“No stop signs, speed limits, nobody’s gonna slow me down!”
This declaration of war by AC/DC was taken very literally in 1979, because with Highway To Hell, the Australian rock legends have reached the pinnacle of rock n’ roll.
Background – Highway To Hell
AC/DC released five albums on international markets by 1978, and they toured Australia and Europe extensively. Despite virtually no radio support, the band began to amass a live following in 1977. The band’s most recent album, If You Want Blood, reached number 13 in the United Kingdom, and their two previous releases, 1977’s Let There Be Rock and 1978’s Powerage, showcased a raging, blues-based hard rock sound. The American branch of Atlantic Records had rejected the group’s 1976 album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, but it now believed the group could make big in America if only they worked with a producer who could give them a radio-friendly sound. George Young and Harry Vanda have produced all of AC/DC’s albums since the band’s Australian debut High Voltage in 1975. Angus Young and Malcolm Young, who felt a sense of loyalty to their older brother George, were not enthusiastic about the idea, according to AC/DC: Maximum Rock & Roll:
Being told what to do was bad enough but what really pissed off Malcolm and Angus was they felt that George was being treated disrespectfully by Atlantic, like an amateur with no great track record when it came to production … Malcolm seemed less pleased with the situation and went so far as to tell Radio 2JJ in Sydney that the band had been virtually “forced” to go with an outside producer. Losing Harry was one thing. Losing George was almost literally like losing a sixth member of the band, and much more.
Eddie Kramer, the South African-born engineer who led Jimi Hendrix to fame and was also an engineer for Led Zeppelin and Kiss, teamed Atlantic with the band. Apparently Kramer did not get along with the band at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida. In Guitar Legends magazine, Geoff Barton quotes Malcolm Young: “Kramer was a bit of a prat. He looked at Bon and said to us, ‘Can your guy sing?’ He might’ve sat behind the knobs for Hendrix, but he’s certainly not Hendrix, I can tell you that much.” The producer was soon replaced by Zambian-born Robert John “Mutt” Lange. Michael Browning, former AC/DC manager, wrote Highway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott in 1994: “I got a phone call from Malcolm in Florida, to say, ‘This guy’s hopeless, do something, he’s trying to talk us into recording that Spencer Davis song,’ ‘Gimme Some Loving,’ ‘I’m a Man,’ whatever it was.”
Lange is best known for his production of the Boomtown Rats’ number-one hit “Rat Trap” and for his work with post-pub rock bands like Clover, City Boy, and Graham Parker. According to RAM magazine, Bon Scott said, “Three weeks in Miami and we hadn’t written a thing with Kramer. So one day we told him we were going to have a day off and not to bother coming in. This was Saturday, and we snuck into the studio and on that one day we put down six songs, sent the tape to Lange and said, ‘Will you work with us?'” Meanwhile, the band hired a new management company, firing Michael Browning and hiring Peter Mensch, an aggressive American who had helped develop the careers of Aerosmith and Ted Nugent.
In March 1979, recording began at the Roundhouse Studios in Chalk Farm, north London. Clinton Walker writes in his book Highway to Hell, “The band virtually moved into the Roundhouse Studios in Chalk Farm, spending the best part of three months there. That, to start with, was a shock to AC/DC, who had never previously spent more than three weeks on any one album … Sessions for the album—15 hours a day, day-in day-out, for over two months—were gruelling. Songs were worked and reworked.” Band members, whose own work ethic was solid, appreciated Lange’s approach. Malcolm Young stated in an article by Sylvie Simmons in Mojo that Lange “liked the simplicity of a band. We were all minimalist. We felt it was the best way to be … He knew we were all dedicated so he sort of got it. But he made sure the tracks were solid, and he could hear if a snare just went off.” Angus Young wrote in the same article, “He was meticulous about sound, getting right guitars and drums. He would zero in—and he was good too on the vocal side. Even Bon was impressed with how he could get his voice to sound.” During the recordings, Ian Jeffery, tour manager, remembered:
“Mutt took them through so many changes. I remember one day Bon coming in with his lyrics to If You Want Blood. He starts doing it and he’s struggling, you know? There’s more fucking breath than voice coming out. Mutt says to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to co-ordinate your breathing’. Bon was like, ‘You’re so fucking good, cunt, you do it!’ Mutt sat in his seat and did it without standing up! That was when they all went, ‘What the fucking hell we dealing with here?”https://www.loudersound.com/features/ac-dc-the-making-of-highway-to-hell
The AC/DC biography, Maximum Rock & Roll, writes that Lange was a trained singer who taught Scott how to breathe so he could be a technically better singer on songs like “Touch Too Much,” and he would sing background vocals himself, having to stand on the other side of the studio because of his own voice. It was a new element to the band’s sound, but Lange’s polish did not distract from the band’s characteristic crunch, so the band and Atlantic Records were equally satisfied.
Lange also taught Angus how to play solos while sitting next to the producer. “Mutt said: ‘Sit here and I’ll tell you what I want you to play’,” recalls Jeffery. “Angus was like, ‘You fucking will, will ya?’ But he sat next to Mutt and Mutt didn’t force it on him, just kind of pointed at the fretboard and, ‘Here, this…’ and ‘Hold that…’ and ‘Now go into that…’ It was the solo from Highway To Hell. It was fantastic! And that really stood them all to attention on Mutt too. He wasn’t asking them to do anything he couldn’t do himself, or getting on their case saying it’s been wrong in the past; nothing like that. He really massaged them into what became that album”.
