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NOD TO THE GODS: AC/DC, ‘Back In Black’
March 30, 2014
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Each and every Sunday night when the clock hits eight, The Strombo Show takes over CBC Radio 2. It's music for music lovers by music lovers. To kick off the program, we always tip our hats to the legends, the noisemakers and the ground-breakers in a segment that we like to call: Nod to the Gods.

April 5 is the day when Kurt Cobain is believed to have committed suicide, and tonight on the Strombo Show, we'll be recognizing the 20-year abscence of the Nirvana frontman. We kick off the celebration of his life and achievement from the tender age of fourteen, when the very first song that Kurt learned on guitar was AC/DC's "Back In Black."

Recorded and released in the summer of 1980, just five months after Bon Scott passed away, it's a tribute to the man: "Forget the hearse 'cause I never die". Initially, Scott had about fifteen songs prepared for the record, according to former manager Ian Jeffrey, but due to his death, they were abandoned and iconic the black cover set a different tone, with a different growl.

As the story goes, Bon Scott had seen Brian Johnson when he was performing with the band Geordie, and was so impressed by his vocals that he suggested that if anything should ever happen to him, it should be Johnson who replaced him.

Beastie Boys sampled the song's main riff for their Def Jam debut, "Rock Hard." They didn't obtain legal permissions for the track, so it was prompty withdrawn — and even when they planned to include the out-of-print track for their Anthology collection, AC/DC refused to allow the sample. Mike D spoke to AC/DC's Malcolm Young personally on the phone when their lawyers refused to clear the sample, and later said that "AC/DC could not get with the sample concept. They were just like, 'Nothing against you guys, but we just don't endorse sampling.'" Ad-Rock then added "So we told them that we don't endorse people playing guitars."

The controversy didn't stop them from performing the track live, including at their 1985 gig at Radio City Music Hall on Madonna's Virgin tour.

On this Sunday's program, we're joined by an assortment of musicians an non-musicians alike — including Randy Bachman, Coeur de pirate, Jann Arden, Nardwuar the Human Serviette and Lana Gay of CBC Music — to pay tribute to Cobain. We've also prepared a collection of twenty-seven songs that he pointed to as influences on his music, his style and his approach to art.

For further musical musings, new and old, join the collective for The Strombo Show on CBC Radio 2, every Sunday night at 8PM. And if you'd like to catch up or relisten, all of the episodes are archived here.


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