By Steve Newton
I guess one of the cooler in-person interviews I’ve ever done was that time back in October of ’83 when I hung out with three members of AC/DC–singer Brian Johnson, rhythm-guitarist Malcolm Young, and then-new drummer Simon Wright–at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.
The Aussie earbusters were in town to launch their Flick of the Switch Tour, which started October 11 at the Pacific Coliseum and ended on December 19 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
They were sitting around on the hotel-room floor smokin’ ciggies and drinking tea. There was no Jack Daniels to be found. Just as well, because I had a bad cold at the time. That’s me coughing. I remember bumming a smoke off one of the guys, which didn’t help the coughing anyway.
At one point in the conversation I asked Johnson about the pressure of replacing Bon Scott, and then asked Young about what it was like making the first album without Bon.
Have a listen:
(ya gotta crank the volume a bit. It’s AC/DC, after all.)
And for those who having trouble figuring out what the hell Brian Johnson is saying through his thick British accent, here’s a transcription:
ME: Brian, how did you feel about joining AC/DC after the tragic death of Bon Scott? Was there a lot of pressure going into such a popular band?
JOHNSON: Oh I was probably going through the same as what Simon’s going through. Not pressure in the sense of kinda real pressure. You felt it, then that was it. But you had to just do it, you know. It’s hard to explain.
ME: How did you join the band? Did they just come up and ask you one day?
JOHNSON: Aw, it was just the same as Simon.
ME: You saw an ad in the paper?
JOHNSON: No, there wasn’t an ad in the paper. I think at the time it…
YOUNG: Word of mouth.
JOHNSON: …it was just word of mouth, ’cause the boys weren’t sure themselves what was happening yet. It was a couple of weeks after Bon’s death, and they decided to keep goin’, and they just put a few feelers out to see what would happen. And I just went down and had a sing with the lads, and that worked out allright.
ME: I thought Back in Black was a really good album. What was it like for you, Malcolm, to make that album with the new singer, without Bon? Was it much different?
YOUNG: Yeah, it was different. But that material, we were working on it for Bon at the time. So that was the weirdest part. And when Brian stepped in he stepped in right in that album, not even goin’ on the road or anything. It was a bit strange, but it was good because we really had to work hard on it, you know.
JOHNSON: I think I was a bit luckier than Simon to actually go into the studio, workin’ with the lads first, before I went on the road, ya know. Cause you get the chance to know people better and live with them for a few weeks, so I was lucky in that respect.
To hear my full 23-minute interview with AC/DC from 1983 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one interviews with:
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992