Born in Dunston, England back in 1947, Brian Johnson started his musical career in 1962 when he was only 15. But it was only 11 years later that he had the opportunity to make a record with the Glam Rock band Geordie. Then almost a decade later he was invited to join AC/DC in 1980 at the age of 32, to replace classic vocalist Bon Scott after his tragic death.
The musician had a huge responsibility in his hands since the band had gained millions of fans all over the world during the last years and he managed to help them to make their best-selling album “Back In Black”, released only a few months after he joined the group. Since then AC/DC has become one of the biggest bands of all time with an estimated amount of more than 200 million records worldwide.
In the music business since the 60s, Johnson had the opportunity to see the evolution of Rock and Roll up-close. Over the decades he talked about many other bands, including Black Sabbath, the one that created Heavy Metal.
What is Brian Johnson’s opinion on Black Sabbath
When Black Sabbath released their first two albums “Black Sabbath” (1970) and “Paranoid” (1970), Brian Johnson was only 22 and was working as an apprentice, besides being a member of a Rock and Roll group with friends. In an interview BBC Radio 2 on the show “Tracks Of My Years” in 2022 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), he praised Black Sabbath, recalling the first time he heard the band’s hit “Paranoid” and explained how important that song was to him. It was one of the tracks that he listed as some of his favorites.
“I just said, I was an apprentice in Parsons and every lunch time the qualified guys would get the young apprentices and say: ‘Ok, get me two pies and one sausage sandwich’. You would get the exact money and the bosses would let you out so you could stand in a line. The coffee was called The Paddock. There would be a line and there would be a jukebox in. I remember once I was standing there and this song came on. It was ‘Paranoid’ Black Sabbath.”
Brian Johnson continued:
“We were all (like) ‘Who’s that?’. It just took over and everybody started scratching in their pockets (for money). I mean, we kept put in it on. As soon as I got back from work, I (talked) to the whole of the band and said ‘We’ve gotta learn this song’. I keep thinking, me and Ozzy, I think we are about the same age. He must have been 13 when he made that one (laughs). But I think it was a great thing because it started this whole thing.”
“I’m not a big fan of people calling: Hard Rock, Heavy Rock (and etc). It’s powerful Rock and Roll that people love to play and listen to. I think that ‘Paranoid’ really think it’s an important song that really made an impression on me,” Brian Johnson said.
“Paranoid” reached number 4 on the United Kingdom singles chart and number 61 on the United States Billboard Hot 100. It was the hit the band needed to reach a bigger audience at the time. Consequently becoming an influence to aspiring artists like Brian Johnson.
Brian Johnson couldn’t believe the first time he had the opportunity to meet Ozzy Osbourne face-to-face
Even though Brian Johnson recorded four studio albums with Geordie in the 70s, he only achieved a higher level of fame after he joined AC/DC in 1980. Being a member of the band he was able to finally meet many of his heroes and people he admired. In an interview transcribed by Rock Celebrities, the musician recalled the first time he had the chance to meet Ozzy Osbourne face-to-face.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was ridiculous, you know? I’m sitting in this little rehearsal room. You know, bewildered by it all, if you can imagine. We’re getting prepared to go away to do an album. This road crew, man that I’ve never seen before who looked like they knew what they were doing, there was equipment the size I’ve never seen before. This was all promised of being wheeled in, wheeled out.”
Brian Johnson continued:
“The record people coming in and managers. (It was) just bewildering. Then in comes Ozzy Osbourne, ‘Oh, hello, mate. It’s lovely to meet you.’ He has a lovely accent. We sat down and went for a pint around the corner. I’m just sitting with these people, just looking around. Two weeks ago, I would have just dreamed of sitting in this company. There I was… It’s really hard to describe,” Brian Johnson said.
Although it was the first time for Brian, it wasn’t for AC/DC, since the band had the chance a few years before to tour with Black Sabbath. But those shows didn’t last long since they were kicked-out of the tour after a discussion between Geezer Butler and Malcolm Young.
Ozzy Osbourne’s favorite AC/DC singer is not Brian Johnson
Although Ozzy already said that he loves Brian Johnson but had revealed that his favorite AC/DC singer is the late Bon Scott. He was a member of the Hard Rock group from 1974 until his death in 1980. So Ozzy had the chance to meet him since he was still alive when they toured with Sabbath in the late 70s.
In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2017 he chose “Highway To Hell” as one of his favorite albums of all time. He also explained why Bon is his favorite singer from the band.
“I love Brian Johnson. But to me my good friend, the late Bon Scott, was the best singer AC/DC ever had. This album was like an addiction to me,” Ozzy Osbourne said.
The Black Sabbath vocalist said the same thing to Broken Record Podcast in 2020. “Bon Scott was a great singer. I mean, Brian (Johnson) is good. But I prefer Bon.”
AC/DC and Black Sabbath were able to remain successful replacing their classic singers almost at the same time
By the time Brian Johnson joined AC/DC in 1980, Black Sabbath was already one of the most influential bands in the world. Formed by Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, during the 70s the band released acclaimed albums. Some of them are “Black Sabbath” (1970), “Paranoid” (1970), “Master Of Reality” (1971), “Vol. 4” (1972) and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” (1973).
After 8 albums with the same line-up, the band decided to fire the vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1979 due to drug and alcohol abuse. It was a very risky decision, since he was the voice of the band on all those famous records. They recruited the former Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who had a very different vocal style when compared Ozzy. But the combination worked and they were able to release the two praised albums “Heaven & Hell” (1980) and “Mob Rules” (1981) with the American singer.
Curiously that happened almost simultaneously in AC/DC. Brian Johnson also had some really big shoes to fill, since he was replacing Bon Scott. Not many bands are lucky enough to be able to continue to be relevant and successful after replacing such an important member. So there not many examples of it. To this day AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Van Halen are three of the few bands that were able to continue commercially successful after a big change.
I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG