Brian Johnson touches on his heartbreaking 2016 exit from AC/DC in his new memoir The Lives of Brian.
Per Ultimate Classic Rock, Johnson recalls calling AC/DC’s tour manager to let him know he couldn’t continue with the band due to his hearing loss. He writes, “It was one of the most difficult conversations of my life – the pain of it made worse over the weeks that followed when the tour simply went on without me. It was a sheer cliff. I didn’t tumble down, I was in free fall.”
He added, “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.”
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Axl Rose would fill in for Johnson on the remaining AC/DC tour dates, but Johnson never took in a performance or sought out footage of Rose fronting the band.
“It’s like finding a stranger in your house, sitting in your favorite chair,” writes Johnson. “But I bear no grudges. It was a tough situation. Angus [Young] 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.”
Fortunately, Johnson was able to rejoin AC/DC for their 2020 studio album Power Up thanks to new in-ear monitor technology that helped the singer hear again. He wrote of the technician and the technology that helped him rejoin the band, “Whatever magic he used, it worked. I could hear again – even in my deaf ear, meaning I was able to enjoy stereo. Suddenly, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in what seemed like an eternity: Hope.”
The Lives of Brian is set for release on October 25 and is available for purchase here.