Monday, October 29, 2012

Song of the Day: AC/DC, "Hell's Bells"

Here's a better hurricane song than anything that the Scorpions ever came up with.

It's hard to imagine in 2012, but picture one of the biggest bands in the world also being one of the best. Imagine that band losing their lead singer right at the peak of their success--i.e., Radiohead following up OK Computer without Thom Yorke. That's the position that AC/DC were in months after Highway to Hell's release, when Bon Scott succumbed to "misadventure" (the coroner's words.)

The band found a flat-capped Englishman named Brian Johnson and put him in the unenviable position of replacing the guy who sang "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap." He rose to challenge on the first song on his first album with AC/DC, introducing himself thusly: "I'm rolling thunder, pouring rain/I'm coming on like a hurricane."

Every AC/DC song is famous for sounding just like every other AC/DC song. But this one doesn't. Angus and Malcolm Young almost never play at this subdued a pace, but even at their slowest they have that signature AC/DC explosiveness. I also wonder if bell in the intro (presumably belonging to the Inferno) inspired Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

Brian Johnson left one of the best first impressions in rock history by kicking off Back in Black with "Hells Bells." He also set a bar that Ronnie James Dio, Sammy Hagar, Blaze Bayley, Ripper Owens and Paul Rodgers never lived up to. Or nearly anybody else.

No comments: