To Fans and Critics, ‘Night Prowler’ Is Supposed to Be Fun

Times Staff Writer

Two guitars grind out plodding, distorted blues. “Night Prowler,” the song that reportedly obsessed the man suspected of the Night Stalker killings, is a simple, three-chord progression with lyrics not particularly subtle.

“Somewhere a clock strikes midnight and there’s a full moon in the sky

You hear a dog bark in the distance, you hear someone’s baby cry

A rat runs down the alley and a chill runs down your spine

And someone walks across your grave, and you wish the sun would shine


‘Cause no one’s gonna warn you and no one is gonna yell ATTACK

And you won’t feel the steel until it’s hanging out your back .

I’m your night prowler, I’ll sleep in the day .

Night prowler, get out of my way

Yeah I’m the night prowler, I’m watching tonight

Yes I’m the night prowler when you turn out the light


Too scared to turn your light out ‘cause there’s something on your mind?

Was that a noise outside the window? What’s that shadow on the blind?

As you lie there naked like a body in a tomb

Suspended animation as I slip into your room

I’m your night prowler/ I sleep in the day

Yeah I’m the night prowler/ get out of my way

Look out for the night prowler watching tonight

Yes I’m the night prowler when you turn out the light

I’m your night prowler breaking down your door.

I’m your night prowler crawling cross your floor.

Look out for the night prowler . He’ll make a mess of you .

Yes I will , night prowler , and I’m telling it to you .


There ain’t nothing , you ain’t nothing , nothing you can dooooooooooooooooo.”

(Atlantic Recording Corp., 1979, by Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott, as taken from tape recording.)

The man who sang those lyrics, Bon Scott, lead singer of the Australian heavy-metal band AC/DC, choked to death on his own vomit months after they were recorded after an all-night drinking binge.

The record that this song appeared on, “Highway to Hell,” has been attacked as satanic and has been smashed and burned by religious fundamentalists.

To rock critics and heavy-metal fans, however, the song is meant to be fun, no more sinister than Mick Jagger’s “Sympathy for the Devil” or “Midnight Rambler” more than a decade earlier.

“The biggest danger is that parents will overreact to this,” said Times rock critic Robert Hilburn. “The kids know that AC/DC is kind of a gag. I don’t think the kids take it more seriously than going to a movie on a Saturday night.”

Hilburn said that AC/DC should no more be blamed for the Night Stalker than the Beatles should be blamed for Charles Manson, who said he was inspired by the Lennon-McCartney song “Helter Skelter,” or than “Taxi Driver” director Martin Scorsese should be blamed for John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.

“Some of the lyrics of heavy-metal bands deliberately try to shock parents as one means of gaining the allegiance of junior high and high school fans, which comprise the bulk of the heavy-metal audience,” Hilburn said, adding that AC/DC fans are not “wandering in a trance with a decayed moral outlook.”

“To ease their fears, parents should go to a concert and see how the audience reacts. There’s a lightness, a humor; it’s not that serious. . . .”

In past interviews, AC/DC band members have insisted that the references to the devil are not to be taken literally.

Said singer Brian Johnson in a 1982 interview, “I can’t believe what some people come up with. I’ve even heard people say there is some sort of devil worship in the band. It’s so silly I’m not going to talk about it anymore. I’m writing about the same things I’ve always written about: fun.”

Added guitarist Malcolm Young: “Why are all these Bible Belt people ranting and raving about us? When the audience sings along on ‘Highway to Hell,’ it doesn’t mean they are going to hell or anything. The song’s just an expression. It’s about our life on the road. The shows are just supposed to be fun. Kids have a lot of energy, and they get a chance to use it up in concert.”