Hell on Wheels (song)

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"Hell on Wheels"
Cher - Hell on Wheels.jpg
Netherlands 7" single cover
Single by Cher
from the album Prisoner
B-side "Hell On Wheels (Mono)"
"Git Down (Guitar Groupie) (12" Version)"
Released October 1979
Recorded 1979
Length 5:38
  • Bob Esty
  • Michele Aller
Producer(s) Bob Esty
Cher singles chronology
"It's Too Late (To Love Me Now)"
"Hell on Wheels"
"Holdin' Out For Love"

"It's Too Late (To Love Me Now)"
"Hell on Wheels"
"Holdin' Out For Love"

"Hell on Wheels" is a disco song performed by American singer-actress Cher from her sixteenth studio album, Prisoner. It was written by Bob Esty and Michele Aller and produced by Esty. It was released as the album's first and only international single in late 1979. The song was also added to the "Roller Boogie" soundtrack in 1979. Lyrically, the track is about "follow what you like".

"Hell on Wheels" initially received mixed reviews from critics, but in 1999 Randy Cordova from The Arizona Republic praised the song, calling it a "roller-disco anthem".[1] Cher starred in one of the very first music videos, a short film that Casablanca Records wanted to promote her single with.[2] After releasing the promotional film, Cher began making music videos.[3]


According to J. Randy Taraborrelli 's biography, "Hell on Wheels" was recorded because Cher admitted to being a roller-skating fanatic.[4] The single was released with "Git Down (Guitar Groupie)", a song from the album Take Me Home on its B-side. Both songs were released as a 12" extended version and both versions are not yet released on CD.

In 1979, "Hell on Wheels" was included in original motion picture soundtrack to the film, "Roller Boogie"[5] as the track number one. After the released of the soundtrack album, "Hell on Wheels" was released in Japan with a different artwork, featuring a photo of Cher bottom center, taken from the After Dark magazine,[6] and with a still of Linda Blair and Jim Bray. The song was released with "Git Down (Guitar Groupie)" on its B-side. Strangely "Git Down (Guitar Groupie)" in the Japanese single was a "Theme from Roller Boogie",[7] despite the song never appeared in the movie or in the soundtrack album.

Despite a worldwide commercial release, "Hell on Wheels" did not manage to achieve any success other than charting only on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaking at a disappointing number fifty-nine.[8] "Hell On Wheels" was also her last hit for Casablanca Records.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

"Hell on Wheels" received mixed reviews from critics. The review of the Los Angeles Times newspaper describes the song as the best cut of the album and noted "'Hell on Wheels', latches onto the roller-skating craze as tenaciously-and stylishly-as the Beach Boys latched onto surfing.[10] Joel Flegler of the Fanfare Magazine, while was reviewing the Roller Boogie soundtrack gave a negative review for all the songs, using the word 'worse' in reference to the length of the album.[11] Another critic said that every song of the album have the same rock influence, and about the song said that is "her trendy roller-disco effort".[12]

Music video[edit]

The video for "Hell on Wheels" was tough for Cher to shoot. She was required to skate down steep, mountainous roads while sporting a broken arm. In the video, Cher is roller skating and being followed by a huge truck driven by two men which use the maximum speed of the truck to catch up with her. Following this, Cher convinces many people with different types of transportation to follow and take a ride with her.

"Hell on Wheels" was Cher's first professional video. Some consider "Take Me Home" to be her first professional clip, though this was lifted from her highly rated 1979 TV special Cher...and Other Fantasies. "Hell on Wheels" is one of the 1970s pioneer music videos to be produced in the MTV style before MTV itself existed, and now it is considered to be one of the first modern music videos.[13]

The video was premiered on the late night NBC television show "The Midnight Special".[14] Promotional clips were also shown during a 1979 interview with Phil Donahue on "The Phil Donahue Show". Despite that "Hell on Wheels" was her first official music video released it was never released on her best video collection.

Track listings[edit]


Official versions[edit]

  • Main Version - 5:38
  • Promo DJ Edit - 3:21
  • 12" Version - 7:13
  • Video Edit - 3:15
  • Outrageous 1989 bootleg remix - 5:30

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Photography – Harry Langdon
  • Producer, arranged, conductor - Bob Esty
  • Recorded, engineer (re-mix), co-producer - Larry Emerine


Chart (1979) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 59
US Cash Box Top 100[16] 64


  1. ^ Cordova, Randy (1999-06-25). "Eternal Diva: A Portrait of Cher". The Herald Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  2. ^ Lawrence J. Quirk (1991). Totally uninhibited: the life and wild times of Cher. William Morrow & Co. p. 272. ISBN 0-688-09822-3. 
  3. ^ James Robert Parish, Michael R. Pitts (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Singers Who Act and Actors Who Sing. Routledge. p. 150. ISBN 0-415-94332-9. 
  4. ^ J. Randy Taraborrelli (1992). Cher - A Biography (Update Version). St. Martin's Press. p. 256. ISBN 0-312-13170-4. 
  5. ^ Dagaard, Colin (1979-09-02). "They Fall in Love On Roller Skates". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  6. ^ "After Dark". Danad Publishing Company. 1979-02-01. 
  7. ^ Hell on Wheels Japanese 7" liner notes, Philips Records (1979)
  8. ^ a b "allmusic ((( Prisoner > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2009-12-31. 
  9. ^ Dafydd Rees, Luke Crampton (1991). Rock Movers and Shakers: An A-Z of People Who Made Rock Happens. ABC-Clio Inc; Rev Enl edition. p. 96. ISBN 0-87436-661-5. 
  10. ^ "Pop Album Briefs". Los Angeles Times. 1979-12-23. 
  11. ^ Joel Flegler (1980). Fanfare, Volume 4, Numbers 1-3. J. Flegler. p. 312. 
  12. ^ Stereo review, Volume 44. CBS Magazines. 1980. p. 138. 
  13. ^ J. Randy Taraborrelli (1992). Cher - A Biography (Update Version). St. Martin's Press. p. 258. ISBN 0-312-13170-4. 
  14. ^ "TV guide, Volume 27". Triangle Publications. 1979. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "Hell On Wheels Single". 
  16. ^ "Cash Box 100 Singles chart

External links[edit]