What happens when the unexpected injury threatens to silence Brian Johnson‘s voice? There have been numerous times when vocalists had to take a step back, whether it be from vocal surgeries, vocal rests, or in AC/DC‘s Brian’s case, his hearing loss.
Amidst his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, Johnson’s passion for cars and racing was the very thing that nearly cost him his ability to hear. In 2016, during one ill-fated race, he forgot to shield his ears with protective plugs, resulting in a punctured left eardrum.
Not a moment to waste as the band was on their ‘Rock or Bust World Tour,’ the remaining members announced Johnson’s temporary departure. Everyone was concerned for his well-being and acknowledged the danger he would face if he continued to sing. The band found a replacement; Axl Rose stepped in.
This was the first time the band had to shake up their lineup since their ‘Highway to Hell Tour’ in 1980. Johnson opened up about the hurdles he faced in an interview with UCR, the reasons behind his lingering guilt and emotional turmoil where he couldn’t watch the band.
Brian Johnson’s words about why he felt guilty about the band read:
“Part of the pain of it was that I blamed myself. For most of my career, I’d been in the loudest band in the world. I’d flown constantly. I’d flown even when I knew I wasn’t well. For a while, people would ask me if I was depressed, but depression is treatable. My hearing loss wasn’t. What I was feeling wasn’t depression. It was something closer to despair.”
“I’m told that he did a great job, but I just couldn’t watch – especially when you’ve been doing it for 35 years. It’s like finding a stranger in your house, sitting in your favorite chair. But I bear no grudges. It was a tough situation. Angus and the lads did what they felt they had to do.
That said, after the band released a statement confirming that I was leaving the tour and wishing me all the best for the future, I couldn’t relax or concentrate on anything. It was just always there.”
Brian even revealed in his memoir ‘The Lives of Brian’ that he felt that the place he called home for so long was given to someone else to take care of, he blamed himself, and he couldn’t deal with those emotions that came with it. Even though he knew that was the right call to finish the tour, it was still a difficult time, especially because he didn’t know if he could return to the stage.
The rocker got back on stage and reclaimed his position within the band thanks to his ability to confront these challenges head-on and, most importantly, the medical expert who found an experimental approach to treat his hearing issue.
The blown ear drum wasn’t the reason he had to quite the tour. That happened years earlier…
“AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson has been openly discussing his hearing loss since at least 2014, when he told Howard Stern that rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t entirely to blame.”
“I’ve obviously had some hearing loss,” Johnson told Stern. “I’ve got hearing loss in me left ear. I didn’t get it from music. I got it from sitting in a race car too long without ear plugs. I heard my ear drum burst, because I forgot to put me plugs in under my helmet. That’s how it happened. Music had nothing to do with it.”