The perpetually jolly Brian Johnson during his days with the band Geordie.
A few weeks ago I wrote about former AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson and his “acclaimed” jingle for the Hoover Vacuum company in 1980. Since that time, I’ve been digging around Johnnson’s pre-AC/DC rawk days—and I’ve loved every minute of it. If I were stranded on a desert island and had to live with the music of one band, it would be AC/DC. Give me Sabbath or give me death, I’d still be okay departing this world if Angus, Malcolm, Cliff, Bon, and later Brian Johnson, played me out. A girl can dream, can’t she? For now, let’s get back to the focus of this post—AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson and his band, Geordie.
First off, Geordie’s oddball name was taken from a word that is used to describe the citizens and unique dialect associated with residents of Johnson’s place of birth, Newcastle upon Tyne in England, a place where everyone speaks in Johnson’s nearly impossible-to-understand endearing verbal sway, and the origin site of black metal pioneers Venom. Before joining Geordie, Johnson had some minor success playing various working men’s clubs in the North East of Newcastle with the Jasper Hart Band. Johnson recorded a few singles in the early 1970s with the group before leaving to join forces with his first serious band, USA which would later become Geordie. At the time, glam rock was everything and Geordie was born right smack in the middle of the exploding glitter bomb and musical liberation that was led by the likes of T.Rex and the New York Dolls. Every great story about rock and roll ever written contains at least one piece of WTF mythology, and this one is no exception. The tale associated with Geordie is especially surreal as it concerns the first time that Johnson met Bon Scott while he was fronting one of his pre-AC/DC bands, Fraternity (later known as “Fang”).
According to Johnson, Fraternity/Fang opened a few shows for Geordie in the group’s early days. During one of Geordie’s performances, Johnson was gravely ill battling a dire case of appendicitis—which I can tell you from experience is horrible and will take you down quick and hard. Despite this, Johnson borrowed a tip from the “How to Rock and Roll and Not Be a Giant Pussy” handbook and played the fucking gig in what I can assure you was horrific pain. Johnson was suffering so badly that he laid down on his side on stage and was kicking and screaming in agony—but still, he persisted, and somehow finished the show. Bon bore witness to the spectacle, thinking it was part of the show just like pretty much everyone else at the gig. Later on, after joining AC/DC, he would tell his new bandmates about the gig noting how impressed he was by Johnson’s “performance” and admiring the fact that his future replacement was on the floor kicking and screaming on stage exclaiming “what an act” it was to behold. What an “act” indeed.
The awesome cover of Geordie’s 1974 album ‘Don’t Be Fooled by the Name.’
Geordie did pretty well for themselves until the later part of the 70s when the increasing popularity of new wave and punk bands like the Blondie and the Sex Pistols killed their appeal. Before their demise in 1976, Geordie would put out four respectable as well as mostly commercially successful records that produced a bunch of hits including “All Because Of You” from their 1973 debut album Hope You Like It that plowed its way into the UK top ten. Though they would technically call it quits in 1976, Johnson would revive Geordie as “Geordie II,” and his Geordie bandmates would plod onward with a new vocalist Dave Ditchburn. That version of Geordie would produce an album that contained songs featuring Johnson’s vocals as well as Ditchburn’s called No Good Woman before disappearing for good sometime in the early 80s.
Of particular interest below is live footage of Geordie performing in Sydney in 1974 on a fascinating little Australian show, GTK or “Get To Know” a ten-minute program that aired musical performances and interviews with bands before the nightly soap operas. The footage features Geordie banging out a breathtaking version of “Long Tall Sally.” During that number Johnson gets to show off his impressive vocal chops and technique that I’m pretty sure is going to blow your mind. I’ve also posted a few choice images of the band and other live footage of Geordie that just straight up kick ass. If for some strange reason you are not already a fan of Brian Johnson, what you are about to see will without a doubt change that. If you’re still not convinced that you should model your life after Brian Johnson, take a look at this. Johnson will turn 70 years young this October and can still give any SOB in the house half his age a run for their money. Long live “Brian from Newcastle.”
I don’t know what’s happening here, but I love it. Johnson is pictured in the upper right.
Incredible footage of Geordie performing on GTK in 1974. In the video, Johnson picks up Geordie bass player Vic Malcolm on his shoulders. YES.
Geordie doing their 1974 song “She’s a Teaser” on German television.
Geordie looking very much like Slade performing their hit 1973 single “All Because of You.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson’s balls out metal vocals for a Hoover vacuum commercial in 1980
‘Kenneth, what is the frequency?’ The weird connection between AC/DC and the 1986 Dan Rather assault
Glamtastic footage of AC/DC *before* Bon Scott
Blistering footage of a young AC/DC blowing the roof off the sucker in 1978
Big Balls: Rarely seen, intimate photos of AC/DC taken back in the 70s