Brian Johnson on His Memoir, Bon Scott, & Why He Stopped Writing AC/DC’s Lyrics in the Mid-’80s: “I think that was a management decision” – 2022 – INTERVIEW
Rolling Stone: AC/DC’s Brian Johnson spoke to us about his early life, how he overcame deafness to get onstage again, and his new memoir, ‘The Lives of Brian.’
You can read the entire interview @ this location. An excerpt from the conversation has been provided below.
When you joined AC/DC, Malcolm Young asked you to write the lyrics to Back in Black. In the book, you shoot down theories that Bon Scott wrote some of the words. Why did you feel you had to do that?
There was one particular journalist — a writer in Australia — who just wouldn’t let go of this thing. And of course, Malcolm and Angus 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.
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.
Why did you stop writing AC/DC’s lyrics in the mid-Eighties?
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, “OK, 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.
Do you see yourself touring with AC/DC again or making another album?
I would love to. It’s as simple as that. I think everybody would. There’s a groundswell of people just asking. But I hate talking about the future, because, fuck, we were ready two years ago, and the pandemic came, and it screwed everything up. So I’m terrified to say what could happen and what couldn’t. And I hate talking for a band. If a couple of other boys [from the band] was with us, I could probably have an answer, but I cannot take the responsibility. It’s such a broad question.
As you think back on the stories in The Lives of Brian, are there any aspects of your life you see differently now?
Yes, of course. Getting married young was stupid. We were told it was stupid, but we didn’t listen. I wish I’d have been a smarter person; I wasn’t. I always did things kneejerk, right-in-the-moment, when it felt good. We all got ripped off. I wish I had that foresight to see these people who made me sign a contract [with Geordie]. I recently found the first one I signed and about 12 pages in, there’s this big red stamp thing: “The artist will not make more than 10 percent of the gross.” We didn’t see that. Then there was the success that we got and then the failure. We were on Top of the Pops, and two years later, the band was broke and fizzled out. I had to go to work to pay the mortgage. That’s when I started to put the cap on, so nobody would recognize me because of the fucking shame that I had been on the TV and had songs in the chart and there I was penniless.
I just wanted to write a nice, joyful book, giving a little bit of the history of northeast England and what it was like to travel in a band. You know, to have a French customs officer slap a latex glove on and hear the squelch of the fucking gel as he’s looking for drugs up your ass, which were never there. It’s the things you do for rock & roll.
You can read the entire interview @ this location.