AC/DC – Highway To Hell

This was the first AC/DC song to chart in the US. It helped drive huge sales for the Highway To Hell album, which has sold over seven million copies in America. It was AC/DC’s sixth album, and the last with vocalist Bon Scott, who died in 1980. The song charted at #37 in Billboard 100 in 1979.

Angus Young described Highway to Hell about touring in American but Highway to Hell’s origin was the nickname for the Canning Highway in Australia. It runs from where lead singer Bon Scott lived in Fremantle and ends at a pub/bar called The Raffles, which was a big rock ‘n roll drinking hole in the ’70s. As Canning Highway gets close to the pub, it dips down into a steep decline.

 

Brian Johnson: “It was written about being on the bus on the road where it takes forever to get from Melbourne or Sydney to Perth across the Nullarbor Plain. When the Sun’s setting in the west and you’re driving across it, it is like a fire ball. There is nothing to do, except have a quick one off the wrist or a game of cards, so that’s where Bon came up with the lyrics.”

 

From Songfacts

So many people where killed by driving fast over that intersection at the top of the hill on the way for a good night out, that it was called the highway to hell, so when Bon was saying “I’m on the highway to hell” it meant that he was doing the nightly or weekly pilgrimage down Canning Highway to The Raffles bar to rock and drink with his mates: “Ain’t nothing I would rather do. Going down, party time, my friends are gonna be there too.”

Mutt Lange, who has also worked with The Cars, Bryan Adams, and Def Leppard (and Shania Twain, who he was married to from 1993-2008), produced the album. Lange took over after after failed sessions with Eddie Krammer, who had a solid resumé that included work with Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, but whose procedural style didn’t work for AC/DC.

Lange was able to enhance the band’s sound without altering their essence. On this song, he added robust background vocals to the choruses – something AC/DC didn’t do on their previous efforts. This and other production refinements helped made the song a hit and expand their audience.

Recorded in London, Highway To Hell was the first AC/DC album recorded outside of Australia. The album cover had Angus Young on the cover wearing his schoolboy uniform and devil horns. Some religious groups found this quite offensive.

Serial killer Richard Ramirez claimed this album compelled him to murder. He believed AC/DC stood for “Anti Christ/Devil’s Child.”

In the film School of Rock Jack Black teaches the riff to the guitarist in the band. The song was also featured in the Movie Little Nicky, starring Adam Sandler.

The AC/DC bluegrass tribute band Hayseed Dixie covered this on their 2001 album, A Hillbilly Tribute To AC/DC.

AC/DC performed this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when they were inducted in 2003. Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler inducted them, saying, “There is no greater purveyor of the power chord.”

The chorus to the song was used in the 2010 movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief. 

A campaign to make the this the top song on the UK singles chart for Christmas 2013 resulted in a #4 placing and AC/DC’s first top 10 British hit in a 40-year career. The Anglo-Australian hard rockers had previously been the most successful act never to have had a Top 10 hit single in the UK, having achieved a grand total of 30 chart entries, none of which have ever peaked any higher than #12 (that honor went to 1988 hit “Heatseeker”).

When this song was released, there really was a “Highway to Hell” in America: Route 666. This section of highway ran through Arizona and Utah; it was later renumbered after various ghost stories emerged about unexplained happenings on the road.

AC/DC, who didn’t win their first Grammy Award until 2010 (Best Hard Rock Performance for “War Machine”), played this at the 2015 ceremony. They opened the telecast with “Rock or Bust,” then segued into “Highway.”

This is the song that gets Peter Griffin banished from Amish country on the Season 10 episode of Family Guy titled “Amish Guy.” Looking to introduce the Amish to rock and roll, he produces a boom box and plays the song for their leader, who does not approve.

When AC/DC was accused of backmasking Satanic messages on their Highway To Hell record, Angus Young responded: “You didn’t need to play [the album] backwards, because we never hid [the messages]. We’d call an album Highway To Hell, there it was right in front of them.”

Highway To Hell

Livin’ easy
Lovin’ free
Season ticket on a one way ride
Askin’ nothin’
Leave me be
Takin’ everythin’ in my stride
Don’t need reason
Don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothin’ that I’d rather do
Goin’ down
Party time
My friends are gonna be there too

I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell

No stop signs
Speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel
Gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me around
Hey, Satan
Payin’ my dues
Playin’ in a rockin’ band
Hey, mamma
Look at me
I’m on the way to the promised land

I’m on the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell
Highway to hell

Don’t stop me

I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell

(highway to hell) I’m on the highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell)

And I’m goin’ down
All the way
I’m on the highway to hell

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

9 thoughts on “AC/DC – Highway To Hell”

  1. Middle school. The first album/song that made my mom nervous and ask my dad if it was appropriate, haha! I got into AC/DC because of Maximum Overdrive, believe I it or not – one of my favorite bad movies ever! Great song!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most good rock ‘n’ roll makes mom’s nervous from the Chuck Berry to now. That is when you know you are doing it right lol.

      For me the Beatles made my mom a little nervous… even years after the breakup because of drugs…but then she saw KISS on television…the Beatles were fine after that lol

      Liked by 2 people

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