No matter which position a musician sits on the spectrum of genre, all artists worth listening to share a love of The Beatles, and AC/DC singer Brian Johnson is no different. The Geordie is even of the belief the Fab Four are responsible for creating the greatest song of all time.
While AC/DC’s brand of cartoonish classic rock and trademark school uniform outfit is a contrast to the attitude of The Beatles, they remain heroes to Johnson. Of course, it’s only natural that he worships the group considering that he grew up in Britain in the 1960s, witnessing their meteoric rise first-hand.
Before Johnson joined AC/DC, he was in the hard-rocking and aptly titled outfit Geordie, who counted the late Bon Scott as a fan. While his legacy is etched in stone today, Johnson wasn’t actually AC/DC’s first choice to replace Scott after his death, and they initially asked Terry Slesser and Slade frontman Noddy Holder before landing on the Englishmen.
Before taking up his new role, Johnson was already a fan of the group, and his band weren’t going anywhere fast. With that in mind, it was a simple decision for him to accept AC/DC’s offer. Suddenly, the Newcastle native went from playing tiny venues to conquering stadiums and getting a small taste of what it was like to be one of The Beatles.
When Johnson appeared on Joe Walsh’s Old Fashioned Rock’ n’ Roll Radio Show, he was tasked with naming his favourite song in the world, and the answer was an effortless decision for the singer to make. “Right off the top of me head, the thing that makes me smile every time I hear it is ‘Get Back’. And if you listen to Ringo’s drumming on there, it’s sensational,” he responded.
Anyone who has seen Peter Jackson’s documentary of the same name will vividly recall the mercurial brilliance of how Paul McCartney created ‘Get Back’ on the spot. In what is a truly miraculous moment of genius, the sheer fact that it was all caught on film is astounding in itself.
While it’s not one of The Beatles’ most complicated tracks, ‘Get Back’ is a perfect example of how the band managed to master the art of simplicity, and McCartney made writing a pop masterpiece seem effortless. Johnson broached this subject, adding: “I remember somebody said to be, ‘Oh I could have wrote that’. And I said, ‘Well why didn’t you.'”
Admittedly, ‘Get Back’ is one of The Beatles’ most controversial songs. Early versions included the line “I dig no Pakistanis”, which McCartney later removed from the final cut. The line was created in a bid to parody the opinions of those in Britain who were anti-immigration, but he worried the nuance in his message could be ignored.
However, speaking in reflection years after its release, John Lennon believed that the material was written about Yoko Ono, and told Playboy: “I think there’s some underlying thing about Yoko in there,” he said. “You know, ‘Get back to where you once belonged.’ Every time he sang the line in the studio, he’d look at Yoko. Maybe he’ll say I’m paranoid. You know, he can say, ‘I’m a normal family man, those two are freaks.’ That’ll leave him a chance to say that one.”
McCartney’s actions over the last 60 years speak volumes about his attitude to racism, and his foresight to censor himself only strengthens his defence. However, who knows if Lennon was right in his suggestion, the lyrics were an “underlying” prod at Yoko and his unsavoury feelings.