AC / DC Highway to hell

AC / DC Highway to hell

AC / DC Highway to hell 

The history of AC / DC Highway to Hell

AC / DC Highway to hell is a song by Australian rock band AC / DC. It's the opening track from their 1979 album Highway to Hell. It was originally released as a single in 1979.

AC / DC Highway to Hell was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young, and Bon Scott, with Angus Young credited with writing the guitar riff that became an instant classic.

AC / DC had made several studio albums before and was constantly promoting them through a grueling touring schedule, mentioned by Angus young as being on a highway to hell, hence the name.

It has been 44 years sinceAC DC first came out of Australia with their loud debut album, High Voltage, and it's safe to say that, around this time, the band has seen it and done it all:

chart-topping albums and singles, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, lost some key members to tragic circumstances along the way.

But perhaps the most impressive notch on AC / DC's collective pied-à-terre is this: the fact that, on the list of the best-selling artists of all time in the United States, AC / DC is ranked 10th.

Which means Guns N 'Roses, Metallica , Van Halen, U2, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and countless other legendary acts fall well behind AC / DC when it comes to record sales of all time in America.


AC / DC Highway to hell


AC / DC Highway to hell: The beginnings ...

In the late '70s, things were quite different for AC / DC, and there was a tough road ahead before they could create what would prove to be their groundbreaking creative and commercial album, Highway to Hell from 1979. .

Between the band's formation in Sydney, Australia, in 1973 - with an initial lineup consisting of Scottish brothers Angus and Malcolm Young on guitars, Dave Evans on mic, Larry Van Kriedt on bass and Colin Burgess on drums - and 1978, the rough-and-tumble rockers released five full studio albums: High Voltage (1975), TNT (1975), Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (1976), Let There Be Rock (1977) and Powerage (1978).


AC / DC Highway to hell

The group - which had by then solidified into the now classic unity of Bon Scott on vocals, Cliff Williams on bass, Phil Rudd on drums and the Young brothers - maintained a pretty furious recording and touring pace for those early years.

They were certainly building a loyal fan base as evidenced by the ever increasing crowds and increasing album sales every time. But that wasn't enough - not for Atlantic Records, AC / DC's US label, anyway.

In 1978, disco was still one of the dominant forms of music on the American airwaves, and on the rock side, expertly produced dance hits like Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", The Rolling Stones' "Miss You", "Foreigner's" Journey's Hot Blooded "and" Wheel in the Sky "topped the charts.


AC / DC Highway to hell


Atlantic wanted AC / DC to achieve some level of measurable radio success in the United States, and the band certainly weren't going to do it with loud and sometimes tasteless howls like “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “Riff Raff” or “She's”. Got Balls ”. Hell, the label didn't even release Dirty Deeds - which was recorded in early 1976 - in the US until a year after Bon Scott '

The finale for Atlantic came in late 1978, when the label released AC / DC's debut live album, If You Want Blood You've Got It.

It had been barely six months since Powerage's release, and with this album producing nothing close to a hit song, Atlantic was hoping If You Want Blood would do for AC / DC what Alive! had done for KISS five years earlier - harness the band's unmatched live energy in an album and pray that at least one song catches the fire from the radio a la Kiss "Rock and Roll All Nite", or the live version by Peter Frampton from "Show Me the Way" "from Frampton Comes Alive in 1976!


AC / DC Highway to hell

AC / DC Highway to hell - AC / DC Highway to hell


"If you want blood" performed moderately well when released in November 1978, beating the band's recent studio albums, but it quickly became clear to Atlantic that AC / DC was never going to break into the United States. if they were allowed to continue writing music on their own terms and recording on their own land in Sydney, Australia.

Regarding the label, action is required. As the schedule shifted from 1978 to 1979, Atlantic Records Senior Vice President Michael Klenfner was on a plane to Sydney to meet with the AC / DC members and work out a game plan for the band's next album. , the sequel to Powerage.

