DEF LEPPARD’S JOE ELLIOTT ON HOW AC/DC HANDLED BRIAN JOHNSON’S HEARING LOSS, “IT WAS NOT THE WAY I WOULD HAVE DONE IT”
Def Leppard frontman, Joe Elliott, was recently interviewed by Life In The Stocks. During the discussion, the singer was asked what his thoughts were on how AC/DC handled the lead singer Brian Johnson’s hearing issues, and their decision to tour with Guns N’ Roses frontman, Axl Rose.
Elliott said, “I wouldn’t have done it like that. I can’t speak for Angus [Young, AC/DC guitarist] and his team as to what their reasons were for doing what they did, but considering that we had a drummer lose and arm and we waited for him, the way that they dealt with it was not the way I would have done it, put it that way.”
While Elliott prefers the Bon Scott era of the band, he believes that “the Back In Black tour was pretty good, I’ve gotta say. I saw ’em live, and I think Jonna [Brian Johnson] really… he stepped up to the plate. It’s a hard thing to do, but I suppose he was fortunate in the fact that Back In Black was a bigger album than anything that they’d done before, so to a lot of people, they hadn’t even heard Bon Scott — it was like a new band. Outside of the U.K. and Australia, in America it was their first really big record.”
….”Back In Black sold way more than Hysteria — probably 35 million [worldwide], whereas we’re somewhere [around] 23, 24, something like that. Put it into that context, it sounds like I’m complaining — I’m really not. I’m just saying it’s a phenomenal amount of records. I think ‘Back In Black‘s pretty much close to selling the same [as], if not more than, [Michael Jackson’s] Thriller…So that’s a phenomenal amount of records to sell. And it’s one of those records that never dies — it keeps popping up on the soundtrack of Iron Man and it keeps popping up in God knows how many movies, songs from Back In Black are featured in, and that helps keep it alive. It’s a brilliant record; it’s a fantastic record. I remember the first time we ever heard it — we heard it before it came out, ’cause [former Def Leppard manager Peter] Mensch came on the bus with a cassette. He said, ‘Listen to this,’ and we were, like, ‘Woah!’ It was something special.”
I have to disagree with Joe Elliot on his take on Brian Johnson/ Axl Rose thing. At the time, as I remember it, it was thought that Brian Johnson would never be able to perform again without permanently damaging his hearing. The band had performances scheduled, and did not want to disappoint their fans. If they thought that they could simply postpone the gigs for a few months while Brian recovered, I have no doubt that they would have done so. But with the assumption being that Brian was never going to be able to perform again, Angus and the band decided to bring in Axl to perform with them. I also think that Def Leppard did a GREAT thing in waiting for Rick Allen to recover from his accident and develop to ability to play with one arm. Honestly, replacing a drummer is a MUCH easier thing than replacing a front man. But they didn’t do that, and kudos to them for making that decision. I just think that Joe shouldn’t diss Angus for making the decision he did, because at the time it didn’t look they had much of a choice, other than cancelling the gigs that were scheduled.
of course angus handled it wrong – but i’m sure venues were booked and a lot of money would be lost if they stopped and waited , still it rubbed me wrong from the start , and watching the youtube stuff with axl , he did a decent job , but it was not the same tour obligations were met axl i’m sure had an amazing time doing it , but it just did not ring true for me , replacing the voice of your band is not an easy thing –
Robert, I have all the same thoughts as you on the AC/DC matter. The clips I heard of Axl singing sounded good, particularly the Bon Scott era songs. But it just doesn’t sit right with me that Axl replaced Brian Johnson as the vocalist for AC/DC….it just seems very karaoke, to me….
I hope Brian comes back/in black,love him fronting ac/D.C.,great voice
I get Joe’s point, but Def Leppard were in their early 20s when Rick lost his arm. They had plenty of time to work things out, plus they weren’t in the middle of a tour.
Great point from Randy K.
Kudos to Def Leppard for overcoming tragedies, that probably would have doomed most bands, to become one of the most successful rock bands. It is admirable that Joe and the boys demonstrated loyalty by sticking with drummer Rick Allen after losing his arm in the car crash, particularly as the band was gaining huge momentum in its success. The band was able to use technology to develop a drum kit that would allow Rick to continue his drumming duties with the band. And I think the new drum kit, along with Mutt Lange’s influence, added greatly to the sound of the album Hysteria, and this new sound kinda became their new “signature” sound. Their loyalty to Rick Allen sure worked out well for them, and I’m happy it did for them….but I still greatly prefer the hard rock edged On Through the Night and High N Dry albums over anything else they ever did….
Totally agree, Rattlehead!