While others reckon that guitarist Angus Young is – and always has been – the heart and soul of the band, and as long as he’s still shredding in his schoolboy uniform, AC/DC will still be AC/DC.
Regardless of your opinion, the veteran Aussie rockers have vowed to continue on – at least until the end of their world tour – with a guest vocalist at the helm. But they’ve yet to announce who said vocalist might be.
So we’ve put on our thinking caps and come up with a list of the top 12 best candidates for Brian Johnson’s stand-in.
After all, it can’t be just anyone. It needs to be someone with a very particular set of skills, skills they have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make them a nightmare for people like this:
It needs to be someone with a huge vocal range, powerful pipes and a passion for AC/DC’s songs.
But not just that, he or she needs to be a real performer who embodies the true spirit of rock & roll. I.e. no indie/hipster/shoegaze BS. Bonus points for being a bit of a scoundrel and double bonus points for being an Aussie.
*SPOILER ALERT* You’ll find no mention of Dave Grohl in this countdown. While the Foo Fighters frontman may seem like a good match – he’s a proud AC/DC fan, after all, and would even have the time to commit to the band with the Foos’ recent hiatus – we just don’t think Dave’s got the vocal range to pull off all of Brian Johnson’s parts.
Another name you won’t find on the countdown is AC/DC’s original vocalist Dave Evans. Despite the 62-year-old telling Fairfax he’d be up for the challenge, Evans was replaced by Bon Scott during the band’s early days for a very good reason. In Malcom Young’s words: “The day we got fuckin’ rid of him, that’s the day the band started.”
Check out our pics for the top 12 singers to replace Brian Johnson in AC/DC in the gallery below, or turn to page 2 to check out some videos of them flexing their chops.
And as for two singers who should definitely not be considered? Sorry Celine Dion and Anastasia, cool try though.
Gallery: The Top 12 Best Candidates To Replace Brian Johnson In AC/DC
12. Fergus Linacre - Kingswood
Kingswood's Fergus Linacre is no stranger to sharing a stage with AC/DC, earning his stadium stripes warming up crowds at the band's recent Rock Or Bust Down Under shows.
Plus there'd be something nicely symbolic about one of Australia's most successful veteran rock acts shining an international spotlight on one of the country's most promising new ones.
Not to mention, everyone who's seen the 'Wood live knows that Linacre can wail like Robert bloody Plant, the only question is: can he wail like Brian bloody Johnson and Bon bloody Scott.
11. Brittany Howard - Alabama Shakes
This may seem like an odd choice, but the blues-rock vocal powerhouse behind Alabama Shakes could sing the Big Balls off AC/DC. Acca Dacca's music has always been rooted in the blues, with Angus Young earning himself a reputation among guitar geeks as one of the world's foremost blues shredders.
After collecting a haul of trophies at this year's Grammy Awards for her work with the 'Shakes, Brittany Howard would be a wise choice for AC/DC because of her current popularity. But add to that, her incredible range and soulful grit would also offer an intriguing new spin on Brian Johnson's trademark vocal parts, without sacrificing any of their punch.
10. Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist - The Hives
The Hives frontman has already thrown his hat in the ring for the gig, and offered Acca Dacca a convincing job application after warming the stage for the rock veterans on their recent Aussie tour.
In his own words: “I have many many years of experience rocking the world’s biggest stages and, according to others, I am the greatest frontman in rock, plus judging from the reaction in Australia, your crowd already seems to really like me. Plus, I have already been singing those songs since I was six years old. So, AC/DC, please consider my application!”
9. Chad Towns - The Dirty Deeds AC/DC Show
Who better to fill in for AC/DC than a man who's spent some of the best years of his life doing bang-on impersonations of both Brian Johnson and Bon Scott to the delight of Acca Dacca superfans at pubs and RSL clubs across Australia? You could argue that there's nobody else better qualified to replace Johnson than his professional understudy Chad Towns of the Dirty Deeds AC/DC tribute show. Plus, it worked for Judas Priest that one time and Mark Whalberg's character in the movie Rockstar.