Until then, all of AC / DC's records had been produced by the crew of Harry Vanda and George Young, Angus and Malcolm's older brother, and recorded at Albert Studios in Sydney - so when Klenfner suggested it , for this next album, the group abandons Vanda and Young and works with an outside producer chosen by Atlantic, the tensions started to intensify.

Vanda and Young had enjoyed tremendous success around the world as producers, songwriters, and musicians, but that didn't matter to Atlantic - the label wanted some fresh blood in the AC / DC camp, someone. one that could take the band's raw blues-rock power and manic live energy and tweak it into something that would generate hit songs and more powerful album sales.


AC / DC Highway to hell

AC / DC Highway to hell


As former AC / DC manager Michael Browning told writers Murray Engleheart and Arnaud Durieux in the book AC / DC: Maximum Rock & roll from 2006, “George and Harry were pretty honorable about it. They could have been sort of pissed off. "

 I'm sure they were. For an American record company, to say you have to change producers when they're sort of revered in their own country was a bit of a slap in the face, I guess. So it was very, very difficult. Malcolm and Angus didn't like it at all. They were very upset. "

When it came to choosing a producer who could hopefully take AC / DC gaming to the next level, Atlantic had one name in mind: Eddie Kramer. Kramer had worked as a producer and engineer since the mid-60s, and his resume featured impressive credits: Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and KISS, among others.


AC / DC Highway to hell

AC / DC Highway to hell


Kramer traveled to Sydney where he and the boys locked themselves in Albert Studios to record demo tracks, after which they all flew to Miami to begin recording the album which would eventually become Highway to Hell - from less is what they all thought.

It only took a few weeks at Criteria Recording Studios, Kramer's primary workplace, for everyone to realize that, despite how it looked on paper, this wasn't a match made in rock & roll heaven. roll.

“He didn't really fit us as a producer,” Malcolm Young said in the April 2003 issue of Guitar World magazine. “We showed him the riffs for 'Highway to Hell' and he didn't quite get it. We thought, this guy is out of touch with who we are. "

“And at the same time, I guess not all of Eddie's ideas seem to inspire us,” Angus commented in the same issue of Guitar World.

“I don't know why, but he kept talking about pianos. Maybe he thought a piano was an interesting thing for a rock and roll band. But it was not the right word to use around us. "

After working together at Criteria for three weeks without even getting past the rehearsal phase, it was obvious to everyone that this assignment had to be cut short, pronto - and it took a chance phone call from Malcolm Young to manager Michael Browning to get it done. to arrive.

With Browning online, a clearly agitated Young told him that the recording with Kramer was not going well and asked Browning to take the group out of Miami.

As fate would have it, at the time, Browning shared a house in New York with a renowned young producer named Robert John "Mutt" Lange and Lange manager Clive Calder.

While still on the phone with Young, Browning turned to Lange and said, “Dude, you gotta make this record. "

Lange was an accomplished producer at the time, having worked with predominantly British artists like City Boy, Graham Parker, Motors, Savoy Brown, and Irish rockers the Boomtown Rats - and although he did not have the hardest charts- rock by Eddie Kramer, Atlantic Records was very supportive of Mutt Lange taking the lead on the Highway to Hell recording.

After the Kramer debacle, AC / DC members were understandably reluctant to step into any other situation with any producer other than their longtime trusted team of George Young and Harry Vanda.

“We were very careful about working with anyone new,” Angus Young said in the April 2003 issue of Guitar World.

"At one point we thought, is there anyone out there other than George and Harry who can really do our music justice?"

And actually some of the things we'd hear about what people were doing with records, we'd be like, "Geez, that's too extravagant."

 You heard that producers kidnapped a band for two years, put them in a mansion. And that was something we didn't want. So we were pretty nervous. "

With Mutt Lange now locked up as the new producer of AC / DC, the real work on AC / DC Highway to Hell could finally begin.

The group were only too happy to leave sunny Miami and head to cold, dreary London in early 1979 to meet Lange and get started.

For the next two weeks, the band worked on all the new songs in a seedy rehearsal space that had no heat except for a small kerosene heater and dirt floor. Winter coats were often worn during training sessions.

