Losing a singer is usually the death of the band, and it takes a special breed of replacement to allow the group to survive. Following the death of Bon Scott, AC/DC went left-field and decided to recruit Brian Johnson, who rose admirably to the pressure.
Scott was only 33 when he tragically lost his life after a night out in London, with authorities blaming his death on “acute alcohol poisoning”. It remains another unwelcome tragedy, the frontman had his whole life in front of him, and he was on the path to becoming an all-time rock ‘n’ roll legend. They had just released Highway To Hell, and their future was burning bright before it suddenly went to black overnight.
Initially, AC/DC were considering their future following Scott’s death, and they felt like there was no point carrying on without him. After carefully considering their future, they decided Scott would have hated for them to disband, and the search went on for his successor.
It’s no secret that Johnson wasn’t their first choice. Before they approached the Newcastle native, AC/DC sounded out Terry Slesser and Slade’s Noddy Holder, but they weren’t interested in replacing Scott. Johnson was already a fan of the band, but he didn’t expect to be in the running to replace the late singer.
He was already the frontman of Geordie, who had enjoyed a string of successful singles in the early 1970s. While they were still active when AC/DC came calling, their relevancy had dwindled, and it was a no brainer for Johnson.
During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Johnson talked about the moment he found out they wanted him to audition. “I had a telephone call in my office, and this woman said, ‘Is this Brian Johnson?’, and I go, ‘Who is this?’ She says, ‘I cannot say because you must come to sing in London,'” he says in a poorly executed German accent.
Although he tried to gauge what band she wanted him to audition for, she bizarrely initially refused to provide the information. After Johnson said he couldn’t go to London without receiving a clue, she told him the band’s initials were AC/DC and let the secret out.
Johnson agreed to the audition but felt like he stood no chance. Yet, much to his surprise, he slotted into the role seamlessly, and AC/DC knew they had found their man.
Soon after his arrival, the legends released Back To Black, which has sold over 25 million copies in the United States alone with Johnson in tow, and AC/DC have never looked back since.