On This Day in Metal: April 19th 1980 Brian Johnson Joins AC/DC
On April 19, 1980, AC/DC released an official announcement on the replacement of the charismatic singer Bon Scott, who had died exactly two months earlier, on February 19, 1980.
As you may recall, Bon Scott‘s death left the band broken and shattered by the heavy disaster that befell them, right after the release of their most successful album to date – “Highway To Hell“. After Bon Scott’s death, the band was already thinking of breaking up, but it was Bon Scott’s family who persuaded them to move on, claiming that this was the will of their late son.
Shortly after Bon Scott‘s funeral, the band began looking for a lead singer to step into his big shoes. The searches were exhausting and lasted about a month, during which a large number of candidates were auditioned. At one point, Robert John “Mutt” Lange (who produced the album “Highway To Hell“) suggested that they consider inviting Brian Johnson – the singer of the glam band Geordie to audition.
Johnson recalls that he received an invitation to come and meet the band. He was then 32. This was at a time when he already thought he would not succeed as a musician. He left the band Geordie, moved to live with his parents in Newcastle, and owned a vinyl roof repair shop for collectible cars.
Johnson accepted the invitation. He knew “AC/DC” and they knew him. The one who recommended him to the Young Brothers was none other than Bon Scott himself. The Young Brothers recount that Bon Scott told them that on one of his outings to England he saw Johnson and the band Geordie perform and that Johnson is a tremendous performer who raves and contorts the stage and also an excellent singer. In a 2011 interview Johnson said that on that fateful night that Bon Scott was impressed with his performance, he was with tremendous stomach pains that made him twitch and squirm on stage. Later that evening it became clear to Johnson that he was suffering from appendicitis.
On the fateful morning of the auditions, Brian Johnson entered the rehearsal room and saw the band members indifferent and bored to death, after a whole month of unsuccessful auditions. Malcolm Young was the one who first approached him, offered him a beer, and asked what he wanted to sing. Johnson replied “Whole Lotta Rosie”, we cover this song with Geordie. Later Brian also sang Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits”. Rumor has it that after the end of that day’s audition round, Johnson was called to the rehearsal room for a second audition, then already singing the song “Highway To Hell.”
On March 29, 1980 – About a month after Bon Scott‘s death, Malcolm Young called Johnson to inform him that he had been accepted into the band. Johnson recalls that he had tears in his eyes, he was very sad about what happened to Bon Scott but very happy to be accepted into the band.
What fascinated the members of “AC/DC” in Johnson was the fact that he did not try to mimic Bon Scott but gave a personal interpretation to Scott’s songs.
The press release on April 19, 1980, stated that the band had recruited a new singer to replace Bon Scott who had died exactly two months earlier.
The band members later sent Johnson a plane ticket to the Bahamas, where the masterpiece album “Back In Black” was recorded.
Although the band had first sketches of some songs they had begun working on with Scott, Johnson was given a free hand to rewrite his lyrics, as the band did not want it to be seen as an attempt to profit from Bon Scott‘s death.
The first song Johnson wrote for the band is “You Shook Me All Night Long”. He tried to impress his friends as the lyrics were inspired by girls and cars. It was also the band’s first single without Bon Scott.
The album “Back In Black” marked the biggest comeback in the history of music. It became the band’s best-selling album for over 40 years. It ranks third among the best-selling albums of all time, with an incredible sales figure of over 50 million copies worldwide. An album that is ranked 77th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.