What Axl Rose's Gig with AC/DC Has Taught Me About Redefining "Qualified Candidates"

Or, how past performance does not guarantee future results.

Axl Rose performing with AC/DC at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on September 4, 2016. Photo credit: author

AC/DC brought the rock to my hometown over the Labor Day weekend. This concert was originally scheduled for March 2016 but was postponed after long-time lead singer, Brian Johnson, was told by his doctors he must step away from live performances or risk total hearing loss. The news was made more complicated because AC/DC were in the middle of the Rock or Bust tour. They had 10 concerts to go in North America plus a slew of European dates over the summer.

This was not the first time AC/DC had to replace a singer. Indeed, Brian Johnson himself stepped in soon after the tragic death of Bon Scott in February 1980. At that time, the band moved quickly. They found a new singer, wrote and recorded new songs, and by July of that year, had released the seminal album, Back in Black. Brian Johnson remained with the band for 36 years, though he was always referred to with affection by fans as the "new" lead singer.

Fast forward to April 2016. Amid fan speculation as to whether AC/DC would--or should--continue on, gossip sites published photos of Guns N' Roses lead singer, Axl Rose, leaving an Atlanta studio where AC/DC were reportedly rehearsing. Within days, the band made it official, announcing that Axl Rose would replace Brian for the rest of the Rock or Bust tour. If there was any doubt about the veracity of this news, Angus Young joined GN'R on stage at Coachella to perform a couple classic AC/DC songs.

Though it might seem straight forward to an outside observer, this was monumental news. And it was not without controversy. Axl Rose to join AC/DC? It seemed unthinkable. Inexplicable. A terrible choice. There were certainly better and more qualified candidates. Though a bona fide rock star, Axl Rose personified the worst characteristics of rock stardom. He was petulant, recalcitrant and insufferable. He spat on and cursed at fans during concerts. He arrived late and quit shows early; that is, if he deigned to show up at all. He treated his bandmates terribly and is widely blamed for the disintegration of the classic lineup of GN'R.