"It was all a bit exhausting and emotionally draining": Meet the man who auditioned to replace Bon Scott in AC/DC and Paul Di'Anno in Iron Maiden

AC/DC onstage in 1976, plus inset headshot of Terry Slesser
AC/DC onstage at London's Marquee in 1976, plus (inset) Terry Slesser, the same year (Image credit: AC/DC: Michael Putland | Terry Slesser: Dick Barnatt/Redferns. Both via Getty Images.)

When AC/DC supported Paul Kossoff's post-Free band Back Street Crawler at London’s Marquee in May 1976, it set a strange sequence of events in motion. Angus and co. stayed friends with Crawler singer Terry Slesser and, following Bon Scott’s death, Slesser found himself auditioning for the role of AC/DC frontman. In 2009 Slesser told us the tale.

“Looking up the dates on the AC/DC archive, it was the ‘Crawler’ version of Back Street Crawler that played with AC/DC at London’s Marquee [on May 11 and 12, 1976]. Our guitarist Paul Kossoff died on March 19 that year. We were supposed to headline Hyde Park with AC/DC supporting before Koss took ill the first time. 

“I don’t recall much about the Marquee except I read out a note from David Kossoff [Koss’s dad] along the lines of ‘the band must play on’. I do remember playing Birmingham Barbarellas with AC/DC. I gave Angus their £50 quid fee so they could get a curry. 

“I always said if I ever headlined I would give the support act every consideration: full PA, full lights, et cetera. My manager said: ‘Sless, while that is very admirable, I have seen AC/DC. They really rock and they may blow you off the stage. I said: ‘No matter.’ And, of course, AC/DC really did rock. We remained great friends, though. 

“Later, I was asked to sing with AC/DC at Pimlico rehearsal studios. They had just returned from Australia and Bon’s funeral. It was a pretty grim scenario. I broke the ice when I suggested we do Rocky Mountain Way as a ‘non-Bon song’ to get things going. We all relaxed a bit after that. I had a couple glasses of Mateus and Angus had a cup of tea. 

“We ran through Whole Lotta Rosie, Highway To Hell and The Jack. It was all pretty enjoyable. Malcolm [Young] thought he was recording the rehearsal on to a Revox but discovered that it hadn’t taped. I didn’t fancy doing it all again. It was all a bit exhausting and emotionally draining. 

“It was down to two singers in the end, I believe. My mate Brian [Johnson] came down to audition from Newcastle. I’m from Newcastle, too. I suppose AC/DC were destined to have a Geordie singer after Bon.” 

Remarkably, Slesser would also audition for Iron Maiden. He was approached behind Paul Di’Anno’s back while Di'Anno was still in the band, but his whisky-soaked rasp didn’t gel with Maiden’s more technical material. Instead, Maiden leader Steve Harris turned his attention to the flashy, flamboyantly dressed frontman with Maiden’s NWOBHM peers Samson, and their frontman Bruce Dickinson. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Terry Slesser was speaking with Geoff Barton.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.