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Hell's Bells by AC/DC

Album: Back In BlackReleased: 1980
  • AC/DC recorded this a few months after lead singer Bon Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking. The album is a tribute to him, and features his replacement, Brian Johnson, on vocals.
  • This is the first track on Back In Black, AC/DC's biggest album. In tribute to Bon Scott, it starts off with the bell tolling four times before the guitar riff comes in. The bell rings another nine times, gradually fading out.
  • You don't honor Bon Scott's memory with a bell from a sound effects reel, so the band needed a real bell, and a big one. The first attempt to record the bell took place in Leicestershire, England at the Carillon and War Memorial Museum. This proved insufficient, so the band commissioned a one-ton bronze bell from a local foundry that they would also use on stage.

    The bell wasn't ready in time for recording, however, so the manufacturer (John Taylor Bellfounders) arranged for them to record a similar bell at a nearby church. According to engineer Tony Platt, that didn't go well, as there were birds living in the bell, so when they rang it they also got the fluttering of wings (the birds would retreat back inside the bell after the toll).

    They decided to use the bell that was in production, so they borrowed a mobile recording unit owned by Ronnie Laine and wheeled it into the foundry. The bell was hung on a block and tackle and struck by the man who built it.

    Because of the harmonics, bells are not easy to record, so Platt placed about 15 microphones with various dynamics in different locations around the foundry to record the sounds. Once it was on tape, Platt brought the recordings to Electric Lady studios in New York, where he and producer Mutt Lange chose the right combination of bell sounds, put a mix together, and slowed it down to half speed so the one-ton bell would sound like a more ominous two-ton bell. This was integrated into the mix, and the song was completed. Listeners with very sharp ears will notice that the bell when chimed live is an octave higher than than it is on the recording.
  • This was one of the first songs regularly played as entrance music for a Major League Baseball relief pitcher. In the '90s, the bells signaled the entrance of San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman. This bit of home team intimidation was copied throughout the league, most famously by the New York Yankees, who appropriated Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as Mariano Rivera's entrance music. The concept of relief pitcher entrance music was introduced in the 1989 movie Major League, where Charlie Sheen's character comes in to "Wild Thing" by The Troggs. A few years later, The Philadelphia Phillies played the song when their pitcher Mitch Williams would come in from the bullpen.
  • There is an all-female AC/DC tribute band in Seattle called Hell's Belles.
  • The term "Hell's Bells" is an exclamation of surprise, although in the context of this song, it is used to conjure up images of the underworld and the feeling of raising hell - something Bon Scott was known for.
  • The album was produced by John "Mutt" Lange, who also helmed the previous AC/DC album, Highway to Hell. Lange went on quite a run after Back In Black, producing the Foreigner album 4 (1981) and the Def Leppard albums High 'N' Dry (1981) and Pyromania (1983).
  • At University of North Carolina football games, this song is played at the start of the fourth quarter. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chris - Wilmington, NC
  • AC/DC recorded most of Back In Black in the Bahamas at Chris Blackwell's Compass Point Studios (they took the studio time on short notice when another act gave it up). Brian Johnson explained to Q magazine November 2008 that penning the lyrics to this song was a supernatural and scary experience. The singer explained: "I don't believe in God or Heaven or Hell. But something happened. We had these little rooms like cells with a bed and a toilet, no TVs. I had this big sheet of paper and I had to write some words. I was going, 'oh f--k.' and I'll never forget, I just went (scribbles frantically as if his hand is possessed). I started writing and never stopped. And that was it, hells Bells. I had a bottle of whisky and I went (generous gulps). I kept the light on all night, man."
  • Johnson told Q magazine how this song played a part in rescuing imprisoned Black Hawk Down pilot Michael Durant following the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993. He recalled: "That was the best one. He was shoved in prison, his back was broken. They were kicking him, shooting bullets into him and he was terrified. His pals knew that AC/DC was his favorite band so they hooked up a speaker to the skid of one of the Black Hawks and they were playing 'Hells Bells' over the rooftops. He took his shirt off and- cos his legs were broken- he crawled up to the windows and waved his shirt. That's how they got him out. Ain't that amazing!"
  • Since this song specifically is a tribute to the late Bon Scott, it's probably a good idea to mention that a statue to Bon Scott was unveiled in 2008 in Fremantle, Western Australia. Here's a little video tour of the statue.

