Brian Johnson “couldn’t watch” Axl Rose fill in for him in AC/DC

Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson has admitted that he “couldn’t watch” Axl Rose fill in for him in AC/DC.

Writing in his new memoir, The Lives of Brian, Johnson recalled the time he had to step away from AC/DC due to hearing issues in 2016. During this time, Guns N’ Roses‘ Axl Rose stepped in for him until he was well enough to return.

In his new autobiography, Johnson recalls calling their tour manager, Tim, about his decision to leave.

He wrote: “It was one of the most difficult conversations of my life – the pain of it made worse over the weeks that followed when the tour simply went on without me. It was a sheer cliff. I didn’t tumble down, I was in free fall.

“…For a while, people would ask me if I was depressed, but depression is treatable. My hearing loss wasn’t. What I was feeling wasn’t depression. It was something closer to despair” (via Ultimate Classic Rock).

Johnson went on to say he couldn’t bring himself to watch Rose in the role. “I’m told that he did a great job,” he wrote in the memoir.

He continued: “But I couldn’t watch – especially when you’ve been doing it for 35 years. It’s like finding a stranger in your house, sitting in your favourite chair. But I bear no grudges. It was a tough situation.”

Speaking about the moment he saw the band’s official statement about Rose stepping in, he added: “The lads did what they felt that had to do.” He said it led to him being unable to “relax or concentrate on anything. It was just always there.”

He also went on to say that he “blamed [himself]” because he’d spent “most of [his] career” in “the loudest band in the world.”

Guns N' Roses
Guns N’ Roses live at Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, December 1988. CREDIT: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Described as “one of the most cheering and entertaining stories in rock‘n’roll history,” The Lives of Brian will cover Johnson’s childhood growing up in Dunston, where he went from “choirboy and cub scout to singer” after watching Little Richard perform on TV.

“For over a decade [Johnson] tried to make his mark with a succession of bands. He appeared on Top of the Pops, toured Australia and yet the big time looked out of reach,” a synopsis adds.

“Then he was invited to London for an audition for one of the world’s biggest rock acts. AC/DC were a band in crisis following the tragic death of their lead singer, Bon Scott, but with Brian on board they would record their masterpiece: ‘Back in Black’. It became the biggest-selling rock album of all time. The tour that followed played to packed-out arenas. Quickly embraced by the band’s fans, the new boy had earned his spurs.

“But there was to be a twist in the tale. In 2016, Brian was forced to quit the band after being diagnosed with hearing loss, only to make a triumphant return to the band he loved with the release of 2020’s smash hit album ‘Power Up’.

“It’s been a rollercoaster of a life, throughout which Brian’s kept his feet firmly on the ground, never losing touch with his roots.”

Recently, Johnson was among the special guests who performed at the tribute concert for Taylor Hawkins at Wembley Stadium.

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