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Music

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson remembers first hearing himself on the radio

@josephtaysom

No matter which musician you ask, hearing their own song played on the radio for the first time is a moment an artist will never forget. Although it previously held more cache than it does now, getting radio airplay is still a seismic achievement.

Brian Johnson of AC/DC still holds the moment close to his heart and will continue to do for the rest of his life. When he joined AC/DC, the group were already superstars who had been on the radio more times than they’d be able to remember, and it was his previous outfit, Geordie, whose song was the first he had played on the radio.

Geordie was first formed in 1971, and it didn’t take long for the music industry to spark an interest in their sound. After gigging relentlessly around Britain for their first 12 months together, the band managed to secure a record deal with EMI, who released their debut single, ‘Don’t Do That’, towards the backend of 1972.

During the early 1970s, radio was the pinnacle for bands and was the most efficient way of discovering an audience. However, the number of stations was limited compared with today, and getting that big break was nothing but a pipedream.

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Having a song played on BBC Radio could make or break careers, and it could change the landscape of a band overnight. The weight they once held is almost to fathom in the streaming age, but radio was the industry’s primary gatekeeper for a sustained period.

Johnson didn’t have to wait too long before hearing Geordie’s debut single on the airwaves, and he remembers it like it was yesterday. “The first time I heard a song of mine on the radio, I’ll never forget that was with Geordie. We were travelling to Wales. We’re gonna cross this huge bridge. There was a DJ on BBC Radio called Noel Edmonds,” the singer recalled to AXS TV.

“He had a programme called ‘My Pick Of The New Songs for the Week’. He said, ‘I think this is gonna be a great song from a Newcastle band’. We were in the van driving. He (he said) ‘It’s called ‘Don’t Do That’. It’s fantastic, here it is.'”

He continued: “We stopped, and we were going (puts on a surprised face). I mean, we were just in… it’s a marvellous feeling the first time you hear. So you ask any artist that question, and they will say it was the best time ever to hear your music on the radio.”

That first play helped ‘Don’t Do That’ surge into the UK top 40, and over the following 12 months, they’d have three more tracks also achieve this feat. Unfortunately for Geordie, that is where their chart success ended. However, their decline opened the door for Johnson to eventually replace the late Bon Scott in AC/DC.

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