AC/DC’s Brian Johnson has revealed further details about why he had to stop playing live with the band. His statement comes in the same week that it was announced that Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose will take over Johnson’s duties during AC/DC’s forthcoming live shows.
Johnson made it clear that he wasn’t retiring from recording with the band, but that his health had made playing live shows impossible. In a statement he said: “On March 7th, after a series of examinations by leading physicians in the field of hearing loss, I was advised that if I continued to perform at large venues I risked total deafness. While I was horrified at the reality of the news that day, I had for a time become aware that my partial hearing loss was beginning to interfere with my performance on stage … and because I was not able to hear the other musicians clearly, I feared the quality of my performance could be compromised. This was something I could not, in good conscience, allow. Our fans deserve my performance to be at the highest level, and if for any reason I can’t deliver that level of performance I will not disappoint our fans or embarrass the other members of AC/DC.”
Johnson was at pains to point out that he wasn’t a “quitter” and that there is nothing he’d like more than to be able to continue playing live with the group. “I like to finish what I start. Nevertheless, the doctors made it clear that I had no choice but to stop performing on stage for the remaining shows and possibly beyond. That was the darkest day of my professional life.”
He added that it was possible he could continue at some point in the future: “Since that day, I have had several consultations with my doctors and it appears that, for the near future, I will be unable to perform on stage at arena and stadium-size venues where the sound levels are beyond my current tolerance without the risk of substantial hearing loss and possibly total deafness. I tried as best as I could to continue despite the pain and hearing loss, but it became too much to bear and too much to risk.”
Johnson said doctors had confirmed he could continue to record in the studio with the band: “And I intend to do that. For the moment, my entire focus is to continue medical treatment to improve my hearing. I am hoping that in time my hearing will improve and allow me to return to live concert performances. While the outcome is uncertain, my attitude is optimistic. Only time will tell.”
Axl Rose, 54, will fulfil his current commitments to Guns N’ Roses before replacing Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates.
The last couple of years have been difficult for AC/DC. In July 2015, they parted company with drummer Phil Rudd after he was convicted of threatening to kill and possession of drugs. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young left in September 2014 after announcing he had dementia.