The Moment Brian Johnson Knew He Could Front AC/DC Again
He’d been working with a cutting-edge company to address the ear issues that had forced him to bow out of the band’s Rock or Bust tour in 2016, after which Axl Rose was brought in to complete the run of dates. At the time, it looked as if Johnson would never be able to perform again, with doctors warning him that just one more high-volume performance could destroy what was left of his hearing.
In a new interview with BBC Radio 6 Music, Johnson revisited the first rehearsal, which took place after the band recorded its new album, Power Up, in studio conditions. “First of all, a little apprehension,” he admitted. “We hadn’t done this for a while. Angus [Young] just said to me, ‘Do you want to do a rehearsal – try the ears out?’ I said, ‘I’d love to,’ because I didn’t want to ever be in the position I was in the last time, where I couldn’t hear the band. It was just horrible.”
He added that he "was desperate to try these things, and Angus said to me, ‘Well, we’ll start quietly and we’ll build.’ I went ’No, we’ve got to do it full-battlefield conditions. It’s got to be right out there, because if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.’ He said, ‘Okay – what do you want to do?’ I said ‘Back in Black.'"
Johnson was able to hear “everything” as soon as the whole band kicked in. “I grew to about six-foot-two!” he recalled. “I was just absolutely jumping around like a young spring chicken. I was just flipping thrilled, and the boys could see, because I wouldn’t stop moving for two days.”
Over the following two days he reassured himself that the hearing system worked for “every song that we had on the song list." “Even the sound guys on the desk were all smiling and thumping their hands and stamping their feet," he recalled. "So we knew then it was working.”
Power Up was released last week. The band hopes to perform at least some concerts at a future date. “I hate to use the word tour now because it sounds like two years, and I think we’ve all got a little tired of that,” Johnson said. “If we can just start doing gigs and cherry-picking them, that’s fun.”
His hope for the LP was that it brings some “happiness” to listeners. “I think it’s just the complete honesty of the music,” he reflected. “It’s music that doesn’t have sides, it doesn’t have a hidden agenda. It’s not asking you to do anything or join anything or be anything, it’s just asking you to be with us.”