AC/DC released Highway to Hell 40 years ago tomorrow (July 27), and it remains one of the most beloved albums in AC/DC’s catalog and in rock history.
The album marked a big change in the band’s recording with it being the first album not produced by Harry Vanda and George Young, the older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young. Eddie Kramer, who had worked with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and KISS, was brought in by Atlantic Records to produce AC/DC’s sixth studio LP, but Kramer and the band didn’t mesh well.
Enter Robert “Mutt” Lange.
Lange was able to work with the band and help produce a more polished sound without losing AC/DC’s trademark edge. That translated to big success for Highway to Hell, which has gone on to be certified 7x Platinum in the United States. Add on top of the commercial success that this album was the band’s last with singer Bon Scott, and it’s understandable why Highway to Hell is held in such high regard.
Like many classic albums, there’s really not a weak track on the album, but what’s a major album anniversary without taking on an incredibly difficult task?! In honor of its 40th anniversary, here are all ten songs on Highway to Hell ranked.
10. “Get It Hot”
Unfortunately, something had to come in at number ten. While “Get It Hot” is a fun song about partying and getting some, there are better songs about partying and getting some on the album. However, “Nobody’s playing Manilow/Nobody’s playing soul/And no one’s playing hard to get/Just a good old rock ‘n’ roll” are undeniably cool lyrics.
9. “Beating Around the Bush”
AC/DC never met a double entendre they didn’t like, and somehow, “Beating Around the Bush” is one of their more subtle uses of the phrasing device. Also, the opening riff that provides the song’s hook is a frenetic delight.
8. “Girls Got Rhythm”
The second single off of Highway to Hell, “Girls Got Rhythm” features yet another hooky riff coupled with the lusty lyrics of Scott. It’s undeniably catchy and was likely picked as a single for not being too risque, but often the dirtier AC/DC gets, the better the song, like in the next track on our list.
7. “Walk All Over You”
Ebbing and flowing from verse to chorus, “Walk All Over You” features simple, but effective, background vocals in the chorus and leaves very little to the imagination, which is just how most AC/DC fans like their lyrics.
6. “Night Prowler”
Whether you’ve successfully snuck into someone’s bedroom past curfew or only dreamed of that happening in your youth, “Night Prowler” is the perfect soundtrack for that moment. The song closes out ‘Highway to Hell’ and ends with Scott quoting the ABC sitcom ‘Mork & Mindy’ catchphrase, “Shazbot, Nanu nanu.” The moment has taken an odd poignant turn especially since the death of Robin Williams, who played the titular Mork.
5. “Love Hungry Man”
The slower tempo of “Love Hungry Man” adds to its seduction and is about as close to crooning Scott ever got. Angus Young’s solo drips with bluesy swagger and really put this underrated track over the top.
4. “Shot Down In Flames”
As far as songs about trying to pick up a woman at a bar only to get turned down go, “Shot Down In Flames” might just be the coolest, most unapologetically badass one of all time. Sure, Scott didn’t get the girl, but he still seems to be having a blast in the process. “Ain’t it a shame” this track was never released as a single! Its big chorus is super radio-friendly.
3. “Touch Too Much”
Remember how often the dirtier AC/DC gets, the better the song? “Touch Too Much” might be one of the prime examples of that train of thought, especially when the first verse contains the lyrics, “I was so satisfied/Deep down inside/Like a hand in a velvet glove.” A fan-favorite, “Touch Too Much” famously was never performed live until 2016 thanks to Axl Rose. Rose filled in on vocals on AC/DC’s last tour after Brian Johnson was forced to exit due to hearing issues. Rose, a big AC/DC fan himself, helped introduce some deeper cuts to the setlist, and “Touch Too Much” might just be his finest achievement on that front.
2. “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)”
AC/DC is all about lust, but they were as visceral as any punk band of the day, and “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” is the proof. The track is famously used in the 1995 film Empire Records that served as equal parts anger release and record store employee jam session. If you’re looking for the perfect song to blare with the windows down after a rough day at work, you’ve got the song you’re looking for right here.
1. “Highway to Hell”
Sure, it might seem like an obvious choice, but it really is the right choice to top this list. As soon as those first three gritty notes rattle off in the intro, it’s nearly impossible to turn away from this song and, by extension, the entire album. An ode to the rigors of tour life, “Highway to Hell” was practically a classic out the gate with its undeniable riffs, sing-song chorus and overall tough-as-nails attitude. As far as rock anthems go, it is the promised land.