Highway to Hell

Originally Performed ByAC/DC
Original AlbumHighway to Hell (1979)
Appears On
Music/LyricsScott/A. Young/M. Young
VocalsTrey (lead), Mike and Page (backing)
Phish Debut1989-10-01
Last Played2009-08-16
Current Gap294
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2016-03-07

History

The title track of the most successful album put out by the original lineup of AC/DC was eerily prophetic. Less than a year after the release of “Highway to Hell,” lead singer Bon Scott was found dead in a friend’s car after a long night of excess at an English pub. Sadly, he had indeed cashed in his season ticket on that one-way ride. We can only hope that his friends were in fact there to meet him.

AC/DC, "Highway to Hell"

“Highway to Hell” had been one of the most played songs in the Phish arsenal of cover tunes, at one time bested only by “Loving Cup,” “Fire,” “Funky Bitch,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Good Times Bad Times.” Following over seven years on the bench, the classic rock gem has plummeted down the ranks of the times played list. “Highway to Hell” made its debut as an encore to a show at the Front in Burlington (10/1/89). For the next two years it was played often, usually as an encore or set closer. “Highway to Hell” was shelved for all of 1992, yet returned for a second heyday, which peaked in 1994. In the following years it was played very infrequently, appearing in two shows in 1995 (6/20/95 and 10/21/95), three in 1996 (6/6/96, 10/31/96, and 12/1/96), and only one in 1997 (2/26/97). A frequent juxtaposition of “Highway to Hell” with “Amazing Grace” as a two-song encore (e.g. Binghamton, NY 4/9/94) was a constant reminder that Phish has a great sense of humor.

The Halloween ’96 version, released on LivePhish 15, deftly bridged the gap between the show opening “Sanity” and the “Down with Disease” that followed. Since 1997, the on-ramp to the “Highway to Hell” has remained closed... though certainly not for repairs. An off-speed and disjointed tease of the tune’s opening licks (on 12/2/03 at the 20th anniversary show in Boston) suggested that this seasonal-use-only road may once again be paved with good intentions. This foreshadowing finally came to fruition during Phish's 6/12/09 Bonnaroo set. The entrance to the “Highway to Hell” reappeared at SPAC (8/16/09)... perhaps a veiled reference to Trey's traffic infraction in nearby Whitehall and his resulting visit to purgatory. The highway has however remained closed since.

Phish, “Highway to Hell” – 10/21/95, Lincoln, NE

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