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Making For Those About To Rock … A Burden to Bear For AC/DC

When you’re tasked with following up one of the greatest rock records ever made, you know it won’t be easy.

Such was the case for AC/DC as the they got ready to enter the studio in Paris during the early summer of 1981, hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed blockbuster Back in Black album.

What they came out with, For Those About To Rock We Salute You, could be considered Back in Black’s bastard son, since most people revere the latter, holding it in such high regard, while For Those About To Rock is more the forgotten son, and doesn’t get that kind of love these days, even though it went to No. 1 in the U.S., something Back in Black never did.

Make no mistake, however, For Those About To Rock deserves plenty of kudos as a great album, but it was a massive weight to bare for the Aussie rockers at the time.

As with Back in Black and Highway to Hell before it, Angus Young and Co. decided on working with producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange once again.

Awesome Totally Awesome - For Those About To Rock Brian Johnson

Sound Issues Impacted Early Recording Sessions

After rehearsing the songs for the album, the band headed into the EMI-Pathé Marconi Studios in early July, where they were ready to lay down basic tracks.

But after trying and trying, they just couldn’t get the right sound, or a sound that Lange was happy with. Heck, the story goes they worked for three days just on the snare drum sound alone. Only the snare drum.

Singer Brian Johnson recalls “The studio came highly recommended, but we just couldn’t get a good live sound. Mutt finally said ‘This is hard work – we’re missing the point.'”

So in August 1981, after trying (and not liking) several different studios around Paris, the uber rock producer found a solution to their recording problems: He’d simply moved the operation to a rehearsal space on the outskirts of Paris, and hired the Mobile One Studio from London to record the group. The sound was deemed solid, and recording began anew with basic track. Vocals and overdubs were completed at Family Sound Studio and overdubs at HIS Studios and recording was finished in September, ending a five-month process that included lots of tinkering by Lange. Back in Black was done in two months.

Malcolm Young would famously say, in a 1992 interview that “I don’t think anyone, neither the band or the producer, could tell whether it sounded right or wrong. Everyone was fed up with the whole album.”

Lange is a notorious perfectionist in the studio, and it’s highly probably AC/DC were more than fed up with doing take after take, especially since it was their third time working with him.

So, it’s not surprising For Those About To Rock was the last time the Aussie rockers worked with Lange.

While the album sounds very polished and crisp, their follow-up records, 1983’s Flick of the Switch and 1985’s Fly on the Wall were self-produced, with neither boasting exceptional sound, certainly nothing as sonic as found on the Lange-produced records. Neither Flick of the Switch nor Fly on the Wall sold particularly well.

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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