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Album: Highway To HellReleased: 1979
This six-and-a-half minute blues-influenced song closes out the Highway To Hell
album. It has a very different energy than most AC/DC songs, but the band was very much influenced by the blues, and this track gave Bon Scott a good showcase for his howling delivery. The Rolling Stones recorded a similarly sinister song a decade earlier with "Midnight Rambler
AC/DC picked up an unsavory association with the California serial killer Richard Ramirez after Ramirez talked about how he loved the band and Highway To Hell was his favorite album. The link between Ramirez and this song was mostly a media creation, however. His killing spree took place in 1985, and in 1989 Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders. Around the Los Angeles area, Ramirez would typically sneak into houses at night and rape or murder the occupants. Neighborhoods were on high alert, and the media referred to him as the "Midnight Stalker" or "Night Stalker."
Before he was captured, one of Ramirez' AC/DC hats was discovered and put on the news as evidence. When the stories came out about how much Ramirez loved the band, AC/DC became unfortunately linked to the killer, and it was rumored that the song "Night Prowler" compelled him to kill. The song describes a man sneaking into a woman's house ("As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb, suspended animation as I slip into your room"), and although there is no evidence that the song was a specific influence on Ramirez, there were eerie similarities between the lyric and the crimes. The band was horrified by the association, and explained that the song was about a guy sneaking into his girlfriend's bedroom at night for innocent sex. Malcolm Young said it was "just about creeping around at night on a couple of old girlfriends and doing the business." A disingenuous explanation, since the lyrics are a lot darker: "You don't feel the steel 'til it's hanging out your back."
Ramirez was fascinated with Satan, but AC/DC was not: rumors were that the band name stands for "Anti-Christ Devil's Children," but it was actually something seen on the back of a sewing machine that they thought would make an interesting name. The band was tagged with the controversy, but it certainly didn't hurt - Ramirez was captured three days before AC/DC's tour started in 1985, and ticket sales wildly exceeded expectations and new dates were added.
This was one of the last songs Bon Scott recorded before he died (his last was a cover of an earlier AC/DC song called "Ride On," recorded February 10, 1980 with the French rock band Trust). It also happened to be the last song on his last album, Highway to Hell
. He was a fan of Robin Williams, and ends the song with Williams' famous catch phrase 'Shazbot, Nanu Nanu!' Which is what the character 'Mork' from Mork And Mindy
used to end transmissions to his home planet with.
The Highway To Hell album was produced by Mutt Lange, but the first recordings for the album were made with Eddie Kramer, known for his work with Kiss, producing. The work with Kramer didn't pan out, so at the suggestion of the band's manager Michael Browning, they went with the 30-year-old Lange, who clicked with the band. Lange went on to work with Def Leppard and marry Shania Twain; their union lasted from 1993-2008.