Brian Johnson, lead singer of AC/DC, is as hardscrabble as they come. Old school. Tough. No therapy for this guy, thanks.
As I read his new book, The Lives of Brian, I kept thinking this is a real-world example of what all those repetitive self-help books preach. Taking chances in a measured way, bravely powering through, believing in yourself – these are the ways of Brian Johnson throughout his varied lives.
The life of Brian Johnson, called “Jonna” by his AC/DC bandmates and others before them, reveals in this unputdownable autobiography that confidence in yourself and toughing it out, in what could be considered a mollycoddled age, has its merits.
Brian Johnson’s world was fascinating to read about even way ahead of his time in AC/DC. In fact, his early period with one of the biggest bands in the world makes up a small portion of The Lives of Brian. And when he gets there, you’re going to feel like you yourself just joined AC/DC. That’s how exciting it felt to read about this working-class lad from Newcastle – a non-overnight sensation if there ever was one – joining up with Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd.
The start of the book covers Johnson’s parents and early family life. His mom is Italian and his dad is British, and they met in Italy during World War II. Those roots made for reading that felt like a nonfiction history book. I loved it.
AC/DC’s singer was referred to as an “Italian pig” growing up, sentiments expressed even by some of his own family members. Additionally, the Johnsons were a poor family. His dad was a British soldier in the war and was lucky after all of his battlefield skirmishes to have come out on the other side alive and in one piece. Brian himself has had a few near-death experiences over the years but made it through. Given his hardships and near mishaps, the world has been doubly lucky to have had this guy as an entertainer for so long.
Johnson’s writing makes you feel like you’re right there with him throughout his eventful life, from the driving rain and cold winds off the North Sea in his hometown of Newcastle, to the physical labor of his jobs as a windshield and vinyl sunroof installer for cars, to his time as the frontman for Geordie and Geordie II playing clubs nonstop, you feel like you’re a sidekick in the journey, rooting him on in anticipation of what’s to come.
It’s cliche to say “never give up,” as Johnson writes after describing an encounter with Alan Whitehead of the band Marmalade at the end of the book, but it’s hard not to take those three words seriously after reading The Lives of Brian.
To be sure, Johnson himself came to a point in which it seemed a career in music might not be possible, and even he had doubts. But that’s where his talent as a singer came in: It seemed the guy was always getting offers to rejoin the music world, and that other people at times recognized his onstage spark more than he did.
I’ll stop here and just highly recommend The Lives of Brian. Johnson writes at the conclusion that much more about his time in AC/DC will be told in a follow-up book.
I’m counting the days …
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