The Real Reason Brian Johnson Left AC/DC

Usually, the news of someone leaving the band comes with either some drama filled gossip about personalities clashing or the information that the member in question had died. So when the headline that Brian Johnson would no longer serve as lead singer of AC/DC arose, gossip column pens were sharpened. However, Brian Johnson's departure did not fall into either category.

In 1980, AC/DC's second singer, Bon Scott, died due to asphyxiating on his own vomit while sleeping off a night of drinking. As Angus Young explained to BraveWords, Bon Scott had paid Brian Johnson the highest compliment of comparing him to Little Richard, Scott's idol, so they asked Johnson to fill the vacancy. Johnson accepted and five months later they released a tribute to Scott, an album called Back in Black that became one of the best selling albums ever.

In the midst of their Rock or Bust Tour in 2016, however, Johnson found he couldn't hear the band properly. The doctors informed him that unless he stopped immediately, his hearing problems could worsen, risking deafness. Johnson left the band.

Now, the natural assumption would be that Johnson's hearing loss came from a career spent banging around at rock concerts. That's not entirely it though. Later Johnson explained his issue to Howard Stern: "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 [sic] plugs in under my helmet."

Back in black?

When Stephen Ambrose, an in-ear technology specialist heard the news, he reached out to Brian Johnson. Ambrose's ADEL hearing technology is essentially a synthetic ear drum that absorbs harmful pressures. By the nineties he introduced the technology to Guns N' Roses and thought Johnson might be interested. Johnson was and found that with Ambroses's work he could, as he says in an authorized statement made by Asius Technologies, "hear music again like I haven't heard for several years now."

Then nothing was heard from him...

That is until rumors started circulating in August 2018 that Brian Johnson was seen near the recording studio where AC/DC was working on their next album. Then, in 2019, the American grindcore band Terrorizer wrote on Facebook that they had run into Johnson in an airport: "We asked him about the rumours of him being on the new AC/DC album and he said 'yes' and that he is 'sick of denying it.'" Several other sources have either heard the same from Johnson himself or from other reliable sources that he will both appear on AC/DC's next album and their tour.

Without a formal announcement, we can only wait and see.