Brian Johnson has the scoop. And he’s gonna give it to us.
The legendary AC/DC frontman will debut his new show Brian Johnson’s Life On The Road this month on Sky Arts, New Zealand’s arts and culture channel; there’s no word at this point on whether it will make its way to North American television, but hope springs eternal. It’s a six part series featuring Johnson chatting it up with some of his also-legendary rock and roll friends. We’ll get the tour stories and more, right from the horses’ mouths, with said horses including Lars Ulrich, Roger Daltrey, Sting, Nick Mason, Robert Plant and Joe Elliott.
Episode 01 – Roger Daltrey (Friday April 28)
Brian has known Roger for 40 years, with their lives traveling on similar humble-to-superstardom tracks. Brian and Roger meet up at the house in which Roger grew up, in Shepherd’s Bush London. Walking around the hood, they end up at Bush Hall, The Who‘s original rehearsal space. There, they discuss how the rock tour as we know it today was essentially invented by The Who, as they pioneered many hallmarks: aggression, machismo, onstage danger, decibel levels high enough to make steel factory workers ask to have the volume lowered, and of course that controversial penchant for smashing the hell out of guitars, amps and just about everything else. On the road, The Who also set the bar very high for drug consumption, groupie acquisition and hotel room destruction — you can bet we’ll hear a few anecdotes about that. And airtime is dedicated to The Who’s seminal 1969 album Tommy and subsequent tour, and how that became the tipping point, transforming the band from a bunch of in-your-face rabble rousing art rockers into a group of certified A-list record-shiftin’, stadium-packin’ superstars.
Episode 02 – Lars Ulrich (Friday May 05)
Brian checks in with Lars at Metallica‘s secret underground lair in San Rafael California, and gets a tour of the compound before sitting down to talk in the main rehearsal room. Much like The Who, Metallica went from playing in front of a couple of hundred metalheads at the Stone in San Francisco in the early 80s to rocking with an estimated 1.5 million fans at Tushino Airfield in Moscow in the early 90s. That Moscow show was one of the stops on the band’s Wherever We May Roam tour, which saw them on the road from 1991 until 1993. By the time it wrapped, Metallica had cemented their reputation as one of the most successful full tilt rock outfits on the planet.
Episode 03 – Nick Mason (Friday May 12)
Car collector Brian visits car collector Nick at his Cotswold estate for a week look at the rides, and then they talk about Pink Floyd‘s early days, when they were faced with performing huge shows without a whole lot of live experience. Later, it’s back to the car collection and the ride which made it possible for the band to tour after Roger Waters‘ exit: the 1962 Ferrari 250GTO which Nick bought in 1977 for £35,000 — now worth an estimated £40 million. Nick put it up for collateral to finance the 1987-1989 A Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour; Roger was having disagreements with the rest of the band over the use of the Pink Floyd name, and nobody would underwrite the tour — so the Ferrari came to the rescue, and the tour went smashingly. The band did more than 200 shows for 4.25 million fans over 18 months, with ticket sales reaching £60 million. Brian and Nick discuss the tour details and how it made Pink Floyd one of the highest grossing live acts of the 80s.
Episode 04 – Sting (Friday May 19)
Brian scampers over to New York for some face time with longtime friend and fellow Geordie, Sting. In a real blast from the past, they hop into the Ford Econoline in which the Police trundled around on their debut United States tour, and pilot it to the site of the band’s first gig — the legendary CBGBs. The trip turns into a Time Machine jaunt to 1978, with Brian and Sting talking about how far they’ve progressed since those early days. At CBGBs — which is now a fashion boutique — they visit the same room in which the Police played on their first visit to New York, prompting Sting to do some reminiscing about “fleapits and toilets” in which he used to play, and how they were the best times, while the huge stadia in which he played later on all blurred into one. We get a look into the machinations of the rock and roll machine, with tensions between band members, the toll on family members, out of control egos … and life as an Englishman in New York.
Episode 05 – Joe Elliott (Friday May 26)
Brian’s off to Dublin to have a beakfest with his old chum Joe Elliott; they get together in the Temple Bar District and Joe escorts Brian down the pub, The Porterhouse (his favorite). We hear about Def Leppard‘s backstory and the ascent of a bunch of lads from Sheffield who were huge fans of T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, Thin Lizzy and Queen, and helped lead the New Wave Of British Metal. There’s rich history here — some of it tragic, such as what befell Rick Allen — and talk of the Pyromania and Hysteria tours. Were they actually smuggled into their in-the-round shows in laundry baskets (including once by Robert Plant)? Of course they were, and other hijinks included opening for themselves in disguise, as U2 have done from time to time. Wrapping up, Joe discusses aspects of his career following the band’s years at the top of the charts.
Episode 06 – Robert Plant (Friday June 02)