Brian Johnson AC/DC 2008
C-print, 170 x 130 cm / 66.9 x 51.1 inches
For concert armchair quarterbacks, there’s one thing that springs to mind when you think of cool things that AC/DC could do whenever they finally return to the road? Wouldn’t it be great to see a full-on performance of the band’s legendary ‘Back in Black’ album?
In rebuilding mode following the tragic and unexpected death of frontman Bon Scott, AC/DC not only managed to carry on with new frontman Brian Johnson, they certifiably knocked the world on its collective ass with the release of 1980’s ‘Back in Black,’ their first long player with Johnson at the helm.
Coming only five months after Scott’s death, ‘Back in Black’ was a juggernaut, with every single song on the mammoth album eventually [and in many cases, still] garnering airplay at rock radio.
It remains one of the most remarkable comeback stories in music history, and Johnson shared some fond memories with Loudwire, while admitting that performing the full album on a future tour would be a big challenge.
“I don’t know if I could do it now! One song after another, that might require some shifting, because I’m 64 now and I recorded those songs when I was like 30, never thinking that one day 32 years on that I would have to keep singing them in that key and in that register,” explains Johnson. “Because as you know, AC/DC do not cheat. We absolutely refuse. Could you take it down a notch? Why? It would ruin the song.”
Johnson has seen the adverse effects that can come from tweaking the classic songs to compensate for the evolving range of a vocalist. “When you sit and you’re watching a show and there’s something not right about that, of course it’s been knocked down a tone.”
‘Back in Black’ is the album which came with an extra dose of pressure in the recording studio for Johnson, who already was charged with the task of following in the footsteps of Scott’s legendary vocals. “I just remember doing those songs, it was a strange situation where the guys came in and just said, ‘Hey Brian, this is what we recorded in the studio today. Have a listen to it and put some words on it, just write some words.’”
As he recalls, “I’m going, ‘Oh my God.’ And I had to do it for the next day, because we didn’t have much time, because the next day, they would bring another one in! So I couldn’t really just say ‘oh well, it may take me a couple of days.’ And then the next day, another one came in and they just kept coming in. So to come up with choruses and words and verses and melodies, it was quite a challenge, you know?”
He had a long leash, especially when you consider that it was his very first time working with the band. “They must have trusted me, to just say that [writing], that’s your department. Come up with the tunes and lyrics for this! But it worked, you know? Sometimes, when you’re under pressure, you really just buckle down to it.”
After a well-deserved break following a long tour for the band’s highly successful ‘Black Ice’ release, Johnson indicated that they will reconvene as a group in the near future to begin discussions and planning for the next AC/DC studio album, one which he hopes will find ‘Black Ice’ producer Brendan O’Brien behind the board again.