Ten songs and barely 42 minutes in length, Highway to Hell is a masterwork of taut, precise songwriting and no-frills production — a start-to-finish listening experience that more than holds up today, 40 years since its July 27th, 1979, release date. The album changed everything for AC/DC, making them bona fide rock stars in the U.S. and solidifying their abilities as songwriters and musicians. It also changed everything for rock & roll at large, and for the lives of many younger artists to follow in the band and the album's wake.
One of those artists is Halestorm singer-guitarist Lzzy Hale. We talked to her about the first time she heard Highway to Hell, how it has inspired her over the years and why she always keeps coming back to AC/DC.
TALK ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD AC/DC'S HIGHWAY TO HELL, AND HOW YOU DISCOVERED IT.
LZZY HALE I remember hearing the song on the radio as a kid in our family van. It was just after I started really getting into playing music, so my ears were perked and ready to accept all that rock had to give. From there, I ended up getting the album and devoured it.
WHAT DOES HIGHWAY TO HELL MEAN TO YOU?
I loved hearing each member of the band clearly, each with with their own role. That was AC/DC in a nutshell, though. This album is the golden standard example of what a rock band should be. Bon's voice, raw and dripping with attitude. Malcolm, holding it down with one of the most epic tones — which I actually reference whenever my tone on my Marshall gets too out there. Of course, there's Angus who is undeniably the poster child for lead guitar. And the greatest rhythm section of all time, Cliff and Phil. This is where the seed was planted. This is what I wanted — I wanted to be in a rock band.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SONG ON HIGHWAY TO HELL?
"Girls Got Rhythm"
WHAT MADE BON SCOTT SO SPECIAL AS A SINGER AND FRONTMAN?
Bon had so much personality ... and having personality is actually harder than being a technically great singer. With Bon Scott, you could "hear" his facial expressions, his sneer, his smile. And it was something that came naturally for him. There will never be another like him.
HOW, IF AT ALL, DID AC/DC AND THE ALBUM INFLUENCE YOUR CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT AS A MUSICIAN, OR THE WAY YOU THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING MUSIC, OR YOUR ATTITUDE AS AN ARTIST?
AC/DC is a rock & roll standard to me. It doesn't matter how far down the rabbit hole I take my influences — I always come back to AC/DC.
IS HIGHWAY TO HELL SOMETHING YOU REGULARLY TO BACK AND LISTEN TO? OR DOES IT REPRESENT A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME IN YOUR LIFE?
Yes, Highway to Hell is one of those albums that you can go back to no matter how many times you've listened to it and discover something new. It is both past and present.