    At the same time, as soon as the first lyric is heard, it is unmistakable that the band could not have found a better replacement than Brian Johnson. Johnson puts a manic rage into every syllable and an unearthly howl on the chorus, making a song with scarily sacrilegious lyrics even scarier. By the way, that hat he wears onstage was his brother's idea, to help Brian Johnson keep the sweat out of his eyes. His brother loaned it to him and never got it back.
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Comments: 65

Tim of Hicksville for goodness sakes Grow Up. You used to like the song now you don't in case there's a satanic message that you hadn't worked out for yourself. Rock music has always been linked to that genre as part of the marketing product and not because anyone is really into devil worship. Angus' tail and horns are nothing more than children do when trick or treating.Jimmy - Belfast, United Kingdom
This reminds me of my friend who threw out his Zeppelin albums because of that rediculous "Santanic backwards messaging" theory in Stairway to Heaven. He's so gullible. I think in this song when he says, "If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine," he's singing from the perspective of Satan, not from the perspective of Brian Johnson. Look at the other lyrics, "I'm a rolling thunder, pouring rain/I'm coming on like a hurricane./My lightining's flashing across the sky/you're only young, but you're gonna die./I' won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives/nobody's putting up a fight./I've got my bell, I'm gonna take you to Hell./I'm gonna get you, Satan will get you!" "Satan will get you" is Satan talking from the third person. Basically saying death waits for no one. It could be reflecting on Bon's passing, or it could be written to piss off the religeous types. If it IS worshipping Satan, that's not going to stop me from listeing to it because I know I love my God the Father, and I'm too smart to get brainwashed. Anyway, do whatever you want to do, just be smart.Zero - Nowhere, Nj
Anyone have noticed,or in this case hear 13 tolling bells in the beginning of song? Isn't 13 a number the Freemasons use?Jorge - Bronx, Ny
HA!! They play this before our football games! It's sooo cool to watch everybody in the stadium dance to this!!Megan - Stevenson, Al
Although I can see from the previous comments that the 1st lyrics of the song are inspired by a tropical storm and maybe Bob Scott's death, the 2nd set of lyrics seem to be a glorification of evil. I know that after the album cover depicting one of the band members with satanic horns and tail that critics attacked the band as satanic, but I have yet to hear any of the band say they wrote the lyrics to Hells Bells as a dig at their detractors. So my guess is that at least the second set of lyrics shows an affinity for satan and evil. While that's the case, even though I used to like the song, it will not be a part of my music list, and hasn't been for a long time just for that reason.Tim - Hicksville, Ny
Bon Scott is still in hell, and it ain't such a good place to be. Poor guy. Get saved, because you don't know how long you've got.Eric - Camas, Wa
Hell's Bells is my favorite and the ultimate AC/DC song because Brian is clearly enraged and angry at Bon for taking his own life by Demon Alcohol in the back seat of a car. On the other hand, this brilliant Fair Dinkum Aussie blues is brilliant courtesy of a brilliant Gibson break by Angus Young. Hell's Bells then is triumphant because it shows that Australia has that perfect rock & roll bad attitude. If you want to know why rock & roll will forever be alive, look down under.Leo - Westminster 1, Md
Hell's bells is actually about Australian rules football (AFL). In Australia when a player scores it is sometimes called a "bell" - Melbourne FC is also known as the "demons" and their logo is a devil. This the hells bells, AC DC were football fans.Jim - Toronto, On
The Hell's Bell was cast at the worlds largest Bell Foundary in Loughborough England where some of the worlds most famous bells were castAndrew - Kilcoy, Australia
If you can find the VH1 episode where they do where are they now, AC/DC is featured in it and Brian Johnson is too cool. When He wrote Hells Bells, he said they were in the Bahamas writing songs for the Back in Black album and he wrote this while a hurrican warning was being issued for the Bahamas. It was storming and all hence the opening line I'm rolling thunder and pouring rain, I'm coming on like a hurricane... really a cool interview.William - Carlsbad, Nm
Not much of a AC/DC fan but this song kicks assJesse - San Antoino, Tx
I started listening to ACDC when I was in about the 5th grade. My parents used to be kinda strict on me, and told me not to listen to this song. I had only heard the very first part, with the bells, and that's it. Finially, I decided to listen to it. I imediately fell in love with it. It's my all-time favorite ACDC song. I'm now a freshman, and they aren't as strict on me, thank God. Because I love this song.Tyler - Ashland, Ky
Been a Hard Rock fan from the beginning, and a lead guitar enthusist, but this is the song that turned me on to AC/DC. I had a rock & roll prejudice. I preferred that lead guitarist wear long pants. But I hung out in a bar in the early 90's that had Hell's Bells in the jukebox, and the bar's owner (whom I disliked) told me how much he hated the song because of the bells ringing in the intro. Naturally, I'd immediately play Hell's Bells the moment I walked into the bar, and a few more times during the evening. I grew to love the song, started listening to AC/DC, and never turned back. GREAT guitar group.Lester - New York City, Ny
A pretty spooky song. Great tribute to Bon Scott.Austin - Bristow, Va
Buddy: Compared to how many successful American bands there are to successful Australian bands, I think it would be pretty fair if us Aussies boasted a bit about one of our bands being one of the best in the world. Nobody is saying Australia is better than America, or vice versa,so chill out mate, it's just music, not the United Nations.Nady - Adelaide, Australia
This song is so bad ass. Great for those who have a knack for rage.Austin - Bristow, Va
I seen a TV show about AC/DC on recording Back in Black. Where Angus and Malcom told Brian if he wanted to stay with the band after doing The Back in Black Album and Tour he had to write a song. They had the music but no words. There was a tropical storm that is referred to as him taking over the vocals of AC/DC and becoming a rock legend. Over confident? I think not. AC/DC will live on forever, cause of 2 albums Highway to Hell and Back in Black. Old to New!James - Ardmore, Ok
Hell's Bells was actually my first curse word.
This was on a CD called Who Made Who and was featured in the Emilio Estevez (Sheen) movie called Maximum Overdrive.
Joel - Columbia, Md
AC/DC=ultimate god-ness. I'm sick of people from the U.S. and Australia arguing who's better than who on AC/DC songs. Australians; don't immediately say you're better than us because I'll rip you a new one. Americans; don't say you're better than Australians because if you do you're too stupid to call yourself an "American." Just enjoy the music. AC/DC from Australia and they are ultimate gods at rock. Same thing with Guns N' Roses and Black Sabbath. Their good musicians and from Britain. There are great rockers everywhere so don't say that America or Australia is better than all. But, unfortunately, mostly America. My country is very ignorant.Buddy - Sb, Nj
Love this song!!!! It is played on my favorite show Supernatural!!!Sarah - La, Ca
guess what, acca dacca is aussie so screw you

