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AC/DC Singer Wins at Daytona

Brian Johnson now ready to get on with recording new record

November 13, 2002 12:00 AM ET

AC/DC's Brian Johnson was not only selected for entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month (he and his mates will be officially inducted in March), but he also scored a huge victory in his other pursuit: car racing. And, hearing him describe the spoils of his November 3rd triumph at the Daytona International Speedway sounds strikingly similar to the sort of backstage rewards you might expect the lead singer of one of rock's biggest bands to reap.

"I got to shake the champagne bottle and kiss the chick with the big tits," he says. "You know, the one who's at every damn race. They always look the same." Behind the wheel of his 1970 Royale in the Brumos Continental Historics division, Johnson outmaneuvered the field for his first win, giving an air of legitimacy to his moonlighting gig. "It was a dream to come true to win at Daytona," he says. "I'm still trying to get over the buzz."

A fascination with cars and girls is nothing new for Johnson; combining the two interests yielded "You Shook Me All Night Long," one of several smashes on AC/DC's 1980 diamond-selling Back in Black, Johnson's debut with the band after the death of original singer Bon Scott earlier that year.

"'She was a fast machine/She kept my motor clean' were the first lines because I've always been into motor cars, and cars and women are pretty much the same," says Johnson. "They go fast and then let you down, and then they bring you right back up again when you see the new model."

With the racing season at a close, Johnson will soon turn his attentions to his day job, as AC/DC have begun writing their follow-up to 2000's Stiff Upper Lip with tentative plans to return to Bryan Adams' Warehouse studio in Vancouver, Canada, to record it.

"We're dying to get back together," Johnson says. "We've been off the road for a year now, so it's time to get back together. We're a very lucky band with some wonderful fans. We get letters and emails from all over the world saying, 'Please come out again.' It's a wonderful feeling because we're not working our own sort of thing, or your management's thing -- it's the fans who are telling us, 'That's it. You've had enough time off. We want to get you back on the road before you all die.'"

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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