AC/DC’s Brian Johnson Breaks Silence on ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Over Hit Song, 42 Years After Its Release

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Jim Dyson/WireImage)

In the summer of 1980, iconic Australian rock band AC/DC released their seventh studio album, Back in Black. Sadly, it was without their electric frontman Bon Scott, who died unexpectedly just months prior from acute alcohol poisoning at the young age of 33. Though they knew Scott could never truly be replaced, the show must go on. So, they welcomed Brian Johnson, whose gravelly vocals could compare to those of Scott, into the group.

By far the most popular song from the album was (and remains to this day) the title track. Written as a tribute to the late singer, “Back in Black” is nothing short of a rock and roll anthem. Brian Johnson penned the lyrics himself, ensuring to make the song a “celebration” of Bon Scott rather than a funeral dirge, at his new bandmates’ request.

Or did he?

When the album was released, the writing was credited to Brian Johnson, Angus Young, and Malcolm Young. Many were angered that Bon Scott wasn’t included, firmly believing he wrote many, if not all, of the songs before his death.

Did Bon Scott Actually Write ‘Back in Black’?

The circumstances are admittedly suspicious. Bon Scott’s songwriting notebooks disappeared from his apartment following his death. Some claim to have read them beforehand, however, and say that there were several phrases and lines written by Scott that later appeared in Back in Black.

Then there’s the matter of David Krebs, AC/DC’s former manager. Krebs doesn’t believe Young/Young/Johnson is an accurate credit for the album. On top of all that, Angus Young himself admitted that some of Bon Scott’s lyrics are threaded through the album on two separate occasions.

That said, the lyrics on Back in Black don’t necessarily match Bon Scott’s intricate, brutish yet elegant writing style. And while there are many who have no doubt Bon Scott should have at least partial credit on Back in Black, Brian Johnson has never admitted to such.

Brian Johnson Denies Plagiarism Claims

In his new book, The Lives of Brian, Brian Johnson finally addressed the long-standing rumors, denying plagiarism of any kind. “It was me at the end of the pen, writing every night and every morning, with only the title to work with. That’s what happened,” Johnson wrote. “That’s the truth and I really hope that settles it.”

In a recent interview discussing the book, the legendary frontman doubled down on his claim. “I know there’s an individual who was a conspiracy theorist and that just kept saying, well, Bon wrote these lyrics,” Johnson said (via New York Post).

“What band would let somebody else claim somebody else’s lyrics?” he continued. “I mean, it’s just absolute nonsense. And that’s why I put it in the book. To say for once and for all, those lyrics came from the end of my hand.”

“There’s people out there, they just won’t believe what’s true,” Brian Johnson concluded. “And I felt awful after putting it down, but it had just got on my nerves for so long. I still love listening to Bon’s fantastic lyrics, his double entendres, his funny little quips… I couldn’t do that.”