Tom Morello reveals how he got Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder to sing on his Highway To Hell cover

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello
(Image credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Tom Morello’s new solo album The Atlas Underground Fire takes the electric guitar to some typically audacious places. 

It is a movable feast, welcoming a diverse array of guests, such as Bring Me The Horizon, Damian Marley, Sama' Abdulhadi, and electronic artists such as Knife Party. We would expect nothing less. 

But the Rage Against The Machine guitarist covering AC/DC’s Highway To Hell with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on vocals? That’s quite remarkable, and in a recent interview with Guitar World, Morello explained how this unlikely collaboration took shape. 

As is often the case with classic rock lore, it started off in a graveyard. Morello was tearing across Australia with the E Street Band in 2014 on the High Hopes Tour, when he took the opportunity to visit the final resting place of AC/DC vocalist Bon Scott and pay his respects. It’s approaching midnight and he still can’t find the headstone.

“I’m out there for about an hour, and then out in the distance comes this motorbike, like this little light in the cemetery,” said Morello. “And this dude rides up – a heavy-set dude with a German WWII motorcycle helmet on and a T-shirt that reads ‘I don’t give a shit, but if I did, you’re the one I’d give it to.’ I’m like, ‘This guy is going to know where Bon Scott’s grave is!”

And he did. This planted a thought in Morello’s mind, and when he got back to the hotel and found the Boss in the bar, it all made sense.

“I see Bruce in the bar,” said Morello. “And I’m like, ‘Bruce, since we’re here in Australia, do you think there’s any way that the circle of the E Street Band and the circle of AC/DC might overlap?’ And he goes, ‘I never really thought about that before, but I’ll think about it now.’ And over the course of the next few days, we started rehearsing Highway To Hell at soundcheck.”

Tom Morello

(Image credit: Future/Joby Sessions)

The next show was scheduled for 14 February at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, Eddie Vedder was in town, and the stars align.

“I knock on Bruce’s door and I say, ‘We are in Australia, the land where AC/DC is king. What if we open the show with Highway to Hell with Eddie Vedder?’ And he was like, ‘That sounds like a good idea!’ And we did. And if you think you’ve seen an audience go nuts? You haven’t – unless you were there on that night. It was crazy.”

“So when I was making this record with a lot of great young artists on it – Phantogram, Grandson, Mike Posner, Protohype – I knew I wanted a song with my rock brothers on it. And I reflected back to that night and the transcendent apex moment of rock power that that felt like.”

According to Morello, Springsteen got the files, nailed his part in two takes, before Morello forwarded it to Vedder and it was done. 

And thanks to YouTube, you can check out how it compares to the live 2014 version below. You can read more about Morello's new album over at Guitar World, and learn how Kanye West inspired him to record his guitar parts on his iPhone here

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.