Saturday, July 27, 2019

Living Easy, Living Free

AC/DC : Highway to Hell

On July 27, 1979 AC/DC released Highway to Hell, their first  top 20 album in the United States. In an attempt to break the States, which the band had been touring for nearly two non-stop years, Atlantic Records was ready to spend some money on the Aussie rockers. They flew the band to Miami to record with producer Eddie Kramer, whose credits included Jimi Hendrix, Kiss and Led Zeppelin. But the boys couldn't stand Kramer.

"We thought, we can't work with him," said guitarist Malcolm Young," but the label were going to drop us if we didn't. It was a tricky situation."

The band's manager came up with a plan. He convinced Kramer the band needed a day off and had AC/DC quickly record six songs which were dispatched to the manager's friend, Jeff "Mutt" Lange.  A talented musician and singer, with credits including The Boomtown Rats and Graham Parker, Lange agreed to produce the band in London's Roundhouse Studios. The sessions went all day and night, and lasted three weeks

“Mutt said: ‘Sit here and I’ll tell you what I want you to play’,” recalls Ian Jeffery who witnessed the sessions. “Angus was like, ‘You fucking will, will ya?’. But he sat next to Mutt and Mutt didn’t force it on him, just kind of pointed at the fretboard and, ‘Here, this…’ and ‘Hold that…’ and ‘Now go into that…’ It was the solo from Highway To Hell. It was fantastic! And that really stood them all to attention on Mutt too. He wasn’t asking them to do anything he couldn’t do himself, or getting on their case saying it’s been wrong in the past; nothing like that. He really massaged them into what became that album.”

Bon Scott managed to learn a lot about breath control from Lange, but nothing about self-control. He would drink half a bottle of bourbon, smoke some weed and snort something else before he entered the audio booth. In early 1980 he would be found dead in a car in London, having drunk himself to death.

Years later the band and the album's final track, "Night Prowler", came under the scrutiny of the Moral Majority and bad television shows after L-A serial killer Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez was arrested wearing an AC/DC T-shirt and claimed his crimes were inspired by that song. 

Watch as the correspondent below asks, quite seriously, whether AC/DC stands for "Anti-Christ/ Devil's Child".

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