Opinion: Why Axl Rose should leave AC/DC alone

AC/DC with Axl Rose
AC\/DC with Axl Rose (Image credit: Getty Images)

The first thing that struck me about Murray Engelheart’s pronouncement on whether AC/DC might continue as an outfit and actually record an album with Axl Rose, was that it came seemingly totally without foundation. As the AC/DC biographer himself states, “Speculate all all you want but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: AC/DC will continue with Axl on vocals – new album, touring, the whole nine yards.”

Now you might think that as an AC/DC biographer Engelheart might have some inside track with the band. I can tell you they don’t work like that. Ever. AC/DC are a closed book, operating very much on their own rules, in their own time, and pretty much sod everyone else. Only the band’s lawyer, the mercurial Alvin Handwerker, would have any idea of any potential plans for what Angus may, or may not be planning. And as other AC/DC authors have discovered, he’s saying nothing…

Jesse Fink, author of the recent Bon Scott: The Last Highway, and the earlier The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC states, “Another approach was made in New York through Alvin Handwerker [AC/DC accountant and manager] – their manager, and basically I got absolutely fuck all from him – not even a response. But that’s the reaction certainly that Mick Wall got when he was doing his book, and there have been other writers who have attempted to probe into the lives of The Youngs.”

I’m not besmirching Engelheart’s own AC/DC endeavours: Maximum Rock & Roll, his 2009 book on the band, co-written with Arnaud Derieux, is a great read, if rather thin on detail for the most recent part of the band’s career, suggesting no real insider information.

As a lifelong AC/DC fan myself (with two Acca Dacca books under my own belt), there’s not much I don’t like about the band. But teaming up with Axl Rose, a man given to the kind of rock’n’roll prima donna behaviour that certainly Malcolm Young would have been appalled by, left something of a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the way Angus and management treated Brian Johnson for starters. Rumours that after over 30 years of service his band-related flight cases were just left dumped on his Florida driveway, even if not true, made everything seem more sour.

Now I don’t begrudge Angus needing to fulfil the band’s live obligations. The fines for failing to do so these days are immense. It’s just that, like many other people, I knew there were better choices than Axl Rose. Fellow Glaswegian turned Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes for example. Not to mention the fact that Brian declared himself match fit as well!

Little wonder reports of huge tracts of tickets being returned as fans turned their noses up at William Bailey abounded. The fact that the longtime faithful bassist Cliff Williams called it a day at the end of the tour said more than anything. So I don’t give the remotest toss that some reviewers said the ensuing live shows were OK. And that Axl behaved himself and sang OK. Because like the majority, I didn’t want to know. Why? Because it’s not AC/DC, that’s why. And it never will be.

Angus Young and Axl Rose

Angus Young and Axl Rose (Image credit: Getty Images)

So today the internet is buzzing with reports on the back of Engelheart’s rumour. Great. A rumour with little or no foundation seems to become fact. Well, here’s another rumour for you. It’s only a rumour, but it’s one I heard the day before Engelheart made his pronouncement. The source, which I won’t divulge, is what I consider to be pretty good too. Brian’s back in AC/DC. For another tour and album.

Christ knows whether either rumour are actually true. And given that it’s AC/DC, they could change their mind at any moment. They’re certainly no strangers to contrariness. But if the Engelheart rumour seems to have no foundation, the fact that Johnson supposedly buried the hatchet with Angus at Malcolm’s funeral in Sydney recently lends a touch of credence. We all saw the photos plastered all over the internet. I was even more surprised, in a pleasant way, to see the previously disgraced Phil Rudd there too. Read into that what you will.

When I appeared on the BBC the day Malcolm Young sadly passed away, I mooted the idea that what AC/DC should do, is get Brian, Cliff and Phil back, and hit the road for one more time in honour of Malcom Young and indeed the band’s own legendary career. One more goodbye from the guys who everyone knows bleed AC/DC. Not some hired hands including a bloke with a bad hair transplant. And hey, if they did, maybe I’ll get to see them for a 51st time. And if they don’t, I’ve got my great AC/DC memories. But I won’t be bothering with an Axl Rose-fronted AC/DC, if it were to happen again. Because Axl Rose is about as relevant in AC/DC to me as the letter k is in knife!

Opinion: Why AC/DC should make an album with Axl Rose

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.