#1 AC/DC After Bon Scott
After Bon Scott, AC/DCdidn’t know if they could survive. February 19th, 1980 was the day he was found dead in his car after chocking to death on his own vomit at only 33 years old. Malcolm & Angus decided the show must go on, eventually stealing Geordie’s frontman, Brian Johnson who Bon Scott enjoyed while he was alive.
Brian Johnson re-lives his first time on stage with the band June 1980 in Belgium, only four months after Bon Scott had passed. Looking out into the crowd, people were holding R.I.P. Bon signs. It gets worse; he was so nervous he sang the same set of lyrics for the first two songs! This was also the first time an audience would hear Back in Black live.
#2 Alice in Chains - Check My Brain
No one could picture Alice in Chains without Layne Staley who passed away in 2002. Black Gives Way to Blue was the comeback album with new frontman, William Duvall.
#3 Johnny Cash After Rick Rubin
Where do we start with Johnny Cash? Singer-songwriter, actor and author. Although his career started in country, there were always hints of rock and blues in his music making him a legend in more than one genre of music.
Like many musicians, Johnny Cash had a slump too. But the 90s revived his music after Man in Black and working with producer Rick Rubin. In his living room in 1994, his music took an interesting turn as he took some great songs and made them his own.
The second album of covers in this series had guest appearances from Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band.
By 1996, Cash was hot again.
#4 Metallica After Cliff Burton
After three killer albums, Metallica lost Cliff Burton when their tour bus flipped in Sweden, September 1986.
The band spoke to MTV about that night:
James Hetfield: I remember in Sweden after Cliff died, as soon as we got out of the hospital. We all had minor injuries and we all came out and I just went straight for a bottle and just started screaming, “Where’s Cliff?” Just out of my head. Cliff was a good friend. He understood some of where I was coming from. And when he was taken from us, it was like an ally of mine in the band was gone. Where did Cliff go, why did he go? A lot of that stuff started appearing in lyrics.
Lars Ulrich: We drank the pain away, because that was the only thing we knew how to do. So after Cliff died, Alcoholica came roaring back in full force. Drunker and louder and more obnoxious and more f—ed up. We dealt with it by going straight back out there. We never took a break. Just slowed down long enough to get Jason Newsted in the band.
I called up my friend [Metal Blade label owner] Brian Slagel who had given Metallica their first break on the Metal Massacre album about five years earlier. And I asked him who are the hot young cats out there. And all roads were leading to this guy Jason Newsted. We were auditioning bass players right down where Cliff used to live in Hayward. And Cliff’s mom and dad were hanging around the rehearsal rooms. It was a pretty beautiful thing but it was also a little intimidating for the bass players. Jason Newsted came in and he didn’t look a day over 14. He was very serious and fired up and knew all the songs. And he had tremendous energy, enormous tenacity. He was the kind of guy that you could tell, “OK Jason, you’ll get the gig in Metallica on one condition. You have to go lay in the street and get run over by a truck.” I mean, he would have done that.
Hetfield: I remember when we told Jason he was in the band he jumped on the table, and was doing back flips, and it was more of a new kind of youthful fan energy that kind of entered. But I felt that we took a lot of our resentment, a lot of our grief, a lot of our despair around Cliff’s death out on Jason. And not to take away from Jason and the process of how we got him and why he was in the band, because he was the right guy, but it was easier to grab somebody because they were there. I didn’t think about it too much.
Right from the beginning there was a lot of hazing that just separated him and he was always thought of as “the new guy.” I wish that that didn’t have to happen. I guess we wanted to toughen him up, we wanted him to be as tough as us. We were brutal with him. And it never ended, really.
Jason Newsted: I think the hazing thing with Metallica was blown way bigger than it ever was. That’s the kind of things people like to talk about and have their fun with. In Japan, after I had been in probably two weeks at that point, we went to have sushi. It was my first time having sushi. And they’re all talking about it. And the first time I probably ever had sake, too. And the big beers and everything are just flowing. They all somehow collectively convince me that the green stuff, the wasabi, is mint ice cream. “You should have a big spoonful, man,” they said, “because it’s really good for in between the meals and stuff.” And I took a spoonful of wasabi and that was the beginning of the night. Then they would cram into a taxi and make me go in a taxi by myself. They would be uncomfortable in the taxi just so I could ride by myself.
#5 Def Leppard After Rick Allen's Accident
A true story of persistence, this drummer lost an arm in a car-accident and still manages to rock stadiums across the world. He calls it one of the darkest days of his life – not only did he almost die, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to drum again!
We can learn a couple of lessons from Rick Allen – the story goes he was speeding on a country road in England, his seat belt was not on properly and he thought his vehicle could better handle the curvy road.
A doctor who lived near by thankfully put his arm on ice (it was still in the vehicle once Rick was rescued). At the hospital, doctors weren’t able to re-attach his arm because of an infection.
Imagine this happening a year after Def Leppard’s breakthrough album, Pyromania…he made the comeback of all comebacks thanks to a custom kit that allows him to trigger the snare drum with his foot, read more from Ultimate Classic Rock.
He was back on stage by 1986 and the best part of this story? Hysteria sold even more records than Pyromania!