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AC/DC: The Final Salute – Highway To Hell

Mixing their huge riffs with tunes the devil would sell his soul for, the band set off down the Highway To Hell, and onto the road to global stardom.

In October 2003, AC/DC played a one-off date at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, or to use its correct title, the Hammersmith Odeon. The last time they’d performed here was November 1980. Back then, this writer was in the cheap seats with a bunch of school friends, peering at the band through a heaving sea of hair and denim, nostrils filled with that memorable rock gig aroma – cigarettes, patchouli oil, beer and armpits.

Scroll forward to 2003 and while some things, mercifully, had changed, the euphoria that greeted Highway To Hell had not. What is it about this song that can make even the most reserved men and women (although it’s usually men) start bellowing ‘Hey Satan! Paid my dues…’ like they’re possessed by an evil spirit and speaking in tongues? It’s all down to the song’s timeless power. Since its release in summer 1979, Highway To Hell has been an entry-level song and album for generations of AC/DC fans. It was the first AC/DC album to have those really big tunes and choruses. And, as great as Back In Black is, without Highway there’d be no Hells Bells, no You Shook Me All Night Long.

For all their bravado at the time, AC/DC knew when to compromise. And Highway To Hell was a brilliant compromise. When they pitched up at London’s Roundhouse Studios that year, they were under orders from Atlantic Records to come up with a hit. They’d already tried – and failed – with producer Eddie Kramer in Miami. Kramer questioned Bon Scott’s ability to sing; Scott claimed Kramer “couldn’t produce a healthy fart”.

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