AC/DC: 40 Years On The Highway To Hell

By Phil Ashdown.

Highway to Hell is the sixth studio album from Australian rock band AC/DC, released on 27 July 1979. It was the band’s fifth studio album released internationally and the sixth to be released in Australia. It was the last album featuring lead singer Bon Scott.

By 1978, AC/DC had released five albums internationally and toured Australia and Europe extensively. Through sheer hard graft the band were gaining a strong fan base with their incendiary live shows, gaining virtually zero radio play. Their record company wanted to find a producer who could give them a more radio-friendly sound and approached Eddie Kramer best known for his pioneering work as engineer for Jimi Hendrix but also for mega-bands Led Zeppelin and Kiss. The band’s previous albums had been produced by George Young and Harry Vanda, guitarists Angus and Malcolm Young felt a strong sense of loyalty to their older brother George. They met Eddie Kramer in Miami and spent three weeks together and clearly failed to get along as the band did not manage to write any songs at all.

So one day they told him that they going to have a day off and not to bother coming in. They snuck back into the studio and in one day they created six songs that they sent to their manager Michael Browning who sent them on to producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. The band had also signed up with new management, firing Michael Browning and hiring Peter Mensch, an aggressive American who had helped develop the careers of Aerosmith and Ted Nugent.

Recording commenced at the Roundhouse Studios in Chalk Farm, North London in March 1979, spending the best part of three months there with gruelling 15-hour sessions, which was a shock for the band who up until that point had not spent more than three weeks on an entire album. Lange liked the band’s simplistic sound and solid work ethic being meticulous with the sound and made them rework elements many times until he got the sound he was looking for.

The melodic backing vocals was a new element to the band’s sound, but the polish that Lange added did not detract from the band’s characteristic crunch, thereby satisfying the band and Atlantic Records at the same time.

Highway to Hell was originally released on 27 July 1979 by Albert Productions who licensed the album to Atlantic Records for release outside of Australia. It became AC/DC’s first LP to break the US Top 100, eventually reaching number 17, and it propelled the band into the top ranks of hard rock acts. It is the second highest selling AC/DC album (behind Back In Black) and is generally considered one of the greatest hard rock albums ever made.

In August in the UK the title track was released as a single with If You Want Blood as the B-side and reached No4 in the charts. In November a four-track EP was released featuring Girls Got Rhythm and If You Want Blood along with live versions of Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be and Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation. A third single was released in January 1980 featuring Touch Too Much with two live recording of Live Wire and Shot Down In Flames.

Singer Bon Scott died on 19 February 1980 after a night out in London, sleeping off the heavy drinking session in a Renault 5 owned by a friend of Scott’s, Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich, he was just 33 years old.

Track listing

1. Highway To Hell
2. Girl’s Got Rhythm
3. Touch Too Much
4. Beating Around The Bush
5. Shot Down In Flames
6. Get It Hot
7. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
8. Love Hungry Man
9. Night Prowler

AC/DC

Bon Scott – lead vocals

Angus Young – lead guitar

Malcolm Young – rhythm guitar, backing vocals

Cliff Williams – bass guitar, backing vocals

Phil Rudd – drums

HIGHWAY TO HELL UK TOUR

I am fortunate to be able to say I saw AC/DC on the accompanying tour at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on the night of 2nd November 1979 as part of a 4-night sold-out stint at the venue. I can clearly remember Angus being hoisted onto Bon’s shoulders and walking among the seated (yes seated!) downstairs stalls during the extended guitar solo to High Voltage. Apparently they completed a circuit of the circle bar before returning to the stage. Other details may be a little sketchy after forty years but it was certainly an energetic perfomance that contained some tracks that have been played at every DC gig since. Another interesting point is that a little known British band supported that night who went on to global domination in the 1980s – Def Leppard! Below is the setlist according to Setlistfm.com and some original music paper articles from my personal collection.

Setlist

  1. Livewire
  2. Shot Down In Flames
  3. Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be
  4. Sin City
  5. Walk All Over You
  6. Bad Boy Boogie
  7. The Jack
  8. Highway To Hell
  9. Girl’s Got Rhythm
  10. High Voltage
  11. Whole Lotta Rosie
  12. Rocker
  13. If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
  14. Let There Be Rock

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  • AC/DC - Backtracks Collector's Box Set - US - cd album box set - £195.00, $237.90, €216.45 (New Item) (arrived 09-Oct-2019 14:53)
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    AC/DC Backtracks Collector's Box Set (Stunning 2009 US limited collector's edition box set containing THREE CD albums, one disc featuring 'Studio Rarities' and the other two discs featuring 'Live Rarities' [remastered from original sources for optimum sound quality], along with TWO All Region NTSC DVDs featuring 'Family Jewels II' and the exclusive 'Live At The Circus Krone' recorded in 2003, a vinyl LP featuring the unique studio rarities from the first CD pressed on180gram Audiophile Quality Virgin Vinyl & mastered specifically for LP, a 164 page coffee table book featuring rare and unseen images spanning from 1973-2003, eleven pieces of memorabilia including button badge, sticker, tour flyer, Bon Scott temporary 'parrot' tattoo and more. All housed in a 14" x 12" x 4" box which is designed to resemble a vintage AC/DC guitar amp, complete with the original logo used by Angus & Malcolm on their speaker cabinets in 1975. The lid has a handle that lifts the top off to reveal the contents housed within & is also a fully working 1w guitar amp [requires 9V battery]. Both box and contents remain near 'as new')

  • AC/DC - Back In Black - German - vinyl LP - £15.00, $18.30, €16.65 (New Item) (arrived 03-Oct-2019 15:17)
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    AC/DC Back In Black (Mid 1980's German 10-track LP issue of the 1980 album, the sixth internationally released studio album the Australian rock band, their first after the untimely death of Bon Scott, and subsequently the first to feature Brian Johnson. Housed in an embossed title sleeve and printed paper inner sleeve. The sleeve does have a little edge scuffing and ringwear, whilst the vinyl looks barely played - a great play copy ATL50735)

  • AC/DC - 4 Piece Shooter Set [Black Ice] - UK - memorabilia - £25.00, $30.50, €27.75 (Back In Stock) (arrived 03-Oct-2019 15:09)
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    AC/DC 4 Piece Shooter Set (2009, now out of manufacture, UK officially licensed set of 4 Shooter glasses emblazoned with the individually coloured 'Black Ice' album logos, housed in a die-cut presentation box - new!)

  • AC/DC - For Those About To Rock - UK - 12" vinyl - £20.00, $24.40, €22.20 (New Item) (arrived 27-Sep-2019 11:44)
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    AC/DC For Those About To Rock [We Salute You] (1982 UK 12" vinyl single, also including the Full 11:30 Version of Let There Be Rock recorded live in December 1981. The picture sleeve has the UK tour dates printed on reverse and shows just light signs of shelfwear while despite a few small signs of play, the vinyl appears in excellent condition K11721T)

  • AC/DC - Blow Up Your Video - 2nd - UK - vinyl LP - £10.00, $12.20, €11.10 (Back In Stock) (arrived 12-Sep-2019 15:27)
    on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    AC/DC Blow Up Your Video (1990 UK issue of the 1988 10-track LP, pressed in Germany for the UK market, the tenth international studio album by the Australian hard rockers, produced by Harry Vanda & George Young & the last to feature drummer Simon Wright. The glossy picture sleeve shows little shelfwear & the vinyl has just the odd light sign of play WX144)

 

 

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