AC/DC’s ‘Guest Vocalist’ Search: Some Serious (and Not-So-Serious) Candidates
With the stunning news that AC/DC singer Brian Johnson has been warned by doctors to stop performing live immediately or risk "total hearing loss," the band has been forced to cancel the last 10 days of their 2016 Rock or Bust tour.
Obviously, everybody's first thoughts are for Johnson's well-being, and as sad as we are at the uncertain prospects this presents for both his career and that of the band, we're glad he's taking the necessary steps to protect his health and hearing.
But there was one curiosity-inducing line in AC/DC's official press release, promising that they would reschedule these shows later in the year, "likely with a guest vocalist." Johnson himself faced a tall order replacing Bon Scott as the already well-established group's singer back in 1980, and over the last three decades and change he's built his own impressive legacy in the role.
So, who could get on stage, stand alongside guitarist Angus Young and help the recently beleaguered AC/DC – who have already overcome the health-related retirement of Malcolm Young and Phil Rudd's departure amidst legal troubles in recent years – finish out this tour in high style? Here's some serious and not-so-serious suggestions...
Technically, we're required to mention Sammy Hagar first for any newly-opened lead singer position. But we can't deny that O'Keeffe, who's been fronting the Australian-based Airbourne for over a decade now, was actually the first name that crossed our mind. A strong AC/DC influence looms over each of the band's three studio albums, and as you can see from this live cover of "Whole Lotta Rosie," he's got the perfect voice and stage presentation for the job.
As the Foo Fighters pointed out last week, Hagar has been suggested as the new frontman for so many established bands – including Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin – that it's become a well-worn joke. But if AC/DC are looking for a singer with proven star power and the pipes to keep up with the demanding vocal duties of their concerts, they could do a hell of a lot worse.
Sticking with the Van Halen family, we hit upon an idea that may sound weird at first. But if David Lee Roth is really saying goodbye to the group (again), this could actually work. He's certainly used to leaving a lot of room for an ace guitarist, and his lyrical wit matches up well with that of former AC/DC singer Bon Scott. It might be really interesting to see what this combination came up with in the studio together.
Again, we're legally obligated to suggest this. The Foo Fighters frontman certainly doesn't shy away from attention-grabbing stunts, and his band is reportedly on hiatus right now. Plus, to his credit, when he decides to cover an AC/DC song live he often goes admirably old-school – as demonstrated below:
Outlaw image? Check. Band just broke up? Check. Knows the words to "Highway to Hell," won't be afraid of on-stage pyrotechnics ... heck, let's bring this young man in for an interview!
The frontman for Boston's aristocratically themed Upper Crust might need to change his outfit a bit (then again, maybe not – he will be playing next to a 60-year-old man in a schoolboy outfit), but his love and understanding of AC/DC shines through pretty clearly.
You know you've got a pretty damn good AC/DC vibe going on when their drummer joins your band, as Simon Wright has done with Rhino Bucket several times. Lead singer Georg Dolivo's vocals are almost hauntingly reminiscent of Bon Scott's. Unless they picked up on the slight shift towards pop in the chorus, you could probably trick your friends into thinking this was an unreleased Powerage-era track.
Longtime Krokus singer Marc Storace initially had some understandable reservations about being repeatedly compared to Bon Scott, feeling he was being "branded as a copy of somebody who, at the time, I didn't even know that well." But he quickly changed his tune. "Today, I look at is as a big compliment," he tells Inside Heavy. "I think he probably had many of the same idols I had, and we were both gifted with the same vocal tonalities."
Former TT Quick vocalist Mark Tornillo has helped revitalize Accept since joining the German metal heroes back in 2009. It's not hard to hear the influence of both Johnson and Bon Scott in his vocals during this impressive 2014 performance of "Balls to the Wall."
Obviously, Billy Joel's a bit too busy setting new records for selling out Madison Square Garden every month to seriously consider this task. But he is friends with Johnson, calls AC/DC "maybe the best band I ever saw in my life," and seems to be having fun playing "You Shook Me All Night Long" here.
Again, this is a guy who's more than secure in his own career. But as he demonstrated on recent tour stops down under, Bruce Springsteen can rip out a decent "Highway to Hell" if the mood strikes him.
Relax – we just put this here as a reminder that things can always get worse.