AC/DC is back with the band's first new album in over six years, Power Up set for release on November 13th. During a new chat with Rolling Stone, the band looked back at their 2015/2016 tour in support of the previous year's Rock Or Bust, in which frontman Brian Johnson's temporary hearing loss forced him off the tour. To the delight of many, superfan Axl Rose stepped in to replace him on the road.
Bassist Cliff Williams recalled to Rolling Stone, “He’d pull his in-ears out and just shake his head. He couldn’t pitch. He was having a real hard time.” Guitarist Angus Young added: “Brian was running the risk of going deaf permanently. We had a few days to let everyone know the situation and get the message out. You don’t want people showing up and being disgruntled and finding out at the last minute.”
For Brian Johnson, the loss of his hearing was his worst fear come to pass: “It was pretty serious. I couldn’t hear the tone of the guitars at all. It was a horrible kind of deafness. I was literally getting by on muscle memory and mouth shapes. I was starting to really feel bad about the performances in front of the boys, in front of the audience. It was crippling. There’s nothing worse than standing there and not being sure.”
He went on to say, “The docs said, 'Deaf is deaf, son.' Cliff and Angus didn’t want to be responsible for me damaging my ears any further. . . S*** happens. At least it wasn’t terminal. It’s like being shot on the battlefield; it’s just your turn. I’ll be quite honest with you, I went to my office and buried my head in a bottle of whiskey, good whiskey. I didn’t feel too good myself about the whole thing. But that was then. With all bands and things, there are little bumps in the road.”
Asked a while back about the prospect of retiring one day, Brian Johnson told us that he would know when the time had come: “Y'know, retirement is like anything. A good footballer or a good ice hockey player, they don't want to retire. But unfortunately, sometimes there's a time when you have to call it quits.”