AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson explains how he joined the band as it was making its landmark album Back in Black in a new video.
“It’s probably the most asked question that is ever thrown at me,” he says with a laugh at the beginning of the clip. “I keep telling it, but everybody keeps wanting to hear it again.”
Sitting in front of a couple of Fender Stratocasters and a white drum kit, the Englishman explains how he went from fronting the glam-rock group Geordie to joining the gritty Aussie rockers just after the death of their original frontman, Bon Scott. “It was a strange day, I was in Newcastle,” he recalls. “The phone rang and I picked it up and it was this lady with a German accent. She was going, ‘Iz ziss Brian Johnson?’ I said, ‘It is. Who is this?’ And she said, ‘Ziss I cannot say. Vee are vahnting you to come to London and to sink with the band [to] audition.’ I said, ‘Which band?’ She said, ‘Ziss I cannot say also.'”
He explained to her that three years in Geordie had left him penniless and that a mystery voyage wasn’t worth it to him. He prodded her until she told him “the initials” of the band in question, “A.C. und zee D.C.” “I said, ‘You mean AC/DC?'” he remembers in perfect comic timing. “And she said, ‘Sheiße, I have said too much.'” Even knowing that, he still said no thanks.
The rest of the story features Johnson doing more accents, including a couple of variations on Cockney, as he explains how a twist of fate afforded him an opportunity to go to London and meet up with the group — and how he came to the decision that it was worth it.
Guitarist Angus Young recalled the band’s side of the story recently in an interview with KLOS. “Bon had been in a band that had toured in Britain, and they were opening for the band Brian was in, which was a band called Geordie,” he said, according to Blabbermouth. “Anyhow, they were gigging away, and as Bon told the story, he was saying he was listening to Geordie performing and listening to Brian, and then he heard this screaming. He said it sounded great — he said it sounded like Little Richard was on the stage. He said this guy [was] howling and yelling. And then he said then he saw the guy on the floor. Bon thought it was great — it was the best act he had seen, and a singer, in a long time. But what he didn’t know, afterward he found out, Brian had an attack of appendicitis. But Bon thought it was part of the act. He thought, ‘This guy is incredible.'”
In another recent interview, Young reflected on how the future of the group seemed so uncertain at the time of making Back in Black and how he was surprised at how well the record sold. The LP has since become the second best-selling album of all time, just behind Thriller.
“With Brian [replacing Bon] in the band, we were going into the unknown, so we didn’t know how it was going to be received,” Young told Rolling Stone. “We knew the songs were strong, and we had Mutt Lange producing. We recorded it in the Bahamas, getting the best performances out of everyone. And after that, we didn’t know how it would be received. … The people who were doing our management at the time told us, ‘You might sell a couple of million or something if you’re really prominent.’ And they were shocked that it had sold so much.”
“So I guess it’s just an album that grew on people,” he continued. “It just got bigger and bigger as it went along. But it never even got Number One in the U.S. at the time, which Malcolm [Young] thought was really good. He said, ‘If you get to Number One, there’s only one other place you can go.'”