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AC/DC – Highway to Hell (1979)

April 11, 2014

[Album 303/1001]220px-Acdc_Highway_to_Hell

Dylan was branded Judas when he went electric.

Can you imagine the backlash if:

– Angus Young had ditched the schoolboy uniform in the early 80s and donned a Flock of Seagulls coif instead?

or

– AC/DC had released an electronica album in the 90s or better yet, got caught up in the swing dance revival of ’98?

There are no words for such a betrayal!

Diversity is demanded of certain groups; with some beloved bands, the last thing loyal fans want to hear is the sound of a group repeating itself.

With an artist like Beck, you never know what the next album will be: a subdued affair like Mutations? Upbeat like Midnite Vultures? Or merely sheet music like Song Reader where fans are left to determine how the songs should sound?

On the other side of the spectrum, you have AC (lightning bolt) DC.

The Aussies are the ultimate What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) band. For the last several decades, the formula has been rock solid:
– 4/4 Time signature, kick drum on beats 1 & 3, Snare on 2 & 4, hi-hat & bass guitar providing steady quarter notes or eighth notes
– Simple, driving riff, guitar solo after a couple verses & choruses. Played on a Gibson SG.
– Growling vocals
– Finish strong, no fade outs!

An oversimplification perhaps but the pattern has been remarkably consistent.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Mutt” Lange’s production complements the band’s straightforward sound perfectly. The title track is the most renowned of the bunch but all ten tracks lend themselves nicely to live performances.

If there are 1001 albums you must hear before you die, AC/DC would undoubtedly be on a much shorter list of bands that must be seen before leaving earth.

They absolutely stole the show at Toronto’s ‘SARS-stock’ back in 2003. There were about 450,000 people in the audience and I was likely 450 feet away from the stage but even from that distance, AC/DC’s energy was absolutely electric.

Until the next tour, the studio albums will have to suffice.  If you like AC/DC, there’s plenty to enjoy on Highway to Hell. If you don’t like AC/DC…well, at least you know what to expect.

I think Angus himself said it best, “I’m sick and tired of people saying that we put out 11 albums that sound exactly the same. In fact, we’ve put out 12 albums that sound exactly the same.”

Here’s to another 12!

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From → 1970s

15 Comments
  1. This is the hubs’ favourite band. Above all. Bar none. I really like them too.

    There is one AC (thunderbolt) DC fade out that I can think of: Back in Black fades out (I know, not the right album…)

    • I had a feeling there was an asterisk to no fade outs* – I’d forgotten the Back in Black one. It’s on the 1001 list of course as well!

  2. ianbalentine permalink

    I thought Ride On faded out, too, but I could be wrong. One of my all time favorite bands, and one of the oldest, too; been with me for over 30 years, now. Recently rediscovered what a great, under appreciated album For Those About To Rock IS.

    • The more I think about it, I’m guessing many songs over the 30+ years may actually fade out.

      I think I pictured the band constantly playing full tilt – from time to time the studio engineer may have turned the record level down a bit early but the band must have played loud & strong to the end!

  3. I wouldn’t mind if he ditched the schoolboy outfit to be honest. Most other things (Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Rob Zombie, Kiss etc. ) I’d prefer if they keep the image… but I think its just the school thing. It feels a bit peado-y to me.

  4. Classic! The type of band I can’t listen to for too long because, like you say, it all gets a bit repetitive after a while, but a great band none the less

  5. Great writeup my man! My wife was at SARS-stock and loved AC/DC.

    Now, this isn’t my favourite AC/DC platter (gimme Dirty Deeds) but you’re right about Mutt’s production. It did suit the album. You wouldn’t expect that in hindsight, but it worked.

    • Mrs. LeBrain: Leafs Fan, SARS-stock attendee, approver of Mullet hairstyle – you’re a lucky man!

      The show was something else – Rush was solid (they had some laundry machines going behind them for some reason?) and the Stones were fine but ACDC was ON.

      It’s strange when the headliner isn’t the strongest act of the night (I had a similar experience that summer seeing Kiss outplay the headliner Aerosmith at Darien Lake).

      • I didn’t say she approved of my current hair…I think she’d prefer that I get to a barber pronto 🙂

        Rush had the laundry machines on the Vapor Trails tour. It was just their idea to be funny. The washers had Rush shirts in them, and the band could throw them to the crowd. On the following tour they had rotisserie chicken machines!

      • Then mullet tolerater I suppose – that’s love!

        I like the shirt give-away idea, that’s a nice touch. Did they give out the chickens?!

      • I believe they were dinner for the crew but perhaps some lucky fans got to eat stage chicken!

  6. Hi! I like your writing a bunch.

    The reason Rush had tumble dryers, rotisseries and an honest-to-goodness sausage machine on stage was a direct response to the popularity of bands having redundant Marshall stacks on stage to boost their image. They are superfluous, so Rush thought “well, we have so much space up here. What could we put there instead?”

    • My thanks!

      Good for them – I like that they didn’t need superfluous amps to boost the band image, rotisserie chicken is the way to go!

  7. Yes, like The Ramones they have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” formula…

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