Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rocktober Album #19: AC/DC - Highway to Hell (1979)

It's Halloween week (and my birthday week), so the albums this week will have a flavor for the dark and macabre. As a result, today's featured album will be AC/DC's 1979 classic, Highway to Hell, which not only features songs about hell and such, but also features guitarist Angus Young on the album cover with devil horns and a tail. (Plus, it's not like I could go two Rocktobers without an AC/DC album.)

Highway to Hell was the band's sixth album, but it was the band's first album to crack the Top 100 of Billboard's album charts, reaching #17. It has since gone 7x platinum. The album was produced by now-legendary producer Mutt Lange. This, of course, was lead singer Bon Scott's last album before his untimely death in February 1980 from "over-consumption of alcohol."

There is not a bad song on the album, and every song rocks. I've always thought Scott's voice has a little bit of a tongue-and-cheek and ribald quality about it -- like he's always up to no good and he knows it, but he doesn't necessarily want you to know it. Of course, Angus Young's guitar work is exceptional, and the rhythm section is tight. All in all, it's a great album that every fan of rock, and certainly every fan of hard rock and metal, should have.

1. Highway to Hell
The title track is a hard rock classic. That opening riff is awesome. The song is about the singer going to party with his friends, perhaps in hell. It was the band's first song to chart in the US, making it to #47, and it has since been named to many "greatest" list, including Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all-time. It's kind of eerie, given that Scott died soon thereafter. Just to be clear, I'm not implying Bon Scott is in hell. In fact, the song is apparently about a particularly dangerous road in Scott's hometown that led to a bar.

2. Girls Got Rhythm
This is another great hard rock song. It's got a catchy riff, and the lyrics discuss a "backseat rhythm," which I assume means some chick shakes her ass a lot when she dances.

3. Walk All Over You
This is another fast-paced, ballsy rocker, although the song slows down for the choruses, where it is declared without a hint of figurativeness "Tonight is gonna be the night / I'm gonna walk all over you." There is also a pretty sweet guitar solo.

4. Touch Too Much
This one's a bit naughty. I think it might be about sex, but you can never tell with rock and roll. I've always liked the line: "She had the face of an angel, smiling like sin / The body of Venus with arms." She has arms! This song was the second and final song off the album to hit the US charts, climbing all the way to #106.

5. Beating Around the Bush
"Beating Around the Bush" has an awesome, ballsy riff that Angus rips into at the beginning of the song, and then an equally wicked bass riff as well. I don't know what else to say about it, except that it's an awesome hard rock song that isn't on

6. Shot Down In Flames
This might be my favorite song on the album. It rocks, it's catchy, and it's either about rejection or being burned to death with a flamethrower. Either way, it's a shame, and Angus has a nice guitar solo.

7. Get It Hot
Yet another solid hard rock song. I assume it's referring to chocolate. This one is also absent from

8. If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
This is another great hard rock song, starting off with a good riff and building up into the first verse. Perhaps it's a coincidence, and perhaps not, that this song was written only about 29 years before True Blood debuted.

9. Love Hungry Man
"Love Hungry Man" is a slightly slower song. I would not classify it as a ballad, but it's about as close to a ballad as AC/DC comes, which means it still rocks. It's a good song, though. Unfortunately, this is also missing on

10. Night Prowler
This one is a nice, slow, creepy song, and the most controversial on the album. According to the band, the song is about a boy sneaking into his girlfriend's bedroom while her parents are asleep. Unfortunately, Richard Ramirez was a big fan of the song. Ramirez, as you may know, is better known as The Night Stalker, a satanic serial killer in California in the early '80s. Allegedly, Ramirez's nickname was somehow derived from "Night Prowler," although that seems like a stretch, since I don't think Ramirez gave himself the nickname. He did, however, wear an AC/DC shirt during at least one murder. As you might expect, the last words of the song are "Shazbot, nanu nanu," which is, of course, a phrase from Mork and Mindy. Sadly, the version of this on is only an excerpt from the song. I included it anyway.

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