My favourite album: Back in Black by AC/DC
Friday 5 August 2011 16.23 BST
very year, this gets harder to explain. AC/DC's Back in Black is a preposterous, drongoid record. It's built on casual sexism, eye-rolling double entendres, a highly questionable attitude to sexual consent ("Don't you struggle/ Don't you fight/ Don't you worry/ Cos it's your turn tonight") a penchant for firearms, and a crass celebration of the unthinking macho hedonism that killed the band's original singer. The guitarist, Angus Young, still dresses like a 50s schoolboy, underlining the inveterate puerility of AC/DC's oeuvre. The guitar solos are like endless streams of ejaculate; the vocals suggest a man whose piles are exploding. It really is appalling.
And it was a fairly calculated release at the time, too. Dong! There can be few rock fans who need ask for whom the bell tolls at the start of AC/DC's seventh album, released in July 1980. It rings for their former singer Bon Scott, who drank himself to death in February earlier that year; the cover is black in his memory. There are still question marks in my mind whether I'd continue to perform with a new singer if a mate of mine died. But I'm glad AC/DC did, not least because the album's title provided Amy Winehouse with inspiration for Back to Black.
It comes as a slight "whuh?" today to learn that Back in Black is the second biggest-selling record of all time; that on its release, Rolling Stone's David Fricke accurately called it "the apex of heavy metal art". It was, quite simply, the obsessive soundtrack of my adolescence, the racy middle-brow thriller that spoke to me both as a tomboy who wanted to be one of the guys, and the increasingly female ingenue who needed to work out the world of men. Plus teenagers love death. "My lightning's flashing across the sky," screeches new boy Brian Johnson on Hells Bells. "You're only young, but you're gonna die!" And so begins the most persuasive ever 10-track instruction to seize the day.
Johnson was – still is – a Geordie, who was actually in a band called Geordie; I think he now lives in Florida and has a guitar-shaped pool. You might not have forseen that such a man would be a lyricist of haiku-like refinement. But look beyond the leering blokery of all his utterances on Back in Black and you find taut, pithy, rigorous works whose sense of mischief is (usually) evident. You Shook Me All Night Long doubles and redoubles the entendres until you are reduced to saluting. His shrieks of abandon, meanwhile, contrast exquisitely with the elite commando discipline of what is going on underneath.
The clipped, modal exchanges of Angus and Malcolm Young's guitars, Cliff Williams's bass and Phil Rudd's drums lay bare a fat-free unit whose forward propulsion is effortless. I'm a sucker for taut inexorability in art. Every line of a novel, every key-change of a song, every scene of a film should lead to the next as though divinely pre-ordained, while scrupulously avoiding boredom. I can probably blame Back in Black for that – a record that, ultimately, is the reason I have to stop myself head-banging when I hear the six o'clock news bongs on Radio 4.