Highway to Hell (song)

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"Highway to Hell"
Highway to Hell by ACDC US single side-A.png
One of side-A labels of the US single
Single by AC/DC
from the album Highway to Hell
B-side"If You Want Blood" (Aus/UK)
"Night Prowler" (US)
Released27 July 1979
RecordedMarch–April 1979
GenreHard rock[1]
Length3:27
LabelAlbert Productions
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Mutt Lange
AC/DC singles chronology
"Rock 'n' Roll Damnation"
(1978)
"Highway to Hell"
(1979)
"Girls Got Rhythm"
(1979)
Music video
"Highway to Hell" on YouTube

"Highway to Hell" is a song by Australian rock band AC/DC. It is the opening track of their 1979 album Highway to Hell. It was initially released as a single in 1979.

The song was written by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott, with Angus Young credited for writing the guitar riff which became an instant classic.[2] AC/DC had made several studio albums before and were constantly promoting them via a grueling tour schedule, referred to by Angus Young as being on a highway to hell, hence the name.

Background[edit]

The song is in the key of A Major.[3] The title and lyrics reflect the arduous nature of touring constantly and life on the road.[2] The highway that inspired the title, Canning Highway, connects the Perth Kwinana freeway to its port Fremantle and was home to many of Bon Scott's favourite pubs and hotels, including the Raffles Hotel.[4][5]

"There were hundreds of riffs going down every day," recalled Malcolm Young. "But this one, we thought, 'That's good.' It just stuck out like a dog's balls."[6]

Cash Box called it a "bone crunching, gut-wrenching exercise in primal guitar rock" with "simple yet effective riffing" and "ballsy vocals."[7]

The single spent 45 weeks on the German Singles Chart, peaked at #30 in its 19th week on the chart.[8] Bon Scott was found dead in the back of a friend's car, just over six months after the song was released.[2]

Production[edit]

"Highway to Hell" was produced by Mutt Lange as part of the album by the same name, and his work is regarded as a significant factor in delivering one of the classic AC/DC albums, the emergence of the double-guitar sound, which was later perfected on Back in Black, and improved backing vocals with Malcolm Young, joined by Cliff Williams for the first time.[2]

Legacy[edit]

"Highway to Hell" won the 'Most Played Australian Work Overseas' category at the 2009 APRA Awards.[9] In 2013, an internet campaign attempted to get it to number one in the UK Christmas singles chart.[10]

In January 2018, as part of Triple M's "Ozzest 100", the 'most Australian' songs of all time, "Highway to Hell" was ranked number 40.[11]

In 2020, The Guardian ranked the song number seven on their list of the 40 greatest AC/DC songs,[12] and in 2021, Kerrang ranked the song number five on their list of the 20 greatest AC/DC songs.[13]

List of accolades[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1979/80) Peak
position
Australian (Kent Music Report)[16] 24
Austrian Singles Chart 52
Belgian Singles Chart 14
Dutch Singles Chart 17
French Singles Chart 23
German Singles Chart 30
Spanish Singles Chart 24
Swedish Singles Chart 36
UK Singles Chart[17] 56
US Billboard 100[18] 47
Chart (1992) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[19] 29
Dutch Singles Chart[20] 69
Swiss Singles Chart[20] 37
US Billboard Mainstream Rock 1
Chart (2012) Peak
position
Scottish Singles Chart 36
UK Singles Chart[17] 40
Billboard Hot Digital Songs 1
Chart (2013) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[10] 4
Irish Singles Chart 23
Scottish Singles Chart 36
Chart (2021) Peak
position
Global 200 (Billboard)[21] 142
Chart (2022) Peak
position
Hungary (Single Top 40)[22] 16

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[23] Platinum 90,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[24] 2× Platinum 100,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[25] Diamond+Gold 330,000double-dagger
Portugal (AFP)[26] 2× Platinum 80,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[27] Gold 1,000,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[28]
sales since 2010
Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[29]
mastertone, sales since 2003
Gold 500,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Live recordings[edit]

"Highway to Hell (live)"
Single by AC/DC
from the album AC/DC Live
B-side"Hells Bells (live)"
Released8 November 1992
Recorded1991
GenreHard rock, blues rock
Length3:53
LabelAtco
Songwriter(s)Bon Scott, Angus Young, Malcolm Young
Producer(s)Bruce Fairbairn
AC/DC singles chronology
"Are You Ready"
(1991)
"Highway to Hell (live)"
(1992)
"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (live)"
(1992)
Music video
"Highway to Hell" (AC/DC Live) on YouTube

"Highway to Hell" has been performed multiple times in live concert. Including:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Troy L. (24 May 2016). "50 greatest album-opening songs". Cleveland.com. Retrieved 31 December 2018. Singer Bon Scott’s crowning achievement with AC/DC is the opening title-track for 'Highway to Hell,' a hard rock anthem that remains one of the band’s greatest songs.
  2. ^ a b c d Wall, Mick (2012). AC/DC: Hell Aint a Bad Place to Be. London: Orion Publishing group. ISBN 9781409115359.
  3. ^ "Highway to Hell". Musicnotes.com. 26 April 2010.
  4. ^ "AC/DC – The Stories Behind The Songs". NME. 28 January 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  5. ^ Harmon, Steph (20 October 2019). "Highway to Hell: 10km of major Perth highway to shut for AC/DC covers concert". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Bon Scott: The Songs". Classic Rock. No. 212. Summer 2015. p. 43.
  7. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 22 September 1979. p. 20. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche - musicline.de". musicline.de.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "2009 Winners". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 12 January 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  10. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com.
  11. ^ "Here Are The Songs That Made Triple M's 'Ozzest 100'". Musicfeeds. 27 January 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  12. ^ Hann, Michael (30 July 2020). "AC/DC – their 40 greatest songs, ranked!". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  13. ^ Law, Sam (3 February 2021). "The 20 greatest AC/DC songs – ranked". Kerrang. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  14. ^ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Highway to Hell The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time]
  15. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 11. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  17. ^ a b "highway to hell | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  18. ^ "AC/DC Highway To Hell Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  19. ^ "AC/DC – {{{song}}}". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  20. ^ a b "AC/DC - Highway To Hell (Live) - hitparade.ch". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  21. ^ "AC DC Chart History (Global 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 9 November 2021.
  22. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  23. ^ "Danish single certifications – AC/DC – Highway to Hell". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  24. ^ "Italian single certifications – AC/DC – Highway to Hell" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Highway to Hell" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  25. ^ "Certificaciones" (in Spanish). Asociación Mexicana de Productores de Fonogramas y Videogramas. Retrieved 12 March 2022. Type AC/DC in the box under the ARTISTA column heading and Highway to Hell in the box under the TÍTULO column heading.
  26. ^ "Portuguese single certifications – AC/DC – Highway to Hell" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa. Retrieved 24 May 2022.
  27. ^ "New Wave Prominent" (PDF). Cash Box. 2 February 1980. p. 39. Retrieved 3 December 2021 – via World Radio History.
  28. ^ "British single certifications – AC/DC – Highway to Hell". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 20 October 2020.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – AC/DC – Highway to Hell". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 20 October 2020.