Axl Rose, Who Has a Broken Foot, Takes Over AC/DC Front-Man Duties From Brian Johnson, Who Is Going Deaf

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Axl Rose, in the years of his youth, before he broke his leg Photo: Michael Putland/1992 Michael Putland

Aussie rockers AC/DC have been plagued by some unfortunate problems in the past. A couple of years ago, a former drummer allegedly attempted to hire an assassin to kill some guys. (One hopes he had that dirty deed done dirt cheap, har har har.) And rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young has been suffering from dementia for the last few years. Now their longtime front man Brian Johnson, who took over for the late Bon Scott in 1980, is leaving the band in the middle of their Rock or Bust Tour because he's losing his hearing, which is understandable — you can't rock and roll if you're deaf. In a letter posted on the band's site, they confirm that Axl Rose, who broke his foot after just one show with the recently reunited Guns N' Roses and is currently belting those high notes from Dave Grohl's throne, will take over for Johnson. We can only imagine the mischief the classic-rock rockers will get into. Let there be rock! And some Bayer Back and Body— ow, my hip! Here's the entire letter from AC/DC:

AC/DC band members would like to thank Brian Johnson for his contributions and dedication to the band throughout the years. We wish him all the best with his hearing issues and future ventures. As much as we want this tour to end as it started, we understand, respect and support Brian's decision to stop touring and save his hearing. We are dedicated to fulfilling the remainder of our touring commitments to everyone that has supported us over the years, and are fortunate that Axl Rose has kindly offered his support to help us fulfill this commitment. AC/DC will resume their Rock Or Bust World Tour with Axl Rose joining on vocals. The European stadium tour dates begin on May 7 in Lisbon, Portugal and run through June 12 in Aarhus, Denmark as previously announced (see below for full itinerary). Following this European run of dates with AC/DC, Axl Rose will head out on his Guns N Roses, Not In This Lifetime Summer Stadium Tour. The 10 postponed U.S. shows will be rescheduled and announced imminently, also with Axl Rose.

Update: Brian Johnson has issued his first statement since the news that Rose is replacing him on tour. He says that while he is not retiring from music, doctors have informed him that he is "unable to perform on stage at arena and stadium size venues where the sound levels are beyond my current tolerance, without the risk of substantial hearing loss and possibly total deafness." He says he can, however, continue to record in the studio. Read Johnson's full statement below:

As many AC/DC fans know, the remaining shows for the 2016 AC/DC Rock or Bust World Tour, including 10 postponed U.S. shows, are being rescheduled with a guest singer. I want personally to explain the reason because I don’t believe the earlier press releases sufficiently set out what I wanted to say to our fans or the way in which I thought it should be presented.

On March 7th, after a series of examinations by leading physicians in the field of hearing loss, I was advised that if I continue to perform at large venues, I risked total deafness. While I was horrified at the reality of the news that day, I had for a time become aware that my partial hearing loss was beginning to interfere with my performance on stage. I was having difficulty hearing the guitars on stage and because I was not able to hear the other musicians clearly, I feared the quality of my performance could be compromised. In all honesty this was something I could not in good conscience allow. Our fans deserve my performance to be at the highest level, and if for any reason I can’t deliver that level of performance I will not disappoint our fans or embarrass the other members of AC/DC. I am not a quitter and I like to finish what I start, nevertheless, the doctors made it clear to me and my bandmates that I had no choice but to stop performing on stage for the remaining shows and possibly beyond. That was the darkest day of my professional life.

Since that day, I have had several consultations with my doctors and it appears that, for the near future, I will be unable to perform on stage at arena and stadium size venues where the sound levels are beyond my current tolerance, without the risk of substantial hearing loss and possibly total deafness. Until that time, I tried as best as I could to continue despite the pain and hearing loss but it all became too much to bear and too much to risk.

I am personally crushed by this development more than anyone could ever imagine. The emotional experience I feel now is worse than anything I have ever in my life felt before. Being part of AC/DC, making records and performing for the millions of devoted fans this past 36 years has been my life’s work. I cannot imagine going forward without being part of that, but for now I have no choice. The one thing for certain is that I will always be with AC/DC at every show in spirit, if not in person.

Most importantly, I feel terrible having to disappoint the fans who bought tickets for the canceled shows and who have steadfastly supported me and AC/DC these many years. Words cannot express my deep gratitude and heartfelt thanks not just for the recent outpouring to me personally of kind words and good wishes, but also for the years of loyal support of AC/DC. My thanks also go to Angus and Cliff for their support.

Finally, I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that. For the moment, my entire focus is to continue medical treatment to improve my hearing. I am hoping that in time my hearing will improve and allow me to return to live concert performances. While the outcome is uncertain, my attitude is optimistic. Only time will tell.

Once again, my sincere best wishes and thanks to everyone for their support and understanding.