AC/DC's Brian Johnson Fixed Roofs Before Getting Famous

Lead singer has a new memoir
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 24, 2022 4:58 PM CDT
AC/DC's Brian Johnson Fixed Roofs Before Getting Famous
This cover image released by Dey Street shows "The Lives of Brian" by Brian Johnson.   (Dey Street Books via AP)

Before he began tearing the roof off arenas as lead singer of hard rock icon AC/DC, Brian Johnson was fixing roofs. In his new memoir, the "Hells Bells” singer recounts how he went from being a vinyl car roof fitter in the northeast of England to leading one of the most hailed bands in the world, per the AP. It's a Cinderella story. Only Johnson, now 75, was a Cinderella at least three times, never giving up on his dream of singing in a rock band. "I don’t know what it is, I just never, ever sort of gave in," he said recently by phone from his home in Florida. "I was always willing to give something a shot when more pessimistic people wouldn’t have. I always thought the glass was half-full."

The Lives of Brian Johnson, from Dey Street Books, goes chronologically through his ups and downs growing up near Newcastle, ending with him joining AC/DC and recording the band's seminal Back in Black album. "It wasn’t so much to validate my life," he said of the book. "It was to validate the lives of all the wonderful people that I met that helped shape my life—friends from school, friends at the factories, friends in the music." Music was his North Star and he recalls first hearing Little Richard sing "Awop bop/a-loo bop/awop bam boom" at 11 and freaking out. "Many have described that song, 'Tutti Frutti,' as the sound of rock 'n' roll being born—which is fitting, because my dream of becoming a singer was born in that moment, too," he writes.

As for his role in the famous band: Bon Scott, the original lead singer of AC/DC died in 1980, and Johnson got an audition to replace him. At the audition, co-founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young offered him a Newcastle Brown Ale, a nice nod to Johnson's heritage. And Johnson's first song with the band at the audition was Tina Turner’s "Nutbush City Limits." ("It was the most electric moment of my life," he writes). Then they sang some AC/DC tunes. He got the job, of course. The book also reveals the origin of his trademark cap: Once he rushed to a gig with no time to change, sweating glue and shards of glass into his eyes. His brother, Maurice, lent him his cloth driving cap as protection, an addition the fans loved. (Read the full story for more details.)

(More AC/DC stories.)

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