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Revisiting Brian Johnson’s First Show With AC/DC

Chris Walter, Getty Images
Chris Walter, Getty Images

Brian Johnson has long since earned his spot at the mic in AC/DC, but in the summer of 1980, he was still just starting out as the new guy in the band — and the one who had to take over for the beloved Bon Scott in the wake of Scott’s heartbreaking death.

Johnson started bonding with his bandmates during the sessions for their first album together, 1980’s Back in Black, but they all knew his true test would come with the fans — which made the new lineup’s first gig an incredibly important, and stressful, moment for him. As he explains in the exclusive Ultimate Classic Rock interview above, the show remains an unforgettable night.

“I remember that specifically — that was a big moment in me life,” Johnson recalls. “It was in Namur, a little town in Belgium. It was just supposed to be a warm-up.”

“We just wanted a little place to see how it would go,” explains guitarist Angus Young, but the band’s plans were foiled by overwhelming demand. “It just kept getting moved because more people were showing up, until the end — we were in this huge hangar.”

As Johnson recently told Music-News, he had such a bad case of nerves that he ended up singing the same set of lyrics for two different songs, and he also had the added responsibility of being out front when the group debuted the title track to their new — and at the time, still unreleased — new album. “We finished and there was silence,” he remembered. “Half of them hadn’t heard it yet. I thought ‘Oh s—, they don’t like it.’ It was the first night. It was a very traumatic night.”

Still, all those outside pressures notwithstanding, Johnson knew this new version of AC/DC had something to offer. Summing it up for Ultimate Classic Rock, he says simply: “It was magic.”

Check out the complete set list below, courtesy of AC/DC’s official site.

“Hells Bells”
“Shot Down in Flames”
“Sin City”
“Back in Black”
“Bad Boy Boogie”
“The Jack”
“Highway to Hell”
“What Do You Do for Money Honey”
“High Voltage”
“Shoot to Thrill”
“Whole Lotta Rosie”
“You Shook Me All Night Long”
“Let There Be Rock”

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