AC/DC's BRIAN JOHNSON Explains Why He Wanted To Shoot Down Rumor BON SCOTT Wrote Lyrics For 'Back In Black'

December 20, 2022

In his recently released memoir, "The Lives Of Brian", AC/DC singer Brian Johnson shoots down theories that the band's late frontman Bon Scott wrote some of the words for the "Back In Black" album prior to his untimely death in early 1980. Asked in a new interview with Metal Edge he first heard the theory Bon's lyrics were used on the LP, Johnson said: "It was a bit of a shock. It was probably about 1984, '85. There was no social media at the time… And then there's this guy in Australia, who was absolutely positive that Bon had written the lyrics. And he wouldn't shut up and he wouldn't go away and he was even to the point of phoning Derek, Bon's brother, and he's a lovely guy and all that and he was sick of this guy as well. I won't say his name, 'cause it's not worth mentioning it. He was saying that Bon had written the words and that I had claimed them. Now, in the real world, that just doesn't happen. First of all, the boys in the band would've given me them to sing, and they would've put his name on there — it's simple as that, it's a simple thing. And it was proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, you know, but this guy just kept pestering people. 'You sure you haven't gotten any lyrics somewhere that Bon had written that we can prove?' And he's becoming a pest and Derek was saying that this guy still tries to phone him. He wants to make a movie of Bon's life and of course the family absolutely forbid it, with the privacy and all. One day they might, who knows. But I don't know — it's not my place to say. Now that man's getting older and he knows his time's coming up… and he can't keep on saying it, he's just gonna look foolish. There's too many people who were there, you know, that saw what happened and I just felt… I just felt I had to say somethin'. I wasn't going to because I'm not gonna let this guy think it's bothering me. But the truth was, it did bother me in a way. 'Why would he do that?' Then, of course, he's one of these conspiracy theorists — you know what I mean — they're always there. I just said, let me put a full stop on this. I'll just put a full stop on this and just say, 'That's enough.'"

When interviewer Michael Christopher pointed out that there are rumors that Bon's family receives royalties on "Back In Black" because it's his lyrics, Johnson countered: "No, no. Bon's family receives royalties from the stuff he's done — I'm sure. They'll have an estate, most people do afterwards if they die and there's still money coming in from that period of their work. That would be right. That's the right and proper thing. But I don't think so…I know so, 'cause I get them ['Back In Black' royalties]. [Laughs] There's the simple answer."

Two months ago, Johnson was asked by Rolling Stone why he stopped writing AC/DC's lyrics in the mid-Eighties. He responded: "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, 'Okay, 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."

A year and a half ago, Angus also shot down the rumor that Bon was involved in the songwriting process of several of the "Back In Black" tracks. "Bon never really got the chance," the guitarist told Paste magazine. "At the time, me and Malcolm were writing songs, which became the songs for 'Back In Black'. We were in London in a rehearsal room, and Bon had come down, too. And what used to happen was, me and Malcolm would get together and get a drum kit, and Malcolm would get behind the drums sometimes, and I'd get on the guitar and just tap out a riff. Or other times, Malcolm would get on the guitar and he'd get me to just knock out a simple beat on the drums. Anyhow, we were working away, and it was on an intro which was actually what became the intro for 'Hells Bells'. So Bon showed up, and Malcolm said, 'Oh, great, Bon. You can get behind the kit.' Because originally Bon started as a drummer. So Bon got behind the drum kit so we could try and work out this intro, how we wanted to do it. So we sorted that out how we wanted. And the other one was 'Have A Drink On Me', a riff Malcolm was playing around with. So we worked out the intro on that and how the song was gonna go. So he had Bon tapped to do a demo for that. So that was it, really. If you were looking up what Bon had done, it was really just to help us with those demos on the drums. And he even said to us, as we were knocking off in the night time, 'Look, we'll hook up next week.' He'd been working on some lyrics, and said, 'We'll hook up next week and maybe the three of us can just start going through stuff.' But unfortunately, he passed before that."

Angus continued: "It's kind of strange, in a way, when I think back, because when Bon first joined us as a band, that was the first thing he wanted to do — he took me and Malcolm and said, Come on!' And we went to a friend's place who had a studio, and when we got there, Bon got behind the drum kit and said, 'All right, come on you guys. Start playing.' And Malcolm said, 'Look, Bon — we've got a real good drummer. We don't need another drummer. What we need is a really good rock 'n' roll singer.' But with Bon, what you saw was what you got. He had his own approach to this, and he lived that character. I mean, sometimes you'd be doing a gig somewhere, and he'd show up with some people, and then he'd be gone for a few days. And he'd have been out with some guys drinking moonshine up in the hills. He'd just met them, but they were all like his long-lost friends, ya know?"

"Back In Black" was the first album AC/DC released after Johnson replaced Scott, and it went on to become the third-biggest-selling LP of all time.

Scott was invited to join AC/DC by Malcolm and Angus Young in 1974, and achieved international stardom before his death at the age of 33 from alcohol poisoning.

He sang on AC/DC's first six studio albums, including "High Voltage", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Let There Be Rock" and "Highway To Hell".

Scott died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking at a club in London, just days after attending a session with Malcolm and Angus Young where they began working on music for what became the "Back In Black" album.

According to the AC/DC FAQ web site, Bon and the friend, a musician named Alisdair Kinnear, had been drinking the evening of February 19, 1980 and Bon apparently fell asleep during the ride home. Kinnear could not wake Bon, so he left him in the car to sleep. Kinnear awoke early in the evening on February 20, checked on Bon, and found him unconscious in the car. Bon could not be revived, and was pronounced dead.

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