Scott’s Highway to Hell lyrics deal almost exclusively with lust (“Love Hungry Man”, “Girls Got Rhythm”), sex (“Beating Around the Bush”, “Touch Too Much”, “Walk All Over You”), and partying on the town (“Get It Hot”, “Shot Down in Flames”). According to Murray Engelheart, who wrote a band memoir in 2006, Scott found the lyrics of songs like “Gone Shootin'” from the preceding Powerage to be “too serious.”.
“Touch Too Much” was first recorded in July 1977 with a radically different arrangement and lyrics compared to its Highway to Hell incarnation. Scott and AC/DC performed the final version on Top of the Pops a few days before Scott’s death. “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” took its title from the band’s live album from the previous year and came from Scott’s reply to a journalist at the Day on the Green festival in July 1978: “Blood”, he replied when asked what they could expect from the band. Phil Sutcliffe described the opening guitar riff of “Beating Around the Bush” as “almost like a tribute” to Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”.
According to Angus, ‘Love Hungry Man’ on Highway to Hell is the worst record he has ever made. I must have written it after a bad pizza night, so blame me for THAT one. Perhaps the album’s most infamous song is “Night Prowler”, mainly because of its association with serial killer Richard Ramírez. It was in June 1985 that Ram*rez, a man responsible for brutal killings in Los Angeles, began a highly publicized murder case. “Night Stalker” Ram*rez was a fan of AC/DC, particularly “Night Prowler”. Ramirez also left an AC/DC hat at one of the crime scenes, according to the police. “Hail Satan, Ram*rez said at the trial while showing off the pentagram drawn on his palm with the numbers 666 below it. In Los Angeles, parents protested AC/DC’s concerts and albums, which caused the band to suffer extremely bad publicity. According to VH1’s Behind the Music on AC/DC, the song was given a murderous connotation by Ram*rez, but it is actually about a boy sneaking into his girlfriend’s bedroom at night while her parents are asleep, yet the lyrics include “And you don’t feel the steel until it’s hanging out your back”. In the last words spoken by Scott on the song, he states “Shazbot, na-nu na-nu”, a phrase from the popular American sitcom, Mork and Mindy, where the lead character Mork (a visiting extraterrestrial portrayed by Robin Williams) is heard saying. The album was closed with this phrase.
Originally released on 27 July 1979 by Albert Productions, who licensed the album to Atlantic Records for international release, Highway to Hell was later re-released by Epic Records in 2003 as part of the AC/DC Remasters series. The RIAA certified Highway to Hell 7x Platinum on 25 May 2006. Original Australian album covers featured flames and a drawing of a bass guitar neck superimposed over the same group photo as the international cover. Moreover, the AC/DC logo is a darker shade of maroon, but the accents are lighter. The East German release also had different and much plainer sleeves, apparently because the authorities didn’t like the sleeves released in other countries. There are two songs from the album featured in movies, “Highway to Hell” was featured in Final Destination 2 and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), while “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” is featured in five films: Empire Records, The Longest Yard, Shoot Em Up, Final Destination 5 and The Dukes of Hazzard. In the movie Grown Ups, the song “Walk All Over You” appears. The song “Touch Too Much” appears on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned. The song was also used as the theme song for the World Wrestling Federation SummerSlam (1998). Highway to Hell ranked no. 2 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums, published in October 2010.
AC/DC’s Highway to Hell is their first album to break the US Top 100, reaching number 17 and propelling them into the top echelons of hard rock. AC/DC’s second best-selling album (behind Back in Black) is generally regarded as one of the greatest hard rock albums ever made. Rolling Stone’s Greg Kot writes, “The songs are more compact, the choruses laden with rugby-team harmonies.”. Scott closes the hip-grinding ‘Shot Down in Flames’ with a cackle fit for the Wicked Witch of the West. In a 2008 Rolling Stone cover story, David Fricke writes: “Mutt Lange turned AC/DC’s rough-granite rock into chart-smart boogie on this album.” The song “Highway to Hell” is considered one of hard rock’s greatest anthems by AllMusic. The album was ranked 199 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003 and 200 in a 2012 revised list.
AC/DC fans Steevi Diamond and Jon Morter (who was behind the Rage Against the Machine Facebook campaign in 2009) launched a Facebook campaign in 2013 to achieve the number one position in the UK Singles Chart for the title track in celebration of AC/DC’s 40th anniversary, and to stop The X Factor from achieving another number one in the UK Singles Chart. Feel Yourself, a testicular cancer awareness organization, received proceeds from the campaign. The single peaked at number four in the Official UK Charts, scoring AC/DC’s first ever UK Top 10 single.
The fabulous Daria Zaritskaya
I couldn’t resist Dariya’s incredibly erotic performance when I heard her powerful voice. An energetic and charismatic performance. The cover was done by Dariya and it’s impressive.
Vocals: Daria Zaritskaya
Guitar: Sergey Sershen
Guitar: Rostyslav Dzhyndzhyristy
Bass: Alexander Shturmak
Drums: Dmitry Kim
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