How Brian Johnson joined AC/DC: a strange German, a hoover ad, and an awful pie

Brian Johnson onstage in 1980
(Image credit: Watal Asanuma/Shinko Music)

We all know that AC/DC’s decision to recruit former Geordie frontman Brian Johnson to replace the late, great Bon Scott in 1980 changed the course of rock music history, and led to the phenomenal success of Back In Black.

But did you know that things might have worked out very differently for the Aussie hard rock legends if ‘Beano’ hadn’t been invited to London to record a song for an advert for Hoover vacuum cleaners around the same time?

In a clip uploaded to the Brian Johnson TV YouTube channel in March 2019, the then-73-year-old singer revealed the full story behind his AC/DC audition, with added drama supplied by his use of comedic German and Cockney accents. 

"The phone rang, and I picked it up and it was this lady with a German accent,” Brian says in the video. “She was going (puts on German accent) ‘Iz ziss Brian Johnson?’ I said, ‘It is. Who is this?’

“And she said, 'zis I cannot say. We are wanting you to come to London and to sing with the band to audition.’ I said, ‘Which band?’ She said, ‘zis I cannot say also.'”

Brian proceeds to tell the rest of the story, slipping into two different Cockney accents and detailing a terrible pie with with a crust made by "a welder for British Railways."

In October 2020 Johnson told the story of how he heard his audition had been successful, on the Let There Be Talk podcast.

"It was me dad’s birthday, up in Newcastle, and I had bought me dad a bottle of whiskey, for his birthday present," said Johnson. "I went home to me mum and dad’s, and there wasn’t anybody there. It was about 2 in the afternoon, or 2:30… And then the phone rang, because Malcolm had me mum and dad’s number. And that was the phone call. 

"I said to Mal, ‘Hang on, are you sure this is not a hoax?’ He said, ‘No’ and I said, ‘Well, could you ring us back in 10 minutes just to make sure that I’m not dreaming this?’ And he did, God bless him! And he said, ‘Do you fancy coming to the Bahamas, we’re making a record.’ I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘I’ll get my people to get in touch with you. Okay, I’m off to watch the Grand National on the telly."

And that was that. Johnson was in AC/DC. And he'd never make another Hoover ad. 

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