Last week, news surfaced that AC/DC’s Black Ice had been illegally downloaded more than 400,000 times. This news wasn’t all that staggering, but the fact that AC/DC refuse to sell their music digitally, it proved the guys were losing money by not doing so.
AC/DC’s old line, which is repeated in all the current stories out about Black Ice, is that their albums need to be taken as whole pieces of art. I cracked wise last week about the dubiousness of considering High Voltage as a cohesive piece of art, but Chris Molanphy over at Idolator has taken that a step further: he’s done a chart analysis of AC/DC to prove that they have always been a single, not an album, driven band.
Most obviously, at 22 million copies, Back in Black, with those two mighty rock singles as well as near-classics like “Hells Bells,” is certified at more than triple the sales of any of the band’s other titles.
To be even more specific, Black has shifted virtually the same as the band’s next four best-sellers combined. Those runners-up are Highway to Hell (7 million), Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (6 million), Who Made Who (5 million) and The Razors Edge (5 million). Once you get below this top five, most of the band’s studio albums are in the 1 to 2 million range.
So what made those five albums sell so well? In virtually every case, the answer is simple: hit songs.
It’s not easily to classify what a “hit” is for AC/DC: despite releasing about a dozen tracks as U.S. singles over its career, the band never reached our pop Top 20. Their 1990 single “Moneytalks” was the most successful, peaking at No. 23 on the Hot 100. As for the aforementioned hits from 1980’s Back in Black, each barely made the Top 40—No. 35 for “Shook,” No. 37 for “Black”—at a time when album-oriented rock (AOR) radio, then at the height of its influence, wasn’t factored into the Hot 100 radio panel.
Still, despite a lack of consistent data, it’s pretty easy to explain the U.S. sales of AC/DC’s five biggest albums. Four of them owe their success to a burst of U.S. radio attention the band received for their catchiest songs from 1979 to 1981.
For the full story, go here. AC/DC’s Black Ice is out now at Wal-Mart stores.