AC/DC’s Brian Johnson discusses the “free fall” of being replaced by Axl Rose

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson, the frontman of rock legends AC/DC,  reflected on his replacement by Guns N’ Roses vocalist Axl Rose in 2016 due to severe hearing issues.

Johnson was forced to leave the band’s ‘Rock or Bust’ tour due to hearing issues, and Axl Rose famously joined the band for a few shows. In his memoir The Lives of Brian, he discussed the period and revealed just how depressing it was.

The ‘Back in Black’ singer explains that when he was first receiving treatment for his hearing problems, he planned to fulfil his contractual obligations. However, things were not as simple as he had hoped. Everything changed when a doctor informed him that he needed to stop performing immediately or lose the rest of his hearing.

“I called Tim, the tour manager, on my mobile right there in the room to tell him that I just couldn’t continue,” Johnson writes in the memoir. “It was one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had. And the pain only got worse in the weeks that followed as the tour continued without me. It was a sheer cliff. I did not tumble down; I was in free fall.

Brian Johnson explained that he began to blame himself for his problems, as that is what comes with being in “the loudest band in the world”. Despite reports from those close to him that Rose was doing an excellent job, he couldn’t watch his performances. “It’s like finding a stranger in your house, sitting in your favourite chair,” he said. “But I bear no grudges.”

The most surprising aspect of Johnson’s account is his emotional state at the time. He described that as “something close to despair” rather than depression. He admits, “I just didn’t fu*king care anymore.” I’d always assumed that the best way to go out was at 180 mph, flat out around a corner. You’d hit the wall, and it would be over. I did not want to die. I wouldn’t have cared all that much.”

Fortunately for Johnson and all AC/DC fans, his hearing gradually improved. A specialist offered him new technology that allowed him to return to the stage. Finally, he rejoined the band for their 2020 album Power Up.

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