Brian Johnson Couldn't Hear Onstage Towards the End of His AC/DC Tenure

By Andrew Magnotta

February 1, 2018

Former AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson says the hearing issues that forced him to leave the band got so bad towards the end, he was relying on "muscle memory" to perform.

Despite Johnson's unceremonious departure from AC/DC, he expresses no hard feelings towards his former band.

"On stage, it was getting harder and harder to hear the guitars, even hear the keys, and I was basically going on muscle memory," Johnson told The Sunday Times. "And I'm not the kind of guy who likes to cheat. The way I look at it, I had a great run."

Johnson was forced into retirement for fear of going completely deaf right before AC/DC's 2016 World Tour. He was replaced in the band by Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose

The singer said in a letter to fans at the time that he intended to focus on medial treatment to improve his hearing so he could eventually return to the stage. 

He has since recorded on Jim Breuer's Songs From the Garage album joined other artists onstage for brief collaborations with the likes of Robert Plant and Muse.

Johnson says his hearing loss is not due to playing thousands of loud rock concerts over the years. He says it mostly stems from an injury he sustained while auto-racing without ear protection. 

Last month, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott criticized AC/DC for the way in which they parted ways with Johnson. Elliott said Johnson deserved better.  

“I wouldn’t have done it like that,” he told the "Life in the Stocks" podcast. “I can’t speak for [Angus Young] and his team as to what their reasons were for doing what they did, but considering that we had a drummer lose an arm and we waited for him, the way that they dealt with it was not the way I would have done it. Put it that way.”

Johnson was told by his doctors in March of 2016 that he would quickly go deaf if he continued touring. AC/DC postponed about 10 shows and Johnson was forced into retirement. The following month, AC/DC regrouped with Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose to complete their touring obligations.

Photo: Getty Images

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