AC/DC's BRIAN JOHNSON shoots down rumor BON SCOTT wrote lyrics for 'Back In Black' prior to his death
In his just-released memoir, “The Lives Of Brian”, AC/DC singer Brian Johnson shoots down theories that the band’s late frontman Bon Scott wrote some of the words for the “Back In Black” album prior to his untimely death in early 1980. Asked in a new interview with Rolling Stone why he felt he had to do that, Brian said: “There was one particular journalist — a writer in Australia — who just wouldn’t let go of this thing. And of course, (AC/DC‘s founding guitarists) Malcolm and Angus (Young) were, like, ‘What a fucking load of bullshit.’ And I said, ‘I wish you would tell him.’ And their attitude was always, ‘Just leave it. Just let them talk himself into a fuckin’ early grave.’ And of course, it became more and more obvious by the day that Bon hadn’t, because the riffs weren’t written then. The boys were still doing it. So we didn’t say anything because otherwise it would have given him more fame.”
He continued: “It wasn’t something that stuck in me craw a lot, but every now and again, a fan would come up and say, ‘This guy’s saying this.’ And factually, it wasn’t true. There wasn’t an Internet then; it didn’t really get further than Australia. But I thought it was awful I had to explain meself and that’s why in the book, I went, once and for all, I want to put this baby to bed.”
Pressed about why he stopped writing AC/DC‘s lyrics in the mid-Eighties, Brian said: “I think that was a management decision. It wasn’t anything to do with me. ‘Listen, Brian. I think the boys are going to write all the lyrics now.’ I said, ‘It’ll give me a little bit of rest not having to worry about coming up with something every now and again.’ I never thought of it that much. I just said, ‘Okay, let the guys go ahead and do it.’ And I must admit I miss some of my lyrics. There was some lovely tongue-in-cheek ones, you know, ‘Have a Drink on Me.’ And in ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, ‘She always kept her motor clean.’ We all know what I meant, but it’s the double-entendres I miss. I’m fine with it. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
A year and a half ago, Angus also shot down the rumor that Bon was involved in the songwriting process of several of the “Back In Black” tracks. “Bon never really got the chance,” the guitarist told Paste magazine. “At the time, me and Malcolm were writing songs, which became the songs for ‘Back In Black’. We were in London in a rehearsal room, and Bon had come down, too. And what used to happen was, me and Malcolm would get together and get a drum kit, and Malcolm would get behind the drums sometimes, and I’d get on the guitar and just tap out a riff. Or other times, Malcolm would get on the guitar and he’d get me to just knock out a simple beat on the drums. Anyhow, we were working away, and it was on an intro which was actually what became the intro for ‘Hells Bells’. So Bon showed up, and Malcolm said, ‘Oh, great, Bon. You can get behind the kit.’ Because originally Bon started as a drummer. So Bon got behind the drum kit so we could try and work out this intro, how we wanted to do it. So we sorted that out how we wanted. And the other one was ‘Have A Drink On Me’, a riff Malcolm was playing around with. So we worked out the intro on that and how the song was gonna go. So he had Bon tapped to do a demo for that. So that was it, really. If you were looking up what Bon had done, it was really just to help us with those demos on the drums. And he even said to us, as we were knocking off in the night time, ‘Look, we’ll hook up next week.’ He’d been working on some lyrics, and said, ‘We’ll hook up next week and maybe the three of us can just start going through stuff.’ But unfortunately, he passed before that.”
Angus continued: “It’s kind of strange, in a way, when I think back, because when Bon first joined us as a band, that was the first thing he wanted to do — he took me and Malcolm and said, Come on!’ And we went to a friend’s place who had a studio, and when we got there, Bon got behind the drum kit and said, ‘All right, come on you guys. Start playing.’ And Malcolm said, ‘Look, Bon — we’ve got a real good drummer. We don’t need another drummer. What we need is a really good rock ‘n’ roll singer.’ But with Bon, what you saw was what you got. He had his own approach to this, and he lived that character. I mean, sometimes you’d be doing a gig somewhere, and he’d show up with some people, and then he’d be gone for a few days. And he’d have been out with some guys drinking moonshine up in the hills. He’d just met them, but they were all like his long-lost friends, ya know?”
