Books

AC/DC's Brian Johnson Sounds Off On Fast Cars & Fast Times

While he's of course best known as the longtime front man for AC/DC, or perhaps the rocker with the most consistent wardrobe, Brian Johnson is also a very serious gearhead, a collector/tinkerer of classic cars and a competitive race driver who has seen the checkered flag on tracks all over the world. As a young man, he also had this fallback job in auto repair - you know, in case the singing gig didn't work out.

Johnson writes about his dual heavy-metal loves in Rockers and Rollers: A Full-Throttle Memoir (224 pp, $24.99, It Books). Rocks Off spoke with the extremely jovial author - and it helps to hear his answers in your head with that distinctive, whiskey-ragged brogue - about fast cars, fast Texas dancing, and the legacy of Bon Scott.

Rocks Off: I know you've done a ton of interviews already.

Brian Johnson [chortles]: Well, I'll try not to bore ya too much, me son! But this is new to me. I'm usually with the band and the boys. This is tiring! Getting up at 6:30 a.m. and talking all day! I got back to my room at 11 o'clock last night. I don't remember if I even had lunch! But I had a little whiskey, and then it was all right.

RO: What is the one thing you haven't been asked about this book that you want somebody to?

BJ: Well, I think it's about this chapter where I'm a little cheeky. It's about a man I used to play with, Tom Hill, [bassist] in my band Geordie. He was very, um, tight with his money. And I wrote this thing that I thought was very funny but nobody got it. I said "Every band has one, ours was called Tom Hill." Um, we're not on the radio, are we?

RO: No.

BJ: Good! OK, so, when you see a band, someone will walk up to their friend and say 'OK, which one up there is the cunt!' (laughs) Because every band has one! So I didn't really say anything bad about him, but nobody got it! Ah well, I know you can't print that anyway.

RO: Actually, yes I can.

BJ: Oh! (laughs) Well!

RO: I think it's fascinating that for the book, you jog memories by what you drove at the time.

BJ: Well, me memory's bad, and that's what I had to do. You should try it yourself! Think of the car you had at a particular point. And then all these memories will come back. It works!

RO: For someone who isn't into driving fast cars, can you describe what the thrill is?

BJ: Well, the thing about being in a fast car is that you have to go fast in it. A lot of people have fast cars, and they just want to sit in it and look good and look cool, a bit of a lad. Whereas racing them and driving them fast is a different thing.

One of the things about America is that you can see a young girl, 16, in her brand new boss Mustang that Daddy's bought her and she's got her earphones in and she's texting somebody and you look at them and think what the heck is she doing? If she's going to try and take a corner, fast, she's gonna kill herself! It's an endless source of amusement for me.

RO: Do you think sometimes that this band thing gets in the way of your driving?

BJ: Oh, yea. Well, the two years we were [on tour], I couldn't do it. So when I came back, I was all rusty. But it just takes you a couple of races, and you're back on the podium again! You don't just get in the car and point it, you've got to keep you wits about you. The only good thing about racing is that nothing is coming at you the other way.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero