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Mislead by Rock 'n' Roll: Brian Johnson's 'Rockers and Rollers'

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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2012
I realize Brian Johnson is not a writer: his book got published because he’s AC/DC’s lead singer.
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Rockers and Rollers: A Full-Throttle Memoir

Brian Johnson

(Harper Collins; US: May 2012)

If Car and Driver is your bible and you know the Andretti family tree better than your own, Brian Johnson’s Rockers and Rollers: A Full-Throttle Memoir will provide amusing diversion.


If, like me, you mistook “A Full-Throttle Memoir” to mean a discussion of Johnson’s tenure with metal greats AC/DC, you will be sorely disappointed. 


Johnson took over lead singing duties after Bon Scott’s death in 1980. But so little is said of Scott or how Johnson came to replace him that the casual reader, unfamiliar with the band, will only be confused. Rockers and Rollers is about cars. Cars Johnson has owned, raced, or both. Though Johnson has been a rock singer since his teenage years, his musical career is clearly secondary, undwriting his proclivity for pricey European roadsters with more personality quirks than James Hetfield. 


The book is divided into vignettes, usually little more than a couple pages, describing a parade of cars, rounded out with anecdotes about people Johnson’s met along the way. These folks range from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Paul Newman.  Bandmates are discussed only in context of what they drive—or do not: Angus Young, to Johnson’s horror, doesn’t have a driver’s license. 


I realize Brian Johnson is not a writer: his book got published because he’s AC/DC’s lead singer. I tried to keep this in mind as I plowed through a laundry list of cars that, unless you a complete automobile freak, rapidly dulls.


What finally tipped me over wasn’t the book’s misleading title or too many cars. It was the revolting chauvinism permeating the book. 


I’m sorry.  I don’t meant to sound like a prudish priss: AC/DC is one of my favorite bands. I understand Johnson is a rock musician, albeit a 65-year-old one. The first few mentions of married gents ordering up a little action (and I am cleaning up the vocabulary), and his being “a nervous girl” before an auto race (evidently Johnson has never heard of Danica Patrick, Susie Stoddart, or Janet Guthrie), or the many references to oral sex—not of the happily consensual nature—I let pass. When the sexist references keep coming—and they are nonstop—they begin rankling. 


How tour bus antics involving a line of groupies relate to a memoir about automobiles is beyond me. Nor do I understand how Johnson could attend a friend’s daughter’s wedding and comment that the bride looked “very shaggable”. This is a married man with two daughters he professes to adore. 


Johnson is not a total monster. Rock stardom hasn’t inflated his ego. He’s clearly generous to his extended family and a kind friend. He’s grateful and gracious about his good fortune. His words about his deceased parents, particularly his mother, are the book’s high point. 


What we have here is a case of author/reader mismatch. Though I’d still love to see that AC/DC memoir…Malcolm? Angus? You listening?


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