“You Shook Me All Night Long” is a simple song about a very attractive woman. The lyrics are basically a series of sexual references and celebrations with no implications beyond the straightforward interpretation. It is notable that the woman in the song is American, which has to do with AC/DC’s target audience at the time of the song’s creation and distribution.
Brian Johnson is seen as the main lyricist for the song, although many claim that Bob Scott wrote part of the lyrics before his death. This death is crucial to understanding the story of the song, as Johnson needed to prove himself at the time. Johnson claims that some kind of supernatural experience occurred that allowed him to write the song, which is surprisingly common among creatives.
In this article, we’ll take a look at these very direct lyrics to discover their intended meaning. We’ll also examine the songwriting story, controversies surrounding the tune, and more. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The lyrics waste absolutely no time before telling you the subject of the song. It’s (surprise) a woman, and a very special one apparently. She was a “fast machine” (easy) who “kept her motor clean” (is ready for action). Interestingly, she’s also described as having “sightless eyes.” This might just be a physical description of some kind, but some people think it has to do with her having discretion (as in the phrase, “turn a blind eye”).
The verse continues by describing the sexual experience the narrator shared with her. I don’t think I have to explain what Johnson means when he says he was “fighting for air” or that the “earth was quaking” during this encounter. If it’s unclear, perhaps a visit to the nearest middle school would shed some light on the matter. These lyrics have a definite juvenile side.
The chorus, of course, continues this theme. If you’re still not convinced that the song is thoroughly sexual (bless your heart), perhaps a viewing of the track’s second music video (directed by David Mallet) would do the trick. It features model Corinne Russel as the representation of the woman in the lyrics and caused controversy due to its raunchy content.
Verse two is really more of the same – innuendos, double entendres, animalistic celebrations, and salutes to this one-of-a-kind woman. It is worth noting that she has “American thighs,” which helps sell the song to an American audience. This has been cited as evidence that Bob Scott wrote some of the lyrics – he was very aware of AC/DC’s international strategy.
To sum up, “You Shook Me All Night Long” is an extended retelling of the narrator’s sexual exploits. This racy message, along with the track’s undeniable riff, have combined to give the song massive crowd-pleasing appeal.
There really isn’t a single story behind this song, as there is some dispute regarding what really went down. Some believe that Bob Scott (the frontman who preceded Brian Johnson) wrote some or all of the lyrics before his untimely death. This version of the story was told in biographies of Scott by former girlfriends and the like and has some serious traction among fans.
Another version of the story suggests that Johnson is our lyricist. Even in this version, however, some credit goes to Scott. What kind of credit? According to Johnson, Scott gets credit from beyond the grave!
At the time of this song’s creation, AC/DC was still reeling from the loss of Scott. In addition, the music world was moving away from gritty, simple rock anthems and towards various other sounds. This was true even within the world of rock. AC/DC was strongly considering the idea of a breakup for multiple reasons.
This pressure was poured onto Brian Johnson’s shoulders when he became the new frontman. He was tasked with delivering lyrics for some ideas the other band members had and was nervously hoping to perform well. That’s when, according to his testimony, something “passed through” him as he sat in the writing room. He suspects it may have been Bob Scott himself, although he doesn’t consider himself a “sissy” who believes in that sort of thing.
Whatever caused the spark of creativity, the fire it created has yet to be extinguished. Anyone listening to any rock radio station anywhere is liable to hear this song at the drop of a hat. “You Shook Me All Night Long” reached a position of #35 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released in 1980 and has received no shortage of praise from music critics.
The next time you play this hard-rock staple, let these pieces of music history make it special for you!