VinyleStory Chapter 1: Highway to Hell by AC/DC


The first Chapter of our weekly article that walks you through the story behind and about your favorite songs over the music industry. Why was that song written and how it was understood by the audience ? This week’s song is « Highway To Hell«  by AC/DC.

The title is often attributed as a phrase AC/DC guitarist Angus Young used to describe touring in America. There is a much more literal explanation, however. « Highway to Hell » 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: « No stop signs… speed limits… nobody’s gonna slow me down. »
Later on Brian Johnson explained to the media that : « 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. »

On the US side 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.

Professionally speaking the whole album was 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. 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 their last with vocalist Bon Scott, who died in 1980 from excessive drinking. Their next album, Back In Black, was dedicated to him.

The most weird story that I’ve found about the song is that a serial killer named Richard Ramirez claimed this album compelled him to murder. He believed AC/DC stood for « Anti Christ/Devil’s Child. » taking the song itself to its extreme limits of misunderstanding.
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.

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