“Back In Black” was the first album AC/DC released after Johnson replaced Scott, and it went on to become the third-biggest-selling LP of all time.
Scott was invited to join AC/DC by Malcolm and Angus Young in 1974, and achieved international stardom before his death at the age of 33 from alcohol poisoning.
He sang on AC/DC‘s first six studio albums, including “High Voltage”, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”, “Let There Be Rock” and “Highway To Hell”.
Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking at a club in London, just days after attending a session with Malcolm and Angus Young where they began working on music for what became the “Back In Black” album.
According to the AC/DC FAQ web site, Bon and the friend, a musician named Alisdair Kinnear, had been drinking the evening of February 19, 1980 and Bon apparently fell asleep during the ride home. Kinnear could not wake Bon, so he left him in the car to sleep. Kinnear awoke early in the evening on February 20, checked on Bon, and found him unconscious in the car. Bon could not be revived, and was pronounced dead.
I’ve had some long nights and some great nights, bad days and a lot of good ones. Now I’ve gone and written a bloody book about it… The Lives of Brian is coming this October. Pre-order your copy now: https://t.co/57hrcxliZ2 pic.twitter.com/KEi6gJdpQ6— Brian Johnson Racing (@BrianJohnson) September 5, 2022
Johnson joined AC/DC in 1980 after the death of previous lead singer Bon Scott.
His first album with the band, “Back In Black”, went on to become the biggest-selling rock album of all time.
After a quarter century of platinum albums and record-breaking tours, he was forced to quit the band in 2016 after being diagnosed with hearing loss, but made a triumphant return in 2020 with the release of “Power Up”, which went to No.1 in 21 countries. A successful competitive vintage racing car driver, Johnson has more recently enjoyed acclaim as the charismatic presenter of television shows “Cars That Rock With Brian Johnson” and “Brian Johnson: A Life Of The Road”.
“I’ve had some long nights and some great nights, some bad days and a lot of good days, and during that time I’ve gone from choirboy to rock ‘n’ roll singer, and now I’ve gone and written a bloody book about it,” says Johnson.
“Brian‘s memoir captures an unforgettable moment in rock history. Anyone who wants to understand Brian‘s roots as well as the moment of ignition when he joined AC/DC and helped create a monster album will be in for an unforgettable ride,” says Dey Street Books SVP and executive editor Mauro DiPreta.
Rowland White says: “From growing up in the north-east, the son of a former British army sergeant-major and an Italian mother, to fronting world’s biggest rock band, ‘The Lives Of Brian’ tells one of the best stories in music in Brian‘s own inimitable voice. His life has been a roller coaster of highs and lows during which success as a musician too often felt out of reach. But even when it seemed defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory he never gave up. And throughout his feet have remained firmly planted on the ground. Warm, vivid, evocative, life-affirming and often laugh-out-loud funny, ‘The Lives Of Brian’ is a gold standard rock ‘n’ roll memoir from one of our most well-loved performers. Brian‘s one of a kind and I couldn’t be more proud to be publishing his book.”
Johnson was born to a steelworker and WWII veteran father and an Italian mother, growing up in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, a working-class town. He was musically inclined and sang with the church choir. By the early ’70s, he performed with the glam rock band GEORDIE, and they had a couple hits, but it was tough going. So tough that by 1976, they disbanded and Brian turned to a blue-collar life.
Then 1980 changed everything. Bon Scott, the lead singer and lyricist of the Australian rock band AC/DC died at 33. The band auditioned singers, among them Johnson, whom Scott himself had seen perform and raved about. Within days, Johnson was in a studio with the band, working with founding members Angus and Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd, along with producer Mutt Lange.
When the album, “Back In Black”, was released in July — a mere three months after Johnson had joined the band — it exploded, going on to sell 50 million copies worldwide, and triggering a years-long worldwide tour. It has been declared “the biggest-selling hard rock album ever made” and “the best-selling heavy-metal album in history.”
The band toured the world for a full year to support the album, changing the face of rock music — and Johnson‘s life — forever.
Touching, personal, indomitable, but always laugh-out-loud funny, “The Lives Of Brian” is the story of one of the world’s best-loved performers, told in his own inimitable and unique voice.