By Adam Waldman
Brian Johnson has finally spoken, and it seems as though the dust has settled a bit on one of the more bizarre parting of the ways in recent rock history. For 36 years, Johnson was the voice of one of the greatest bands in hard rock. Not only did he rise to the challenge of replacing iconic frontman Bon Scott, he actually helped bring AC/DC to new heights. Johnson’s departure from the band that he has fronted for decades was due to the risk of losing his hearing, although there are rumors that this move was made because Angus Young had an issue with Johnson’s touring availability. Regardless of how it actually went down, Young and AC/DC made a big mistake in tabbing the enigmatic Axl Rose to replace Johnson (even if it is just for the remaining scheduled tour dates).
Although the stage certainly won’t be too big for Rose, this choice makes no sense for a number of reasons. With Rose fronting the band, it isn’t going to sound like AC/DC. More than likely, it will sound like Guns N’ Roses doing AC/DC covers, but that is only part of the problem. Unless Young has been living under a rock since the late ‘80s, he has to realize that his chosen replacement is all about himself. His arrogance of leaving fans waiting for hours on end is purely ego-driven. Whereas Johnson was all about carrying the rock and roll torch and embracing the party aspect of the genre, Rose is filled with piss and vinegar. This would have been a bad fit anyway, but it comes in the midst of a GNR reunion that has been decades in the making.
If Young was actually interested in delivering an AC/DC experience to the fans, there are a number of directions that he could have gone to find a replacement for Johnson. Here are five singers that would have been a much better fit than Rose…
MARC STORACE (Krokus) – If ever there was a singer who was tailor-made for this situation, it is Marc Storace. Not only does his career with Krokus mirror the Brian Johnson era, but the band’s sound is heavily influenced AC/DC. Take a listen to 2013’s Dirty Dynamite (Krokus’ most recent release). If you didn’t know any better, you might think that you were listening to an AC/DC album.
JOEL O’KEEFFE (Airbourne) – Often times, when a long-term singer departs, bands take the opportunity to reinvent themselves with an energetic young singer. AC/DC has one right in their backyard Down Under in Airbourne frontman, Joel O’Keeffe. Throughout their illustrious history, AC/DC has influenced bands all over the world. Airbourne is clearly influenced by the band that put Australia on the rock and roll map. If they were looking for a long-term replacement (assuming that the parting with Johnson is permanent), O’Keeffe seems like an obvious choice.
GEORG DOLIVO (Rhino Bucket) – This isn’t a name that will probably come to mind for most, because Rhino Bucket is a band that is somewhat under-the-radar (despite a history that dates back to the late-‘80s). Georg Dolivo actually does have an indirect AC/DC connection, having played with drummer Simon Wright (who has played with both bands). Like Krokus and Airbourne, Rhino Bucket is an AC/DC-influenced band that didn’t get the recognition that they deserve. Dolivo certainly could have used this opportunity more than Rose. His vocal style works better with AC/DC, and it would be about the band, not the singer, which is what is going to happen with Rose at the helm.
JESSE JAMES DUPREE (Jackyl) – If AC/DC was going to go the route of having a big personality front the band, Jesse James Dupree would have been the perfect choice. While his vocal style as distinct as his personality, it is at least in the same wheelhouse as AC/DC. It’s been a few years since Jackyl released their last album (2012). His focus these days takes him beyond the stage for a number of business ventures, but the Jackyl show is always one of the highlights of the annual Sturgis bike rally. He probably wouldn’t have the time to be a full-time replacement, but he certainly could have delivered home run performances for the remaining dates on the tour.
JOEY BELLADONNA (Anthrax) – Joey Belladonna is listed last for a few reasons. First of all, Anthrax has just released what many are calling the best album of their career, so he may not even have the time to pull double-duty with AC/DC. Like Rose, he isn’t a natural fit stylistically, but he proved his ability to tackle a variety of styles when Anthrax released Anthems (an EP of cover songs) in 2013. Among the cover songs was the AC/DC classic – “T.N.T.” Belladonna was included in this group to show that the range of possibilities that is better than Axl Rose is fairly substantial. Belladonna’s vocals have never been better, and he could certainly shine with AC/DC, but his focus is undoubtedly on Anthrax at the moment.