So here’s an interesting problem. AC/DC’s last album was “Rock Or Bust”, which was the the band’s 17th studio album. As most of you know, during the tour, vocalist, Brian Johnson was told by doctors to immediately stop touring or risk permanent hearing loss. Left with cancelling the remainder of the tour or continuing on with a replacement vocalist, Angus Young chose the latter. After much speculation, Mr. Young selected what was probably the best possible choice to finish the concerts that were already booked. That vocalist was none other than Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose. Even though, the band had some backlash from fans who wanted to see AC/DC with Johnson, the response was split by many people. Personally, I think if Angus had chosen any other singer than Axl, most of the fans would have requested a refund for their tickets. Choosing a well known and famous rock singer, who already had a huge following was a brilliant move on his part. After hearing AC/DC perform with Axl at the helm, I was pleasantly surprised by how much he sounded like the late Bon Scott at times. I thought he did a capable job as a fill in vocalist and his voice worked well with the AC/DC boogie-woogie, blues style of hard rock. He helped rescue the rest of the tour that Angus had previously noted: “You can’t call a tour Rock or Bust and then bust, now can you?”
However, I have to say, that is where I prefer his contribution to end. While I consider myself a huge fan of both AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses, each band has a legacy to uphold. So let’s take a look at history for a moment. Brian Johnson joined AC/DC in 1980. For those of you keeping track that’s 37 years ago. Johnson replaced original vocalist Bon Scott after his death, in what is probably the most successful change of lead vocalists in a rock band ever. The debut recording with Johnson, “Back In Black” is their biggest selling album of all time. An Amazing feat considering most people thought the band couldn’t or wouldn’t endure without Bon Scott. Not only did the band survive with Johnson handling vocals, but they continued to grow their audience and legacy as one of the world’s greatest rock bands.
So here’s where things get interesting….If Brian Johnson is unable to tour, should AC/DC continue on with a new vocalist? Before you answer that, let’s put some things into perspective. First, AC/DC is not the same band that it was once was. By this, I mean, as far as the members go. Angus’ brother Malcolm Young officially retired from the band right before “Rock Or Bust” do to health issues. After the “Rock Or Bust” tour longtime bass player Cliff Williams retired saying the band was no longer the same without Malcolm and Brian. AC/DC has had a revolving line-up of drummers over the years, but Phil Rudd who managed the seat longer than most was also out of the band before “The Rock Or Bust” tour even started, stemming from criminal charges against him.
So let’s assume that Brian Johnson is still officially a member for a moment. That leaves only Angus Young and Brian Johnson as the core members that are left. If Johnson is no longer involved, Angus is practically starting over as the only original member of the band. Now I understand musicians are creative people and if making music is in your blood, you just can’t stop. However, Angus Young has the option to continue creating great music outside of the AC/DC name. Let’s face it, he’s one the world’s best known and most recognized rock guitarists alive.
So here’s my suggestion. If AC/DC is to continue as band, it should be with Young and Johnson at the helm. If not, I think the band should end and leave their studio recordings and live performances as their legacy. Angus could simply continue recording and touring as “Angus Young & Friends”. He could have multiple vocalists and band members perform with him or do a whole album with someone like Axl Rose as the singer, if he wanted. He would have complete creative control to do whatever he wanted with a solo band. Trying to revive AC/DC, without Brian Johnson at this point in his career just doesn’t make sense. Oh, I’m sure, it makes business sense, in a way, as the AC/DC name is practically a brand at this point because of their success. The other option as I see it, is that Brian Johnson is still able to record just fine. It’s just the volume of the live performances that he has a problem with. So why couldn’t AC/DC continue to record without touring? I know fans want to see the band live, but new albums with two key, longtime members of the band, seems better than tarnishing their legacy. In my personal opinion, you don’t take a date to the prom and then dance with someone else. I would much rather see AC/DC go out with a bang than to limp along with replacement members. Now my opinion is just that, mine. But, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject.