By Mark Kennedy (AP Entertainment Writer)

Before he started tearing up arenas as the lead singer of hard rock icons AC/DC, Brian Johnson was fixing roofs.

In his new memoir, the “Hell’s Bells” singer describes how he went from being a vinyl car roofer in the northeast of England to leading one of the world’s most acclaimed bands.

This is a Cinderella story. Only Johnson, now 75, was Cinderella at least three times, never giving up on her dream of singing in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“I don’t know what it is, I’ve never, ever given it,” he said recently by phone from his home in Florida. I always thought the glass was half full.

“The Lives of Brian Johnson,” from Dey Street Books, traces his ups and downs growing up near Newcastle, culminating with his joining AC/DC and recording the band’s seminal “Back in Black” album. happens.

“It wasn’t so much to validate my life,” he said of the book. “It was about validating the lives of all the amazing people I met who helped shape my life – friends at school, friends at the factories, friends in music.”

Music was his North Star and he recalls hearing Little Richard for the first time at the age of 11 singing “Oop Bop/A-Lo Bop/Oop Boom Boom”. “Many people have described this song, ‘Tootie Fruity,’ as the sound of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll – which is appropriate, because my dream of becoming a singer was also born at that moment,” he writes. are

Johnson was an apprentice engineer who sang on the side and was a young father and husband. To earn enough money for a PA system, he joined an airborne infantry regiment of the British Army.

He attended one of Jimi Hendrix’s first UK shows, saw Sting perform when the soon-to-be Police star was 15 and befriended members of Slade and Thin Lizzy. He would meet Chuck Berry but it didn’t go well. “Never meet your heroes,” he writes.

Johnson, who would later pen the immortal lines “Forget to listen/’Cause I’ll never die,” made his live debut as the deliciously named The Toasty Folk Trio, survived a horrific car accident and eventually Had some success in a Geordie band. .

The band made it to “Top of the Pops” – a show that was a major achievement for any fledgling band. He left a good career at his engineering firm, but Geordie only had one top 10 hit and was out soon.

“At 28, I had lost everything. My marriage, my career, my home,” he writes. He moved in with his parents and recalls seeing AC/DC on the BBC once. “I loved every second of it. But, of course, it was also a reminder that I blew mine.”

Johnson rebuilt his life, becoming a windscreen fitter — later a car roofer — and founded Georgie II. He was happy. He had a little business and a little band. “I thought this was my second Cinderella story, but there’s more to come,” he says.

The book reveals the origins of his trademark hat: once he arrived at a gig without time to change, he sweated glue and glass shards into his eyes. His brother, Maurice, gave him his cloth driving cap as protection, which fans loved.

Still, Johnson’s part was incomplete. It was a meeting with singer Roger Daltrey that proved pivotal. The Who’s frontman invited Johnson – then with his band in an apartment with only four mattresses on the floor – to dine at his manor house.

On that day, Johnson recalled Daltrey coming toward him, bare-chested and bare-footed with no saddle, holding the mane of his galloping white horse (“If this isn’t a rock star, I thought to myself, I Don’t know what,” he writes.)

“He said, ‘I’m going to give you a piece of advice, Brian. Never give up. Do you understand me? Never, never give up.’ And I really took it to heart,” Johnson recalled. “He probably forgot he said it, but I didn’t.”

AC/DC’s original lead singer Bon Scott died in 1980, and Johnson auditioned to replace him based on recommendations, including from Scott himself, who had him sing one night. had heard Only years later did Johnson realize they would meet.

At the audition, co-founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young offered him Newcastle Brown Ale, a nice nod to Johnson’s heritage. And Johnson’s first song with the band at the audition was Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits.” (“It was the most electrifying moment of my life,” he writes). Then they sang some AC/DC tunes. He got a job.

Johnson’s editor, Roland White, an author whose most recent novel is “Into the Black,” said that Johnson’s story format is “unusual because it doesn’t usually happen.”

“He was happy with the idea that he had given it a shot and he made peace with it. And that’s what makes the shot in AC/DC somewhat more enjoyable because it’s no longer that thing. For which he was pressing.

The book ends as Johnson finally achieves his lifelong goal. If fans are hoping for more about AC/DC’s origins, they argue that it’s not their story — it’s for surviving members guitarist Angus Young, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd. “This book is from people who were there from the beginning because that’s what I want to hear,” he said.

Johnson is a natural storyteller, and it was his manager who first suggested a memoir. Johnson resisted. “Every week there’s a book by some old actor or musician. And I’ve always gone, ‘No, no one else.’

But encouraged to write a few chapters, Johnson sat down with a yellow legal pad. A few years later, he had a book, which he dedicated to his great-grandson.

Why? He recalls asking his father how his grandfather was on his way to his funeral. He was “just a man,” his father said. Then he asked how his paternal grandfather was and the answer was “How would I know?”

“I thought, ‘What a shame, what a pity,'” Johnson said. “No one knows anyone after only two generations. So I wrote this for my grandchildren. I hope the words in this book will help me know a little more. And I hope that you will be in me.” I am a bit, and I hope you have a long and sweet life.


Mark Kennedy is on.