AC/DC: Highway to hell
14/05/10 || Trauma
Most bands strive for perfection. Granted, a lot of them strive to fulfill their “artistic need” or other selfish endeavors with music, but perfection is always an important part of whatever that may be. Most bands also never get what they are striving for. They could go through writing 10 albums and never quite reach perfection. You know the drill: there’s always one song that just doesn’t cut it, feels like filler, interrupts continuity, sounds too samey, whatever. AC/DC is no different. They strive for making the perfect rock records every time (if they didn’t, it’d be pretty insane to keep making music when they could milk their first five records alone for the rest of their lives). They came close numerous times in their long career, and — to me — only once achieved that ever so elusive perfection. It was 1979, and the album was “Highway to hell”.
10. I could go on all day at how they achieve greatness through such simplicity, and I would so love to, but space and readership is limited I suppose. This album is nothing but memorable: memorable guitars, memorable drums, memorable vocals, memorable lyrics, memorable everything. This album is perfection incarnated when it comes to songwriting let alone everything. Not one songs sounds like the other, and it has the perfect flow. Now that is something that just about never happens in music.
“Highway to hell”: Everybody and their mother knows this track. If they don’t you need beat them severely with a giant pink dildo – with sparkles and sequins. Overplayed to hell, it still doesn’t get old. If you think it gets old, well, I hope you like dildos. It’s not the best song on the record, but you couldn’t as for a better opener with that ominous riff. It sends the blood to your penis and prepares you for a fantastic pants party. Or a serious case of headbanging and air guitar/air drumming. It keeps at a pretty constant tempo and feels more subdued than a couple later tracks… but what I wouldn’t give to be alive and at an age to appreciate this song when it was first unleashed to the public. If I could go back in time, aside from stopping Woodrow Wilson from signing the Federal Reserve Act into law, I would find the first radio station to play this song and I would just let my jaw hit the floor.
“Girl’s got rhythm”: “Highway to hell” has that memorable riff, this song has the memorable bass drum/hi-hat combo. Higher tempo than the previous, and just… how the fuck could you not be moved by this? It is physically impossible to not want move to this music. Catchy as all fuck. The guitars are so simple and beyond compare. The drums as well, but that’s another section in this review. It keeps it up until the last second, which is all you need a straightforward rock and roll song to do. One of my two favorite songs on this album, by far. It’s just so goddamn fun, so perfect, so simple.
“Walk all over you”: I know what you’re thinking. They decided to slow it all down. WRONG, motherfucker! That intro riff is just a taste of what is to come, for they speed it right back up with another tasty riff only to show you that the previously slow riff isn’t quite so slow when you have drums playing behind them. What I like best about this song is actually the solo(s).
“Touch too much”: This songs greatest strength lies in its chorus. It’s where the guitars, bass, drums, and vocals all gel together to get that smoothness best achieved with some Astroglide and a warm, un-sweaty palm.
“Beating around the bush”: For the longest time this was my favorite song on the album. Around the time I began learning guitar AC/DC was my go to band for playing along and getting used to timing. In my first months this song proved a bitch to play. Nowadays its very simple to me, but in its complexity to me back then I thought it was so amazing and I listened to it constantly. I can appreciate it much further nowadays for the fact that like all the songs on this album, it is unique. It’s by this time you notice that very thing: “Hey, I haven’t heard the same fucken song for five songs now!” I also used to have my naughty giggles every time I heard the line “An’ he was down upon his knees, beatin’ around the bush”.
“Shot down in flames”: Here it is. The big cheese. The best song on this album. No subjectivity here, it is absolutely perfect, in my mind exceeding perfection and attaining a higher state of quality. It’s intro riff is fantastic, and also reintroduced throughout the song in the most ingeniously simple way. The drums on this song… you can just feel Phil Rudd bobbing back and forth as he plays through the song, perfectly in time never missing one goddamn beat in the whole song. I also wonder if Angus Young really does dance around when playing the song, because it is damn difficult to imagine him not doing just that. This song is played quite often by me, and if you ever ask me to turn it off I will destroy you.
