41 years ago: AC/DC edition ‘For those who will rock, we salute you’

So wildly successful as AC/DCalbum from 1980 Back in black was (it has sold around 50 million copies worldwide), the band did not have a No. 1 record until their seventh North American release, For those who rock, we salute you released Nov. 23, 1981.

The band came out of the gate with a full arsenal – literally. “For They About to Rock (We Salute You)”, now a traditional show-closer, is a mid-tempo stormer about the band’s appreciation for its fans, and about three and a half minutes in, the music is punctuated with cannon blasts that continue until the end of the song. It’s such a good song that it makes the other songs on the album, which rock in their own right, sound somewhat anemic in comparison.

AC/DC, “For Those Who Gonna Rock (We Salute You)”

Really, AC/DC was in a no-win situation and after they went supernova with the release of Back in black in 1980 the group became a victim of its own popularity. There was no way they were going to match the cultural impact of that album, so they tried something else. The problem was that they didn’t know exactly what they wanted, and it shows.

The band started working on For those who rock, we salute you in July 1981 at EMI Pathe-Marconi Studios in Paris. They hired producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who had worked on their previous two albums, and immediately ran into trouble. Dissatisfied with the sound they were getting, they moved to a warehouse on the outskirts of town and rented the Mobile One studio.

After they recorded the music, Johnson tracked his vocals at Family Sound Studio and then recorded the AC/DC overdubs at HIS Studios. Although they finished in September 1981, they second-guessed themselves the whole way, and when they finished, they didn’t know if they had recorded another hit or committed commercial suicide. Probably due to their unhappy experiences recording the album, For those who rock, we salute you marked the end of AC/DC’s collaboration with Lange.

“Christ! It took us forever to make that record and it sounds like it,” the late Malcolm Young told Metal CD in 1992. “It’s full of bits and pieces and it doesn’t flow properly, like an AC/ DC album should… By the time we had completed it, I don’t think anyone… could tell if it sounded right or wrong.”

AC/DC, “Let’s Get It Up”

There is quite a bit of difference For those who rock, we salute you, which combines a series of distorted, bluesy riffs, string-bending solos and left-hand strums with diabolical lyrics about getting hard (“Put the Finger on You”), getting off (“Let’s Get It Up,” “Inject the Venom”), getting f—ed over (“Snowball”) and get ugly (“COD”, “Evil Walks” and the Night Prowler-esque “Night of the Long Knives”). There’s even a political Johnson-penned track (“Breaking the Rules”), but that only emphasizes the overall schizophrenic feel of the record.

“Snowballed” and “COD” sound like traditional AC/DC, but lack the bite of something Back in blackWhile “Spellbound” is a cool tune and aggressively thrashes and bangs, “Put the Finger on You” still sounds like lightweight ’80s radio rock.

The band blamed Lange and their management for their inability to connect musically with the connection they had in the past, and near the end of the recording session they fired manager Peter Mensch. “I started getting weird vibes afterwards [they played] donnington, [England]” he told Q in 1997. “[The band’s] attorney called David Krebs and he called me and said I was fired. They never told me why. I was stunned. Until then, my s— didn’t smell.”

Despite its setbacks, For those who rock, we salute you remains one of AC/DC’s most satisfying Brian Johnson-fronted releases. The band’s ambivalence about the release and the critics’ negative comments did not rub off on the fans. Not only did For those who rock, we salute you debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, it remained at the top for three weeks and was certified platinum in January. 20, 1982, exactly two months after it was published. By January 2001, the record was quadruple platinum.

Almost a decade after the first release of For those who rock, we salute youAC/DC performed a concert in Moscow called “For those who want to rock, Monsters in Moscow,” which also featured Metallica, Pantera, the Black Crowes and local thrash group EST. The open-air event, which took place as the Soviet Union crumbled, attracted 1.6 million people, most of whom were enjoying their first sanctioned rock festival. A home video capturing the event was released in 1992, but of the four AC/DC songs in the Wayne Isham-directed film, only “For They About to Rock (We Salute You)” is from the album of the same name. The video also features three Metallica songs and four Pantera tunes.

Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legendsco-author of Louder Than Hell: Metal’s Definitive Oral Historyas well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthraxand Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, The Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.

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