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Love Letter To A Record: Bellwether’s James Graham On AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

James Graham, Bellwether – AC/DC, Highway To Hell, (1979)

From a young age, I was fortunate enough to collect an eclectic range of music influence from numerous members of my family. Whether that was my grandfather blasting Pavarotti so loud the whole street could have joined in, Nan’s old Frank Sinatra or Willie Nelson CD’s, or dancing around the living room with Mum listening to ABBA, Savage Garden or Robbie Williams.

It was 2008, the moment that turned this interest in music of mine into a full-blown obsession. My stepdad was out in the shed cooking dinner on the barbeque (how stereotypical Aussie I know) and he asked me to pick something off his CD racks for us to listen to, something I am forever grateful for.

I would have been about ten or eleven at the time and my attention was immediately drawn to the big red logo on top and the man with devil horns on his head. My curiosity took over and I just needed to hear what this band could possibly sound like; the opening chords of Highway to Hell hooked in me almost instantly and changed the course of this young naïve boy’s life and threw me into the world of hard rock music. It was loud, aggressive and in your face but there was something so comforting and sincere in Bon Scott’s unique vocals, something so special I had never experienced anything that powerful.

My newfound obsession with this album quickly grew as it became the first album I went out and bought with my own money, then came the massive poster on the back of my bedroom door, as well as the numerous badges I put on my primary school pencil case. The acoustic guitar soon became an SG just like Angus Young’s guitar and I would hopelessly be trying to learn how to play ‘If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)’ or ‘Shot Down in Flames’.

I guess if you can sing along with every lyric, including the guitar solos, you’ve probably listened to those songs too much. My personal favourites would be ‘Girls Got Rhythm’ for the groove and ‘Touch Too Much’ in my opinion AC/DC’s most underrated song in their almost unlimited catalogue of music.

Highway to Hell helped me to start shaping my own identity and became a massive part of it, which I still carry with me today. Ever since the first day I heard the album, I knew I wanted to one day be in a band (that was the dream). Back then the only difference was I thought I’d always just be a rhythm guitarist like my idol, Malcolm Young, not the lead singer of one.

Watching plenty of Bon Scott on film inspired me to gain the confidence to pick up the mic and to this day I still watch the old live videos of these songs in awe of his charisma and striking presence on stage, a true performer.

To me, this is the perfect album, a 10/10 example of a rock masterpiece. Possibly the greatest rock album of all time by the greatest rock band that ever lived. Most importantly, it sparked a fire inside of me that I never knew I was capable of. After all these years, Highway to Hell remains a timeless album I enjoy sharing with my neighbours over the speakers.

Bellwether are a Sydney-based pop-punk band who’ve just revealed their frenzied new cut ‘Charade’ – produced by Stevie Knight (Stand Atlantic, Yours Truly).

Lead guitarist and songwriter Heath Joukadar says the song is inspired by the character Knives Chau from the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World movie and comics.

“The song is told from her perspective, and is directed towards the titular Scott Pilgrim as she expresses her feelings towards him, having been dumped for Ramona Flowers,” he says.

Give it a listen below!

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