“Get it hot”: I feel bad for this song. I mean, it comes after “Shot down in flames”. I would feel bad for any song to have to come off the high that song produces. It’s much shorter, as well at 2:35, which helps to make it a song to fly by your ears, but in no way is it below perfection, either. Why is it so great, if it suffers so much? Well, like I said, it comes after the greatest song ever crafted, so one cannot blame its shortcomings on it alone, but on the fact that compared to the greatest song ever, it’s just not as good. It definitely has the Bon Scott factor going for it, and the fact that it yet again is a song that sounds like nothing else on the album.
“If you want blood (you got it)”: The song that is also the name for one of the greatest live albums ever (if not the greatest, but I know I’ll get a bunch of nerdgasm-induced hate-mails for that). Another song, another fantastic collection of riffs. AC/DC patented, and perfected, that approach. Just a great overall song. Not one of my favorites, but it’s on my favorite album ever so that counts as much as anything else.
“Love hungry man”: It’s getting about close to that time now, isn’t it? Yeah, the time of sadness and despair that eats away at your heart until you can muster up the energy to hit the play button again. Luckily there are still two more songs, this being one of them. This song pretty much showcases Cliff Williams. Not that he is playing virtuosic bass lines out of his rectum, but he’s close to the center of attention in the music here. When you take away Bon and Angus, that is.
“Night prowler”: Before this song, “Ride On” was the most different thing AC/DC had ever done. This kind has a similar feel and vibe to it… when you exclude the lyrics. Very dark for Bon to write about, and I like the creepy feel this song gives. It’s a fitting end to the album, too. The rest pumps you up so much throughout, and in the end it lets you back down to a normal feeling with a slower song, one that isn’t going to set you on an air-guitar escapade. I love the “Mork and Mindy” reference, especially “Shazbot” as it brings memory of the game “Starsiege: Tribes”. What fun I had with that game, and I loved when the AI would say things like, “Shazbot”.
That’s about it when I am talking about perfect songwriting. No two songs sound the same, and they are all (almost) equally awesome. Most always in a simple time and arrangement. It’s also the kind of music that makes women and even men take off their shirts. Penis. Touchdown. Global-fucken-Domination. Perfection.
10. “Mutt” Lange is truly a great producer. It would have been nice to hear his touch on AC/DC’s last two albums since they are back on point with their stuff, but I suppose for this time period and material, it just has to do. You hear everything here. The vocals, guitars, bass, and drums. You hear them great. Nothing is muffled, nothing is EQ’d poorly. Lange was the final piece of the puzzle to AC/DC’s lack of perfection. They provided the music – he provided the rest, so to speak. It’s a timeless production. It sounds like the 70s, yes, but it also sounds better than material released pre- and post- “Highway to hell”. I’m almost positive that my CD version is not the 2003-reissue, and I’m glad about that. I may not own the vinyl, but it translated ever so well to the CD format and loses none of the quality, at least to my ears when I hear it through a stereo system. Did I mention it sounds perfect? It does.
10. No ultra-technicality, no showboatsmanship (well, depending on how you view Angus’ dancing and everything, but I don’t see that as showboating). Simple, to the point, great tone, super gain, attitude, pure perfection. Brothers generally make good musical partners, and in this case they are the perfect rhythm and lead guitarists. Angus’ solos aren’t always 100% perfect, and you can hear some tiny mistakes now and then, but that’s part of the music and even then they are still perfect. AC/DC is pure rock and roll, which has its roots in blues. You can’t tell me blues was pitch perfect way back when. It, and this, doesn’t have to be. You can feel his playing, and that’s all you need. Extra points for being able to dance around like he does and playing all the same time. Malcolm is better than I usually give him credit for. You sometimes forget that he’s there, and over time I’ve come to realize that is a great thing. You know he’s playing, you can hear exactly what he’s playing. In this band, at this time, though, it was all about Angus and Bon, so the fact that he melds in and stays melded is all you could ask for.
