I'll admit that I have quite a bit of sentiment attached to this album. It was the first band album I owned. I had a compilation of hits from '82, which included Rush's "Tom Sawyer", but "For Those About To Rock" was my first real album and my big step into hard rock and heavy metal.
I grew up in a neighbourhood of all boys with older brothers, and as my friends and I were in our final years of elementary school, their older brothers were bringing home the sounds of junior high. My friends across the street first introduced me to The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" which I thought was pretty cool. But then they let me hear the title track from "For Those About To Rock" and I was hooked. By my 12th birthday I had my first AC/DC album and it has received plays again and again over the decades.
Listening to it again recently, thirty two years later, I find I still love it. I know most votes go to "Back in Black" for the best Brian Johnson album but I prefer this one still. After the success with "Hells Bells" and it's slowly building up intro, the Aussie rockers tried a similar approach with the title track here. The drums are loud and hit hard. In fact, although AC/DC have rarely been noteworthy in the drum department, the production and playing of the drums on this album really make them stand out for me. This opening song really sets the tone for the band: loud and hard with Johnson giving it his all. Of course one of the highlights is the 21 gun salute with real cannons blasting. My friends and I tried to count if there were indeed 21 shots, but it wasn't easy to count on a cheap cassette player when the band was just as explosive and concussive as the cannon blasts.
The album's songs are really well ordered as the beginning of each song seems to follow abruptly after the end of the previous track with a slightly different tone that is so perfect that it's as if the band wrote the songs in this order just to make each subsequent track start up so well after the last. Particularly side one is impressive as we go from hot and excited adult-themed "Put the Finger on You" to the party rock "Let's Get It Up" (great song for those 80's teen house parties) to the sneering and grinning "Inject the Venom" that has a real punching chorus, to "Snowballed", the perfect wind up for an unrelenting, hard hitting first side.
Side two begins with a personal favourite, "Evil Walks". The next four tracks continue delivering the goods in the same vein as side one. For nothing but a good hard rocking time, this album kicks buttock through and through. The guitars are tight and the transitions between the riffs glide and dive with precision.
If there would be anything to say against the album it would be that, like most if not all of AC/DC's canon, it can be pretty formulaic. The songs are about sex, rock and street life. Nearly any one song is as good as another, though I wouldn't go as far as to accuse the band of writing any fillers. Still, one may notice certain similarities between "Snowballed" and side two closer "Spellbound" or the beginnings of "Inject the Venom", "Evil Walks" and "Night of the Long Knives". Different yet similar.
Nevertheless, this remains my favourite album with Brian Johnson and in my opinion a very excellent example of what a real ass-kicking hard rock album can be like.