On This Day in Music History

Brian Johnson Replaces Bon Scott In AC/DC March 29th 1980

1980

Brian Johnson of the band Geordie gets a new, slightly more high-profile gig: replacing the deceased Bon Scott in AC/DC. Johnson’s first album with the band is Back In Black, which becomes the second-best selling album worldwide behind Thriller.

AC/DC suffered a devastating blow when their beloved lead singer Bon Scott was found dead in February 1980 following a night of heavy drinking in London. They consider disbanding, but with encouragement from Scott’s family they decide to continue.

They find their new frontman in Brian Johnson, whose previous gig was with the little-known band Geordie. With the band already besieged by belittling disregard from mainstream music media and cultural critics, the announcement of an unheralded new singer arouses little excitement amongst those within conservative society.

Johnson overdelivers, writing potent lyrics for their album Back In Black and delivering them with searing vocals that evoke Scott without resorting to imitation. The album, which is dedicated to Scott, becomes one of the most successful in music history, with a hard-hitting and unpretentious brand of heavy rock that embodies a powerful honesty and viscerally resonates with audiences across the world.

Johnson turns out to be a great live performer as well, delivering rough and howling screams that are a perfect vocal accompaniment to AC/DC’s monstrous instrumental section.

Thanks to their new lead singer, the band builds on Scott’s legacy and reaches unprecedented heights, becoming one of the greatest rock bands of all time. “We just get out there and rock,” says guitarist Angus Young. “If your amp blows up or your guitar packs it in, smash it up and pick up another one.”

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