Released: 2010, Continuum Books
The 33.3 series focuses on the making of certain albums. Started in 2003 they have published about 100 titles (as of time of writing). These pocket sized paperbacks are about the size of CD and are pretty streamlined with not many frills.
The 33.3 (or technically thirty-three and one-third) book series has taken a largely anti-Hard Rock and anti-Metal stance with only two books about Metal (Black Sabbath, Slayer) out of the 100 books published in the series so far, namely 2% of the total. There are also two Hard Rock books, Guns’ Roses and AC/DC. Many people have submitted Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums to be covered but only to be rejected. However, we do have to be thankful that the owners of the series have allowed a couple of Metal albums into the exclusive club of mainstream pop albums they usually focus on.
First published in 2010, HIGHWAY TO HELL is #73 in the series and I could think of not only a hundred more worthy Metal albums but half a dozen more worthy AC/DC albums to get approved for the series.
I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to books but this one just really wasn’t very well done at all. It’s nothing against Bonomo, he is an entertaining, engaging writer but there was very little information about the actual recording of HIGHWAY TO HELL. I’m not surprised, when they were working on the album backing the 70’s things were (obviously) not like today where there are constant, instantaneous on-line, internet, studio diary updates. “Oh look, the singer just left the studio to go eat a sandwich! He’s having ham and cheese!” Back then things were not as meticulously documented and accordingly, there really isn’t that much information about the album. Bonomo does his best but there is an enormous amount of padding of things not related to the album at all. He talks about the death Of Bon Scott, lots of standard trivia and history that has all been recounted countless times before.
The whole book comes across as a giant love letter to the album, which is fine, but it lacks actual interviews with the people involved with making it. He has lots of his own opinions about the album and his personal experiences and lots of stories from other journalists, but very little first-hand source info. However, this is not entirely his fault, he says that AC/DC management ignored his requests for an interview, which must be most frustrating. The information about the shooting the back cover art was probably the best, most revealing information. He also digs up a few old photos of the band and proceeds to over-analyze them.
Bonomo also makes the poor choice of trying to frame HIGHWAY TO HELL as a punk rock album. In fact, he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince the rare that they were a punk band. I’ve come across this before where punk people try to claim rock or Metal albums as their own. This stems from the fact that they can’t admit to liking a Metal album, because of that ages old punk vs. Metal thing that still exists in the minds of some people. AC/DC were never a punk band and never will be, no matter how hard some people like Bonomo wishes they were.
Overall, HIGHWAY TO HELL (the book) was mildly entertaining but overly opinionated lacking substance and detail.