If ever there were a scientific experiment into the quality of musicians (qOm) multiplied by the rockingness of the song (Rxo/S) equaling = greater than // or less than \\ the sum of the parts, then Tom Morello TmRATM(ft Bss +EV) x Highway To Hell \m/HtH\m/ would be an interesting case study.
You know the song. Of course you do. You’re reading SteveForTheDeaf (SftD2). You probably know it was the title track from the last AC/DC (erm… AC/DC) album to feature their OG rocker roller (right out of controller) Bon Scott (BnSc) on vocals before he died from being too rock & roll. Highway to Hell was of course followed by Back in Black. With a new singer. The Geordie growler Brain Johnson.
You also probably know all three of the names above the line here (again because you’re an SFTD type) and even though one of them is about as famous a name there is possible to be on planet Earth, he’s still not as famous as the song itself.
Highway To Hell has legs. Ridiculous long Salvador Dali Spider Legs. It stand over it’s genre the same way Livin’ On A Prayer and Sweet Child O’ Mine do. Highway To Hell doens’t belong to AC/DC anymore. Nor to heavy rock, metal, alternative culture or even the Marvel Universe. It’s one of the handful of songs that signifies Electric Guitars. Three year olds know Highway To Hell. So do pensioners. And they all do that stupid air guitar thing when they hear it. I say bless them for it.
So Tom doesn’t approach the track in an attempt to get his trio of marquee names reaching for a brass ring. He takes one of the most iconic pieces of riffery of all time (A topic he knows a fair bit about himself) and plays it down. Like he can’t be bothered. Just a tinny little noodle. A tin of noodles. To be honest he plays it like a kid with his first guitar. If you look at it that way, it’s kinda sweet.
Bruce Springsteen isn’t making a massive effort either. He’s phoning it in. Literally the vocals were recorded on a phone. He’s Bruce so it sounds great (because he’s Bruce) he’s got reverb over his voice, he’s singing along to a programmed drum track, Tom is barely registering the guitar as anything other than percussion. You only really notice anything like a flesh out of the sound on the chorus. Bruce’s voice is strong and confident and (most importantly) recognizably Bruce. He has heard this song a thousand times. You know he knew the words.
We’re this far in I haven’t even mentioned Eddie Vedder. He tips up for the second verse. “No stop signs, speed limits”. You all know the words. Of course he does too. He’s one of us. Eddie(TempleOFTheDogPearlJamMerkinBallMTVUnpluggedRockinInTheFreeWorldCitizenDickIntoTheWildCouldaBeenInTheDoorsGoodBuddiesWithChrisFromAudioslaveBeforeHeWasChrisFromAudioslave)Vedder. He makes some particular vowels bend in a way that assures you it’s Eddie Vedder.
Tinny tiny drums and bass notes fill out the backing while Tom lays down a pyrotechnic solo. It’s pretty impressive. Or it would be if it weren’t rattling around the cavernous architecture of Highway To Hell. Both megastar voices are singing now. That refrain, to fuzzed up fade.
The power of Highway To Hell is so great it makes mincemeat of the combined 132 million albums sold by Pearl Jam, Bruce and Tom’s other bands combined. But that’s kind of the point. They did this for fun not for the Thunder… Thun Dah!