. The planned day of his arrival is 20 February 1980. The evening before, Bon decides to dive into the London pub scene. The night progresses and the singer drinks a lot together with his friends.

When it’s finally time to go home, a buddy takes Bon home. Bon falls asleep in the car and his friend leaves him there. A few hours later the singer suffocates in his own vomit caused by acute alcohol poisoning.

Shock and sadness

Bon’s death is a shock to the band members. Guitarists Angus and Malcolm, together with drummer Phil Rudd and bass guitarist Cliff Williams, are considering quitting the band; their frontman is inimitable, in their eyes there is no AC/DC without him.

Bon Scott’s mother encourages the grieving boys. “You have to go on. Bon wouldn’t have wanted it any other way”, Malcolm recalls in a documentary about the band. And so, a few weeks after Bon Scott’s death, the search for a replacement begins. In the eyes of many fans an impossible task.

Brian Johnson

Angus and Malcolm know right away that they shouldn’t look for someone who would imitate Bon’s act. The new frontman should have his own charm, his own strengths. While the Young brothers are asking around, the management of AC/DC receives a tape from a fan who argues that the former singer of the British glamrock band Geordie, Brian Johnson, is the man for the task.

Car mechanic Johnson is totally caught off guard when he receives the call from his old management. “The woman on the phone didn’t want to tell me which band was asking me to audition,” says Johnson in an interview. “When I insisted, she said that she could only tell me the initials of the band name.” He laughs. “AC/DC. I was stunned, and not only by the stupidity of the woman on the other side of the line.”

Instant connection

When Brian shows up for his audition he meets the AC/DC road crew, but the band is nowhere to be found. He starts joking around with the guys. After a while Angus and Malcolm enter the room anxiously looking for him just to find Brian drinking beer and playing pool with their roadies.

“He was himself from the very beginning,” Malcolm says. “We found him chilling out with our crew. The connection was there right from the start so to say.” But drinking beer and partying was not what the singer came for. Johnson had to prove himself, and so he did. After Brian opened his throat during the audition the band just knew almost instantly that this was the guy they were looking for.

The real deal

After conquering his spot behind the mic the real work was just about to begin. The band moves to a studio in the Bahamas. London has left a bitter aftertaste after Bon’s death. And the climate is also much more pleasant at the new location than in the United Kingdom.

While Malcolm and Angus, together with Phil and Cliff, try to create the right sound in the studio, the new kid on the block Brian is left with the important task of writing kickass lyrics. And he’s struggling. “It’s difficult when you know you have to match someone who not only had a great voice, but who also was a great showman, and on top of all that was a brilliant poet,” says Brian referring to the late Scott.

Rolling Thunder

The singer recalls the moment when a storm appears on the horizon while he is writing in his block note, tearing one page out after the other. With that storm closing in over the ocean Brian feels a bizarre presence. It’s as if Bon Scott himself is visiting his successor.

“It was really a very weird and special experience. That’s all I’m saying about it. Except that at the moment it happened I began writing like a madman. The words just started pouring out of my pen: A rolling thunder, a pouring rain, I’m coming on like a hurricane.” The rest of course is history.

Hells Bell

The bell you hear on the album’s opening track is a story in itself. During the recording of Back in Black Angus and Malcolm decide that they want to have a bell sounding, a la Black Sabbath, for the intro of Hells Bells. When their sound engineer sets out to record the Denison Bell in the Carillon Tower of the Loughborough War Museum, he encounters a problem.

Every time the bell is sounded dozens of pigeons fly away. He cannot get a recording without the fluttering of wings. When it becomes clear that the band wants that particular bell sound at any cost, AC/DC solves the wing-problem once and for all. The band orders John Taylor Bellfounders – the manufacturer of the original Carillon Tower of the Loughborough War Museum – to make an exact replica of the bell.

Special tour

The rock clock, however, gets a bonus; the band’s name and the name of the song are written on its surface. When the moment comes to record the carillon, the manufacturer himself rings the bell. That’s the sound you hear at the beginning of Hells Bells.

Fun fact: on their world tour the band took the 910 kilogram (2000 pounds) heavy carillon on stage. But even after AC/DC returned to the studio, the bell had a world tour of its own. The carillon was exposed in big cities all over the world where people could ring it and take a picture.

Back in Black

From the title to the cover and the songs the record Back in Black is a clear statement for the fans, which welcome both the band and its new frontman back on the stage after suffering a great loss. The album is full of references to the life of Bon Scott. Tracks like Hells Bells, Have a Drink on Me and of course the title track Back in Black with its epic main riff are all dedicated to the life of a friend.

Brian Johnson’s throat, lyrics and personality are certainly not inferior to those of the deceased frontman. And so with this historical album AC/DC proves that even in the darkest moments there is always a sparkle of light. A tiny little flame that, when you dare to believe, can turn into a ball of fire that inspires generations. Happy jamming!