A prestigious AC/DC fansite has closed in protest of the band’s treatment of former singer Brian Johnson.
Johnson, who joined the band in 1980 after the death of Bon Scott, has been replaced by Axl Rose.
AC/DC Italia today announced it would close after 13 years online to “take a firm stand against Angus (Young) and co” and cited the “utter dismay” that they no longer recognize the band.
The site changed their cover photo to read AC/DC 1973 — 2016.
Last month AC/DC shocked fans when they said they would use a guest vocalist to finish their European tour, which had to be postponed due to Brian Johnson’s hearing loss rendering him unable to tour.
This week AC/DC released a blunt statement that confirmed Johnson was officially out of the band to “save his hearing” and thanked him for his “contributions and dedication” and wished him all the best with his “hearing issues and future ventures.”
It also confirmed the rumor Guns N’Roses singer Axl Rose would join the band for the final 12 shows of their tour, starting in Portugal on May 7.
However sources feel the hearing issue was a smokescreen, with Johnson’s age, 68, and desire to tour less at odds with Angus Young wanting to keep the lucrative band on the road for as long as possible.
Johnson has yet to make any statement about his departure from AC/DC.
Jesse Fink, author of last year’s hit biography “The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC,” said the backlash from fans over the treatment of Johnson has been brutal.
“AC/DC is all about the money now,” Fink said. “What fans wanted to see was the band stop, let Brian get better and maybe do one last show. You’d think someone who’s been in the band for 36 years would certainly be allowed to leave on his own terms.
“AC/DC would have been far better off to just call an end to it all and preserve the amazing mystique they have. They had gone for decades saying we’re a no bullsh — band, we don’t stand for the glitz and the excess of the rock industry, we’re about the music not about the money. Yet they’ve gone and done a complete 360. Now they’re the hard rock equivalent of Kiss.”
In the last two years Angus Young has become the only original member of AC/DC. His brother Malcolm, the band’s other main songwriter, left in 2014 after being diagnosed with dementia rendering him unable to play guitar.
Drummer Phil Rudd played on the “Rock or Bust” album but was replaced on the latest tour after battles with drugs and the police in New Zealand.
Sources suggest Angus Young now has all the band members on contract, leaving him able to hire and fire as he wishes.
Paul Cashmere of music website Noise 11 said Angus Young is doing irreversible damage to AC/DC’s legacy.
“Angus is turning the band into a circus,” Cashmere said. “Axl Rose tarnished Guns N’Roses’ brand name with generic replacements and Angus is about to do the same to AC/DC. A band is a partnership. AC/DC has become a corporation with its manager and rostered staff.”
Fink said some of the reports in his book about how the Young brothers operate AC/DC as a business have been vindicated in the last year.
“Angus and Malcolm are fairly ruthless with their own band members. You only have to look at (original bassist) Mark Evans, Phil Rudd and now Brian. Ever since he joined Brian has been an incredibly loyal lieutenant to the Young brothers, especially Angus in recent times. He follows the script, he says what he has to say, I don’t think anyone thought Brian would be cast aside like that.”
Fink said replacing Johnson with Rose is the first step in ensuring AC/DC can remain a lucrative touring act.
“There’s a bigger picture here. ‘Rock or Bust’ only went gold in the US. Bands aren’t making money from album sales, just touring. AC/DC can get up to $4 milliona show. They’re one of the most profitable and lucrative touring acts in the world. That’s where the Young family are making their money. They can’t keep on doing that with a guy who can no longer hit the right notes, which is the problem Brian was having.”
Johnson’s voice was singled out in reviews of the ‘Rock or Bust’ shows as being noticeably compromised.
“I thought Brian sang pretty badly,” Fink said. “I don’t think that was an isolated opinion. It was very much the Angus Young show on the last tour. But what the people running the AC/DC organization now don’t understand is the profile of the typical AC/DC fan. They see the band as very much a part of their family. They’ve developed this great kinship and loyalty to Brian Johnson. It’s really not about can Axl Rose sing better than Brian Johnson on ‘Whole Lotta Rosie,’ it’s about how AC/DC are a family to them and they don’t like the way this man has been treated.
“To misunderstand your fanbase so monumentally is quite staggering. I go to all the AC/DC fansites and read all the comments and 99-per-cent of the fans are disgusted. The true AC/DC loyalists don’t want to have anything to do with this group, they don’t see it as AC/DC. AC/DC is more than Angus Young. He’s a very important part of AC/DC but all the little parts were important, that was Malcolm and Phil and Brian. It’s extremely bewildering. Those four letters, that band, that brand, is an extremely important part of the fan’s lives. They’ve invested so much time and money and emotion into that band and they feel betrayed.”
Meanwhile, Angus Young flew four singers from U.S. AC/DC cover bands to Atlanta to audition for the band before settling on Axl Rose.
Darren Caperna of the Dallas-based Back in Black said he performed the entire “Rock or Bust” show with AC/DC as well as “Dog Eat Dog” and “Riff Raff.”
“It was so surreal,” Caperna said on the band’s Facebook page. “I still can’t believe that I sang with AC/DC! Even though I did not get the job it was the experience of a lifetime!”
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler was another singer rumored to audition with the band.