8. Amy Ward - AC/DShe
The same can be said of kickass frontwoman Amy Ward AKA Bonny Scott of internationally renowned all-female AC/DC tribute band AC/DShe, who'd be able to give the dudes a run for their Moneytalks.
7. Shannon Noll
Six words: Give the people what they want. Nollsy fever is sweeping the nation and it's only a matter of time before it goes global, so this is Acca Dacca's chance to get ahead of the curb. The Condobolin-bred sheep wrangler embodies AC/DC's working class spirit, plus I bet he knows a thing or two about Sinking The Pink if you know what I mean. Besides JUST IMAGINE THE LOOK ON GUY SEBASTIAN'S FACE WHEN HE FINDS OUT.
6. Jimmy Barnes
Barnsey is an obvious choice. Not only is he a respected peer of Acca Dacca's (TIL: Bon Scott used to get paid to chauffeur Cold Chisel around Adelaide when they were first starting out on the scene), but he's one of the few Aussie singers with the pipes to pull off Brian Johnson's crotch-tearing screams.
Barndogs was long-rumoured to have originally been asked to join the band following the death of Bon Scott, but he's since pissed on those rumours. That's not to say it couldn't still happen, though.
5. Angry Anderson
Like Barnesy, this old Aussie rock dog's had a career that has evolved alongside AC/DC's over the past 4+ decades, with the pair tracing their relationship back to 1970's Melbourne. A career badass, the Rose Tattoo frontman would not look out of place onstage with his veteran Aussie rock bros, and he's got the lungs and the attitude to do their tunes justice.
4. Lzzy Hale - Halestorm
A lady who learned her craft from the likes of Dio, Alice Cooper and David Lee Roth, Halestorm's Lzzy Hale is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Not only does she possess the pipes to take AC/DC's songs to new heights, she's already proven that she can, ripping a mean cover of Shoot To Thrill on one of Halestorm's covers EPs and performing multiple dynamite renditions of You Shook Me All Night Long.
3. Michael Starr - Steel Panther
Steel Panther might be a joke band, but they're also some of the most fuck-off incredible musos on the planet. Michael Starr shreds on vocals. Not only can he scream, he can hit nut-squeazing Mariah fucking Carey notes if needed.
Cutting his teeth in the ancestral home of glam rock - Los Angeles - Starr (real name Ralph Michael Saenz) is from the old school of rock n' roll performance, where a band's front-person was more than just a singer, they were an entertainer; oozing confidence, swagger and David Lee Roth-style zazz.
And if all that ain't enough to convince you that the Gloryhole singer would be a gun replacement for Brian Johnson? Panther are pretty much the only band on the planet whose songs contain more sexual innuendos than AC/DC's.
2. Justin Hawkins - The Darkness
The Darkness have always been an amazing hybrid of Queen-inspired vocals over AC/DC-inspired riffs, crediting the Aussie rock veterans as one of their earliest and most consistent inspirations. Add to that, Justin Hawkins has a voice of superhuman proportions, capable of reaching dizzying altitudes without losing any macho grit. And if you think the onesie-loving frontman is too camp for Acca Dacca? Need we remind you that for AC/DC's TV debut, Bon Scott appeared in full schoolgirl drag, complete with pigtails and tacky blue eyeshadow. And it was farkin' AMAZING.
1. Joel O'Keeffe - Airbourne
Regrettably, Airbourne are a bigger name overseas than they are in their own homeland. The Warrnambool-bred rockers routinely go from playing in front of 100,000-strong crowds at US and European festivals to headlining modest 1500-cap venues on their home turf. But as anyone who's seen this band live knows full well, they have one of the sweatiest, most rock n'roll live shows of any band, ever. AC/DC's influence drips from every single one of their songs, and they're probably the only band to go toe-to-toe with Acca Dacca when it comes to number of songs written about rock n' roll.
In conclusion, not only could frontman Joel O'Keefe sing the shit out of any AC/DC song you could throw his way, he'd do it while scaling a Marshall tower and smashing a beer can on his head. Strayaaaaaa.