10. Bon Scott was a tragic figure. He had one of the most unique voices in all of music without being annoying. He had charisma, he had style, he had humor, he fucken had it all when it came to being a frontman. Yes, hard partying, too, causing his downfall, but that has nothing to do with what we talk about here right now. Bon Scott’s voice was in its prime around this time. He knew exactly how to sing on each tune, changing some small intricacies to full effect. He doesn’t have a soothing voice, he’s got one of the best rock and roll voices ever. The loss of him is something I surely wasn’t affected by since I was born 5 years later, but after hearing him with this music and knowing he was dead certainly has a negative effect on my feelings. Brian Johnson never really did it for me, especially in the live setting. Bon was consistent if anything else. Consistently awesome.
10. If you want bass, you got it. The least talked about aspect of AC/DC is the bass (and lots of other bands as well), but it’s there, it’s audible, and it’s just as important to their sound. A lot of times it’s even the drive of a song or two. Cliff doesn’t let himself be shoved in the background on this record at all. Live of course he’s standing still like Malcolm, never putting on much of a show, but this is AC/DC here. No theatrics, no noodling wizardry, just straight-up perfect rock and roll bass guitar.
10. If there’s ever a timekeeper that you would want behind the kit, Phil Rudd is that man. It took AC/DC a couple of drummers to realize what they really lost when they sacked him, but at least they realized it and rectified the situation. And what do you know, when he came back to the fold their albums got better, so much so that they’re almost just as good as in their prime. Coincidence? Not in the slightest. When you sit and listen to the drums, you can just feel the playing, the perfection. His kit is hit perfectly consistent throughout and he most certainly never misses a beat. I’ve sat with headphones and listened very closely to each song and I can’t really find any mistakes at all. He is not flashy at all, and I just love the sound of the kit on this record. Talking trash about this man’s playing is sacrilege and deserves a beating not attainable with a dildo, but 50 chainsaws might do the trick.
10. I personally love all the sexual references present throughout. That is rock and roll and Bon Scott lived exactly what he sang. There was no pussy footing around with the lyrics. Bon was not about to lie about his feelings and experiences. He penned and sang the lyrics with confidence. A lot of simple rhyming schemes, and nothing that really makes you sit and think for hours on end. This is not prog, this is fucken rock and roll. The lyrics embody just that.
10. It evokes pleasure, excitement, multiple feelings of euphoria, it destroys all hope of making a better record, and brings your world crumbling down.
10. It says AC/DC. That is all you need to know that you are about to be graced with audio-greatness and perfection incarnate.
5. There isn’t really much of a booklet of which to speak. With the CD version I have, you open up the two page leaflet, and you see track names, band members, plus that pesky Copyright information. Not like you need lyrics, you can hear everything anyways and it’s not hard to understand. Perfect music doesn’t need no stinking booklet!
Overall and ending rant
There is in truth and reality no score high enough to rate this album correctly or accurately. This is the ABC’s of how to make the greatest musical recording ever in history and beyond. No band will ever come close. There will be more 10s in the world, but like I said, it’s impossible to score this album high enough. Here at Global Domination, however, we realize the problems that can occur by giving out an Infinity score so we cap it at 10. Just remember that nothing can compare to this recording, even if it is also scored a 10.
- Released: 1979
- Label: Atco/Atlantic
- Website: www.acdcrocks.com
- Bon Scott: vocals
- Angus Young: guitars
- Malcolm Young: guitars
- Cliff Williams: bass
- Phil Rudd: drums
- 01. Highway to hell
- 02. Girls got rhythm
- 03. Walk all over you
- 04. Touch too much
- 05. Beating around the bush
- 06. Shot down in flames
- 07. Get it hot
- 08. If you want blood (you got it)
- 09. Love hungry man
- 10. Night prowler