screw you im an anteater
Jesse - Melbourne, Australia
Love this song the intro is just so COOOOOOL the bells just make it so realistic!!Natascha - Johanesburg, South Africa
We love this song, The Morton Thunder baseball team plays this song when Jonathan Marks comes in at the end of the game to shut the door and get the save!Brad - Morton, Il
THE best concert opening I have ever seen, bar none.B-man - Detroit, Mi
We absolutely love hearing this song while watching baseball games ast Petco Park in San Diego, because it signals the beginning of "Trevor Time" in which future Hall of Fame pitcher Trevor Hoffman comes in to protect the lead and close out the game for the Padres!Michael - San Diego, Ca
Bon Scott wrote most all the lyrics for the Back in Black album but never got the credit.Mike - Kinston, Nc
I love this song and all the songs of Back In Black and I love AC/DC!!Andrew - Bartlett, Tn
The bell at the start of Back in Black was the best sound they could've used for their respectful tribute. Then it gets into that main riff where you can just tell the thunder from the hurricane is coming for you...right at you, in ya face...
Funny, they wanted this bell right, so they went to the guy's that made the church bells, they were a bit skeptical because they wanted the word 'Hell' on a Church bell haha.
And can we all get over this Satanist business...and Max, well said...
Anyways, great song!
Selina - Perth, Australia
I have the back in black 45Dylan - Branson, Mo
Fact - The bell in the song was one that was produced and recorded in a bell factory. And it was actually rung by the worker how help construct the bell. They attempted to record bells from various churches thru out England, put one of the biggest problems that came about was the background noises from the birds in the bell tower and other background noise. In fact there is even a picture of the worker ringing the bell in the factory. (All of this info I provided was per ACDC documentary regarding the Back in Black Album on VH1) P.S... it was Mutt Lange he mentioned something about the storm to Brian Johnson in a manner that made him use those opening lines.Anthony - Paramus, Nj
The Idea for the Bell came from Malcom Young. He talks about this in the DVD "Making of Back in Black." Says Malcom "I was back there in the toliet taking a Piss and i thought 'hang on, why don't we get a big F#$%ing bell.'"Michael - Goshen, In
Just wanted to add something to Max's comment about the hurricane: I remember Angus doing an interview where he also spoke of the winds being so strong it was making the bells ring at a church on the island and the band could hear the ringing through the violent storm... hence the name "Hells Bells". Awesome song by an awesome group!! RayzorRaymond - Winnipeg, Canada
Ac/DC is a lot of things but as far as I know they are not devil worshipers. A lot of bands write those kind of lyrics for shock value (just look at Alice Cooper). Not one of my fave songs but then I don't really listen to Ac/Dc all that much anymore.Joel - Columbia, Sc
I love this song! It's soo cool. It sounds like a song from hell, but Max says what is trueLiz - Richland Center, Wi
Andrew, Dublin, Ireland - dont get worked up. This song was written about a hurricane that hit an island where the band was staying. It was very unexpected, so they wrote a song about it. In fact, none of AC/DC's songs have anything to do with Hell. Highway to Hell is about their first American tour, Hell Aint A Bad Place to Be is about an ugly groupie, etc. Like many heavy metal bands, AC/DC referred to hell just to watch people dedicate their lives to calling them satanists. The best part is, it worked.Max - Brooklyn, Ny
When I become a pro "wrassler" I am going to come out to this song.Mel - Lubbock, Tx
hells bells is an amizing song both in concerts and just listening to anytime, i have learned to play this song on my guitar and have perfected itZack - Glendale, Az
Perfect intro to Back in Black IMO. I could totally see this song blaring from helicopter speakers in Nam.Travis - Waterloo, Ny
Bon was the far better entertainer, but Brian is a better Heavy Metal singer, Bons buried in Freo,35 minutes from my home!Dylan - Perth, Australia
