AC/DC were on top of the world — and the charts — when they decided to clean house for the raw, back-to-basics Flick of the Switch. But in the process of purging, they seemed to forget the winning formula that turned them into rock ‘n’ roll superstars, resulting in their lowest-selling and worst-reviewed album in years.
AC/DC triumphed over tragedy at the dawn of the ’80s, replacing late singer Bon Scott with Brian Johnson and releasing the world-conquering Back in Black and its chart-topping successor, For Those About to Rock. These albums kept them on the road for nearly two years straight, and when AC/DC finally regrouped to plan their next move, they decided it was time for a change.
The biggest change was the dismissal of producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who had worked on AC/DC’s previous three albums, starting with their 1979 commercial breakthrough Highway to Hell. The absence of Lange’s studio wizardry meant the band members were left to their own devices while making Flick of the Switch, recording 10 new songs in less than a month and producing the LP themselves. The band also fired drummer Phil Rudd halfway through the recording sessions due to his drug and alcohol abuse, eventually replacing him with future Dio drummer Simon Wright.
Unfortunately, this back-to-basics approach meant that Flick of the Switch lacked many of the sky-high hooks and sonic flourishes that made their previous three albums so wildly successful. Released on Aug. 15, 1983, the album peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and took nearly 18 years to earn a platinum certification, a massive drop-off from the 4 million sales of For Those About to Rock and more than 20 million sales of Back in Black. It was the beginning of a downward spiral that would last for several years, with 1985’s Fly on the Wall peaking at a miserable No. 32.
Watch the video below to learn more about Flick of the Switch, and tune into our “Doomed to Fail?” video series each week as we dust off ill-fated classic rock albums and determine whether they’re hidden gems or better left forgotten.
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