AC/DC's BRIAN JOHNSON On Hearing Loss That Nearly Ended His Career: 'I Didn't Wanna Go Out As A Casualty'

November 16, 2020

In a new interview with Tom Power, host of "Q" on Canada's CBC Radio One, AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson reflected on how his hearing loss more than four years ago nearly ended his four-decade career with the band.

"[AC/DC] had taken me from a life where I was happy; I did me own thing," he said. "And I certainly wasn't wealthy or anything like that [prior to joining AC/DC]. And I'd always wanted to be in a big band. I'd flirted with it in the early '70s with GEORDIE — we put out three or four Top 10 singles. There was five years where I was just playing in clubs and pubs, and having a great time; I quite enjoyed it — it was fun. And we were very popular out there.

"When think back on that now, when I was in this position where I couldn't go on [due to my hearing loss], that's one of the times when I thought, 'Listen, you cannot complain, Brian. What a run you've had.' It still hurt that I couldn't go on, 'cause I didn't wanna go out like that, as a casualty, as it were. And technology came to the rescue.

"But it does give you pause for thought," he continued. "And you think of all the great times that you've had and the places you've seen and the wonderful people you've met. And the fans, just the noise they made, which stays with you forever — it really does."

Touching upon the technology that enabled him to return to performing live, Brian said: "It's [something] you just don't expect. What happened next, you don't expect it. I thank me lucky stars it did happen."

AC/DC postponed the last ten dates of its North American tour in 2016 after doctors told Johnson he faced a total loss of hearing if he did not stop touring immediately. He was eventually replaced on the road by GUNS N' ROSES vocalist Axl Rose.

To enable him to perform live with AC/DC again, Johnson worked with audio expert Stephen Ambrose, who said he could help resolve the singer's hearing problems.

Ambrose, who invented the wireless in-ear monitors that are widely used by touring artists today, claimed to have invented a new type of ear-bud that would allow Johnson to perform without causing further damage to his eardrums. After three years of experimenting and "miniaturizing" the equipment, Johnson said the technology could allow him to tour again.

AC/DC's comeback album, "Power Up", was released on November 13. The LP was recorded over a six-week period in August and September 2018 at Warehouse Studios in Vancouver with producer Brendan O'Brien, who also worked 2008's "Black Ice" and 2014's "Rock Or Bust".

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