When discussing the most popular songs of the classic rock genre, two songs carry more weight than most; AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The two songs are describing the dueling polarity of the supposed afterlife; either walking up to gates of heaven or down to the inferno of hell. Fans of both bands are loyal followers, neither camp willing to surrender to the others proclamation of superiority, but which side is right? Which song kicks more ass?
In 1979 AC/DC released their first worldwide successful album, Highway to Hell. The song was the first track on the album that propelled AC/DC into the global success enjoyed by the band today. Lead vocalist, Bon Scott, died within months following the album’s release. The original vocals for AC/DC choked on his own vomit, passing out after an alcohol induced blackout. The song itself holds historical value in the world of classic rock. From the unmistakable Angus opening guitar riff to the great vocals by then lead vocalist Bon Scott. “Highway to Hell” rocks as a song. AC/DC has consistently produced rock that subconsciously emits a message telling you to turn up the volume. “Highway to Hell” makes you allows me to accept that mistakes are made, but I should still enjoy the ride.
Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” released in ’71 on their fourth untitled album (aka Led Zeppelin IV). The issue with “Stairway to Heaven” vs. “Highway to Hell” is that this is an unfair fight. Stairway is a technically superior song across the board. “Highway to Hell” is a great song to have at a party where there is a keg of Miller High Life, but it is not a symphony of rock perfection. The opening guitar riff by Jimmy Paige is the spark igniting the flame of the bonfire in the finale. Lyrically, Robert Plant is on a different intellectual level than the late Bon Scott. Every part of the rock and roll band is put on display separately then brought together in the end to form “Stairway to Heaven.” In short Stairway is a rock masterpiece.
Those reading this article have surely figured out where I stand personally in regards to the “Highway to Hell” vs. “Stairway to Heaven” debate. For me,”Highway to Hell” is great for the appropriate times and places, but to compare the two songs seems futile. It is not fair to shove AC/DC into the ring for this because they are a middleweight fighting a heavyweight in this particular match. Both kick ass rock bands, but Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” takes the championship belt.