But that's exactly where Highway to Hell finally started to come together, and by the end of the two weeks all the songs were fine-tuned and ready to record - which was different from previous recording sessions, during which AC / DC usually spent the time writing and rewriting songs in the studio until they were ready.

In March 1979, AC / DC found themselves tucked away in Roundhouse Studios in London with their new producer to begin what was to be the largest and most critical recording session of the band's career.

AC / DC and Mutt Lange clicked right away, and their mutual respect made the AC / DC Highway to Hell sessions run quickly and smoothly, with very few bumps along the way (other than the occasional meeting with Scott on his vocal performance.).

The band had always recorded live in the studio, and Lange knew there was nothing better than suggesting a different approach.

“Mutt realized that we were a good band who could play their instruments, so he let us go,” Malcolm Young said in Guitar World.

“The freedom was there. And we gave him freedom too - we tried whatever he asked of us. Mutt fit in very well with the group. "

A few weeks later - after additional recording sessions at Chalk Farm Studios and then mixing at Basing Street Studios - AC / DC Highway to Hell was over.

In the end, Lange gave Atlantic exactly what he wanted: an AC / DC record with well-crafted, catchy songs, thrilling choruses, and a polished twist.

The quality and energy of previous AC / DC albums were quite intact, but the lopsided and chaotic punk-rock element that Atlantic said held the band commercially was gone.

Ten songs and just 42 minutes in length, AC / DC Highway to Hell is a masterpiece of tense, precise writing and no-frills production - a start-to-end listening experience that more than holds up today. 'hui, 40 years since its July 27, 1979, release date.

AC / DC Highway to Hell is led by the title track, with its catchy and radio-adapted chorus, a simple but effective opening riff reminiscent of the free classic "All Right Now", and lyrics about life on the track. Expressway.

There's also the dancing "Girls Got Rhythm", the boogie-swing of "Walk All Over You", the fast-paced blues explosion "Beating Around the Bush", the concert classic "Shot Down in Flames" and the sexy, coming closer album, "Night Prowler." "


AC / DC Highway to hell - AC / DC Highway to hell


1979 was the year that everything changed for AC / DC. It was the year they established what would become a very successful relationship with Mutt Lange;

the year they learned what they were really capable of as songwriters and musicians; the year they learned it was okay to leave their cozy nest in Sydney and play music elsewhere.

They also learned what the big hit in America looked like, as Highway to Hell hit 17th on the US charts and was AC / DC's first platinum album in the US, selling over a million. of copies.

Sadly, this would also be Bon Scott's last year on earth - in February 1980, the partying Scottish singer would have died after drinking himself into oblivion, and AC / DC's suddenly flourishing career would be sent to a dark and depressing spiral. Of course, they would eventually come back from the tragedy - back in black, to be precise.


AC / DC Highway to hell: the background of the album

The title and lyrics of AC / DC Highway to Hell reflect the incredibly arduous nature of constant touring and life on the road.

The highway that inspired the song's name, Canning Highway, connects the Perth Kwinana highway to its Fremantle port and was home to many of Bon Scott's favorite pubs and hotels, including the Raffles Hotel.

AC / DC Highway to Hell spent 45 weeks on the German singles chart, although it only peaked at 30th place, in its 19th week on this chart.

Lead singer Bon Scott was found dead in the back of a friend's car, just over six months after the song was released. The song is in the key of A major.

AC / DC Highway to Hell won the “Australia's Most Played Overseas Title” category at the 2009 APRA Awards.


AC / DC Highway to hell: the group

Bon Scott - lead vocals
Angus Young - solo guitar
Malcolm Young - rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Cliff Williams - bass guitar, backing vocals
Phil Rudd - drums


AC / DC Highway to hell: the production

AC / DC Highway to Hell was produced by Mutt Lange as part of the album of the same name, and his work is considered a major factor in the delivery of one of AC / DC's classic albums, The emergence of the double guitar sound, which was then perfected on Back in Black, and improved backing vocals with Malcolm Young, joined by Cliff Williams for the first time.




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