AC/DC – Hells Bells…Happy Halloween!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! Have a safe one.

This is song by the one and only AC/DC called Hells Bells.

AC/DC recorded this a few months after lead singer Bon Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking. The album is a tribute to him, with new singer, Brian Johnson, on vocals.

This is the first track on Back In Black, AC/DC’s biggest album. In tribute to Bon Scott, it starts off with the bell tolling four times before the guitar riff comes in. The bell rings another nine times, gradually fading out. When played live, Brian Johnson would strike the bell.

Back In Black peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada and The UK in 1980.

Brian Johnson on writing the song: “I don’t believe in God or Heaven or Hell. But something happened. We had these little rooms like cells with a bed and a toilet, no TVs. I had this big sheet of paper and I had to write some words. I was going, ‘oh f–k.’ and I’ll never forget, I just went (scribbles frantically as if his hand is possessed). I started writing and never stopped. And that was it, hells Bells. I had a bottle of whisky and I went (generous gulps). I kept the light on all night, man.”

From Songfacts

You don’t honor Bon Scott’s memory with a bell from a sound effects reel, so the band needed a real bell, and a big one. The first attempt to record the bell took place in Leicestershire, England at the Carillon and War Memorial Museum. This proved insufficient, so the band commissioned a one-ton bronze bell from a local foundry that they would also use on stage.

The bell wasn’t ready in time for recording, however, so the manufacturer (John Taylor Bellfounders) arranged for them to record a similar bell at a nearby church. According to engineer Tony Platt, that didn’t go well, as there were birds living in the bell, so when they rang it they also got the fluttering of wings (the birds would retreat back inside the bell after the toll).

They decided to use the bell that was in production, so they borrowed a mobile recording unit owned by Ronnie Laine and wheeled it into the foundry. The bell was hung on a block and tackle and struck by the man who built it.

Because of the harmonics, bells are not easy to record, so Platt placed about 15 microphones with various dynamics in different locations around the foundry to record the sounds. Once it was on tape, Platt brought the recordings to Electric Lady Studios in New York, where he and producer Mutt Lange chose the right combination of bell sounds, put a mix together, and slowed it down to half speed so the one-ton bell would sound like a more ominous two-ton bell. This was integrated into the mix, and the song was completed. Listeners with very sharp ears will notice that the bell when chimed live is an octave higher than than it is on the recording.

This was one of the first songs regularly played as entrance music for a Major League Baseball relief pitcher. In the ’90s, the bells signaled the entrance of San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman. This bit of home team intimidation was copied throughout the league, most famously by the New York Yankees, who appropriated Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as Mariano Rivera’s entrance music.

The concept of relief pitcher entrance music was introduced in the 1989 movie Major League, where Charlie Sheen’s character comes in to “Wild Thing” by The Troggs. A few years later, The Philadelphia Phillies played that song when their pitcher Mitch Williams would come in from the bullpen.

There is an all-female AC/DC tribute band in Seattle called Hell’s Belles.

The term “Hell’s Bells” is an exclamation of surprise, although in the context of this song, it is used to conjure up images of the underworld and the feeling of raising hell – something Bon Scott was known for.

The album was produced by John “Mutt” Lange, who also helmed the previous AC/DC album, Highway to Hell. Lange went on quite a run after Back In Black, producing the Foreigner album 4 (1981) and the Def Leppard albums High ‘N’ Dry (1981) and Pyromania (1983).

At University of North Carolina football games, this song is played at the start of the fourth quarter. 

Johnson told Q magazine how this song played a part in rescuing imprisoned Black Hawk Down pilot Michael Durant following the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. He recalled: “That was the best one. He was shoved in prison, his back was broken. They were kicking him, shooting bullets into him and he was terrified. His pals knew that AC/DC was his favorite band so they hooked up a speaker to the skid of one of the Black Hawks and they were playing ‘Hells Bells’ over the rooftops. He took his shirt off and- cos his legs were broken- he crawled up to the windows and waved his shirt. That’s how they got him out. Ain’t that amazing!”

Since this song specifically is a tribute to the late Bon Scott, it’s probably a good idea to mention that a statue of him was unveiled in 2008 in Fremantle, Western Australia. Here’s a little video tour of the statue.

At the same time, as soon as the first lyric is heard, it is unmistakable that the band could not have found a better replacement than Brian Johnson. Johnson puts a manic rage into every syllable and an unearthly howl on the chorus, making a song with scarily sacrilegious lyrics even scarier. By the way, that hat he wears onstage was his brother’s idea, to help Brian Johnson keep the sweat out of his eyes. His brother loaned it to him and never got it back.

Four years after this song, Metallica released “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” which also opens with a bell. Theirs came from a sound effects library.

Hells Bells

I’m a rolling thunder, a pouring rain
I’m comin’ on like a hurricane
My lightning’s flashing across the sky
You’re only young but you’re gonna die

I won’t take no prisoners, won’t spare no lives
Nobody’s putting up a fight
I got my bell, I’m gonna take you to hell
I’m gonna get you, Satan get you

Hell’s bells
Yeah, hell’s bells
You got me ringing hell’s bells
My temperature’s high, hell’s bells

I’ll give you black sensations up and down your spine
If you’re into evil you’re a friend of mine
See my white light flashing as I split the night
Cause if good’s on the left,
Then I’m stickin’ to the right

I won’t take no prisoners, won’t spare no lives
Nobody’s puttin’ up a fight
I got my bell, I’m gonna take you to hell
I’m gonna get you, Satan get you

Hell’s bells
Yeah, hell’s bells
You got me ringing hell’s bells
My temperature’s high, hell’s bells

Yeow

Hell’s bells, Satan’s comin’ to you
Hell’s bells, he’s ringing them now
Hell’s bells, the temperature’s high
Hell’s bells, across the sky
Hell’s bells, they’re takin’ you down
Hell’s bells, they’re draggin’ you around
Hell’s bells, gonna split the night
Hell’s bells, there’s no way to fight, yeah

Ow, ow, ow, ow

Hell’s bells

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

26 thoughts on “AC/DC – Hells Bells…Happy Halloween!!!”

  1. a fitting song for the day. Hadn’t thought of it,but I guess this is the album where Mutt Lange really became a “star’…and there aren’t that many star producers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I hear this I think of Trevor Hoffman… thought it odd this morning- in the car the 70’s on 7 SiriusXM station- they played Ride Captain Ride- which I remember them playing for Pops Stargell at Three Rivers back in the 70’s- after that came- We Are Family? Coincidence or a programmer who is a Pirates fan?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The fueling of the trucks scene in Maximum Overdrive. Granted, it’s a terrible movie, but it’s still fun, and the “Hells Bells” scene plays out like a music video. Not a bad directing job by Stephen King. (Not a good one either, haha) Great song. So catchy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea I remember watching it in the 80s…at that time it fit in with some of the other 80s movies so I enjoyed it…but no not the best movie lol. The music was great.
      I still like the truck with the clown face.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Man I swear to god Johnson had his balls in vice or something. Man what a performance and as I said in my Back In Black review I learned the birds and bees on this album at the age of 13 back in 1980!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s