Axl Rose fractured his foot at the worst possible time: while gearing up for two massive tours with Guns N’ Roses‘ reunited classic line-up and with AC/DC as the band’s temporary frontman. “The day I found out it was broken, I left the hospital to rehearse [with AC/DC],” the singer told NME in a rare interview ahead of the band’s European tour. “My only day off was the surgery day, and the next day was back to rehearsals.”
Rose joined AC/DC after the band’s singer Brian Johnson was forced to quit touring to avoid the risk of “total hearing loss.” Rose, guitarist Angus Young and bassist Cliff Williams spoke about how the new lineup happened.
“It was a crisis that came then, and we had to act,” Young said of learning about Johnson’s decision. “We were in Miami at the time, when all of this came up, and unfortunately, when you’re in that situation you got to make decisions pretty quick, because there are a lot of people waiting. We were supposed to actually play in Atlanta, so you’re kind of going ‘What do we do now?’ Because of the nature of Brian’s deafness, we knew that there was no easy fix. So you’ve got to then say, ‘What do we do here?’ The options were very limited and you think, if we just stop with all of this machinery, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of legal entanglement…”
“We wanted to complete what we had started,” he continued. “And I mean, you can’t call a tour ‘Rock or Bust’ and then go bust!”
The members found a replacement in Rose, who reached out to assist via one of Guns N’ Roses’ production crew members. “When I read the news about Brian, I just called Obie to find out what they were going to do – not in the sense of like, ‘Yeah, I want in!’ – it was more like, if I could help,” he said. “I didn’t even know for sure what songs I could sing, I didn’t know what their dates were – I hadn’t looked at that. [But] I found out Obie had already thrown my name in the hat!”
While Rose may be the best qualified to replace Johnson on such short notice, the AC/DC will be a personal challenge, Rose said in the interview. “[‘Hells Bells’] is the hardest song I’ve ever had to sing,” said Rose.
Young has offered his support to bandmate Johnson, saying he “perfectly understand(s)” his decision to step down. “He has to be very careful of what hearing he’s got left,” said Young. “This is what he told us – he was gutted about not finishing [the tour] because he says he would have loved to have gotten through. It was his call, what he wanted. He made that decision himself. He didn’t want to be deaf … When you stop doing this, you want to walk away with all your pieces! I don’t even want to leave without my fingernail!”