The ominous ringing of the church bells to the slow dragging riff at the start the song winds out to be a full on blast. A shout it out loud party anthem."Hells Bells" is not as good as "Highway to Hell" but it still sounds much harder. With the combination of heavy riffing and screechy, powerhouse vocals "Hells Bells" turns out to be another classic for the AC/DC cannon.Ac/dc_misfit - Millmerran, Australia
haha AC/DC found got there name from there sister finding it on a sewing machine (if you dont believe buy the BONFIRE SET), And there is no bisexual terms too it According to Wikipedia (free website encylopedia)
And my opnion is that Hells bells is the song dedicated to bon for his death, and back in black is the song for the new member brian.
Chase - Sedona, Az
the first lines rollin thunder, pourin rain, are from when the band was sitting around thinking up lyrics, with th weather as inspiration. I got this ACDC cd/dvd thing, and it has a interview about the major songs on it.Evan - Porter, In
Good song. I bet Hells Bells partially inspired Metallica to write For Whom The Bell tolls, another great song that starts with a ringing bell. The other half of Metallica's inspiration was Ernest Hemigway's novel For Whom The Belll Tolls.Billy - Boston, Ma
Pure evil, an insparation to the fiery imps of hell.....nice lyrics too.Galina - New London, Ct
are you sure it was from the vacuum cleaner? i heard it was a sewing machineRyan - Ray, Mi
Angus and Malcom Young saw the name on their sister's vacuum cleaner when they were younger and named the band after that./.. Their sister also let them know it was another name for BisexualityLuke - Manchester, England
The New York Football Giants play this right before opening kickoff at home games.Andrew - New City, Ny
there are many references to bon scott. "your'e only young, but your'e gonna die", "hells bells, theyr'e callin for you."
these could all be references to bon scott as back in black is a tribute album.
Zain - Richmond, Canada
in answer to Joey, it doesn't stand for that, Angus and Malcolm's sister saw it on the family vacuum cleaner and suggested it. They thought it was cool and stuck with it.Josh - Las Vegas, Nv
by the way joey richmond ac/dc is battery currentsNathan - Ohsweken, Canada
who was that that said acdshe they probly listen to barney and friends. This is a relly good song with a good intro with lots of distortion just the way i like it.Nathan - Ohsweken, Canada
not bothered looking at the other songs by them, but is it factual that AC/DC means Anti-Christ/Devil's Children?Joey - Richmond, Va
the bell rings 13 timesNn - Nbn, Greenland
Actually, the line is "If GOOD's on the left, then I'm stickin' to the right!"Steven - Congers, Ny
its a good song defenetly AC/DC soundAdriana - Monterrey, Mexico
Wicked song that intros a great record. Back in Black forever.Shana - Pembroke, Canada
This song is obviously about hell and how they say it's a good place to be. It's an anti-Christ song. One of the lines in it is "If God's on the left, then I'm stickin' to the right!". Well, there you have it.Andrew - Dublin, Ireland
oh, and Tom... AC/DC wasn't really known for their use of symbolism...Nick - San Francisco, Ca
Hell's Belles? I prefer AC/DShe.Nick - San Francisco, Ca
The Bell in the beginning of this song reminds me of Big Ben, the big bell on which the hours are still struck on the clock at the tiptop of Saint Stephen's Clock Tower in London, England.Annabelle - Eugene, Or
Anyone else noticed the symbolism of the bells in this song? As it's the first song of the album, and the bells open the song, it suggests that the band are in church, at Bon Scott's funeral. That's what I think anyway.Tom - Trowbridge, England
actually, the bell in the beginning is the actual bell they use in their live showsAlex - Sacramento, Ca
The churchbells heard in beginning of the song are actual church bells from an abbey in England.Kim - New Orleans, La
this group is amazing.this is just one of their great songs . AC DC IS THE BEST!!!!Joe - Oshawa, Canada
Let there be rock ,and rock n roll damnation another 2 great songs from Akka DakkaPete - Nowra, Australia
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