Premiering later this month on Sky Arts, “Brian Johnson’s Life On The Road” is a six-part series featuring the legendary AC/DC frontman in conversation with some of the biggest names in rock and roll history as they explore the realities of life on a global rock tour. Meeting METALLICA‘s Lars Ulrich, Roger Daltrey of THE WHO, Academy Award nominee Sting, PINK FLOYD drummer Nick Mason, LED ZEPPELIN‘s Robert Plant and DEF LEPPARD singer Joe Elliott, Johnson lifts the lid on the stark realities of life on tour, from the wearying hard graft and sleepless nights to the electrifying thrill of performing on stage at iconic venues in front of sell-out crowds around the world.
Episode 1 – Brian Johnson and Roger Daltrey (Friday, April 28)
Brian Johnson has known Roger Daltrey for 40 years and their lives have followed a similar trajectory, from humble origins to global stardom. Brian meets Roger outside the house he grew up in, in Shepherd’s Bush, London. They take a walk through the neighbourhood streets and end up at Bush Hall, where THE WHO rehearsed in their early days. In Bush Hall, Brian and Roger discuss how in many ways, the modern rock tour was invented by THE WHO. They pioneered many of the moves and postures of the live rock show: the bombast, the aggression, the strutting, the element of danger on stage, the ear-splitting loudness, and the move into bigger arenas with laser shows and giant TV screens. And while on the road, THE WHO were second to none in terms of rock and roll mayhem — it was a non-stop carnival of drugs, groupies, and wrecked hotel rooms. Brian and Roger‘s conversation turns to THE WHO‘s 1969 album “Tommy” and subsequent tour — and how it transformed THE WHO from a quirky, antagonistic art-rock band into stadium-filling rock gods. Their tête-à -tête then focuses on a series of historic gigs, in particular some of THE WHO‘s experiences in America which turned them into the kind of band which, in the 1970s, would go on to shape modern touring on an epic scale, with all its pomp and excess.
Episode 2 – Brian Johnson and Lars Ulrich (Friday, May 5)
Brian visits Lars at METALLICA headquarters in San Rafael, California, which is the base for the band and their operation. Lars gives Brian a tour of the facilities before they sit down to talk in the band’s main rehearsal room. The pair reflect on how METALLICA had gone from playing to 200 metal fans at the Stone in San Francisco in September 1982, to performing to an estimated 1.5 million fans at Tushino Airfield in Moscow in September 1991. The Moscow concert was only one of the stops on METALLICA‘s ’91-’93 “Wherever We May Roam” tour. This tour and all that it entailed forms the basis of Brian and Lars‘s conversation. By the time the tour ended, METALLICA had cemented their reputation as one of the biggest and hardest-rocking bands in the world. Brian draws on his own experiences of life on the road — how he went from playing social clubs in the North East of England to fronting one of the biggest bands in the world. Brian and Lars share “war stories” from the rock and roll front line. How do you deal with fame on the scale that both he and Lars have achieved? How do you come down after playing a gig in front of thousands (or millions) of fans? What are the routines and rituals that become part of your daily life on the road? How important are the road crew and the management in making sure that the shows run as smoothly as possible or in some cases not?!
Episode 3 – Brian Johnson and Nick Mason (Friday, May 12)
Brian visits Nick at his private car collection in the Cotswolds, an apt location, as they are both racing car enthusiasts. After a tour of the collection, Brian and Nick settle down to talk about the early days of PINK FLOYD and how they were catapulted into performing large shows without many live hours under their belts. They talk about the nature of FLOYD as a live act and what made them unique — for example in their early shows, they would always put all their effort into creating a spectacle with lights and sets, rather than projecting their own personalities on stage. Brian and Nick return to the car collection as Nick reveals the car that allowed the band to tour following Roger Waters‘s departure from the band — the 1962 Ferrari 250GTO which Nick bought in 1977 for £35,000 and is now reputedly worth £40 million. It was this car that Nick put up as collateral for the 1987-9 tour, “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason”. Roger Waters was fighting with the rest of PINK FLOYD at the time over the use of the band name. No one would under-write the tour so the Ferrari came to the rescue. It was a vast enterprise. There were 200 performances over nearly 18 months, playing to 4.25 million fans. Box office receipts were more than £60 million, not including merchandising. A live record of the tour, “Delicate Sound Of Thunder” was sent into space on Soyuz TM-Z and Nick and Dave Gilmour went to Russia for the launch. It was the first rock album to go into orbit! Brian and Nick discuss this tour in detail and how it catapulted the band into being one of the highest-grossing live acts of the 80s.
Episode 4 – Brian Johnson and Sting (Friday, May 19)
Brian travels to New York to meet old friend and fellow Geordie, Sting. The pair travel downtown in a Ford Econoline van (the same van THE POLICE used to drive around the USA on their debut tour) to the site of THE POLICE‘s first gig in America — the legendary CBGBs. The 30-minute ride becomes a journey back to 1978 and Brian and Sting talk en route about how far they both have come because of life on the road. Brian and Sting arrive at CBGBs (now a fashion boutique) and as Sting walks into the very room where THE POLICE first played New York, the memories come flooding back and he talks of the small venues, the “fleapits and toilets” he used to play in and how those were the best years, whereas the stadiums he performed in once he was famous, all blur into one. Leaving CBGBs, Brian and Sting walk a few blocks down the Bowery to all-night diner Phebe’s, where in the old days, Sting would drink coffee and reflect on his new life and the prospect of conquering America. They share a drink and discuss a variety of topics; how THE POLICE rode on the back of the punk scene despite their accomplished musicianship; first impressions of New York City; growing tensions between band members, success going to your head; damage to family life; the move to stadiums; the break-up; reasons for reforming THE POLICE for one more tour in 2007 and how it was different second time around; Sting‘s routines and rituals pre-show and after show; life as an Englishman in New York and more.
Episode 5 – Brian Johnson and Joe Elliott (Friday, May 26)
Brian travels Dublin to meet his old pal Joe Elliott of DEF LEPPARD. They hook up in the Temple Bar district and Joe takes Brian to his local pub, The Porterhouse. Joe tells Brian about DEF LEPPARD‘s backstory and their rise to success — one of a bunch of ordinary lads from Sheffield who loved T.REX, MOTT THE HOOPLE, QUEEN and THIN LIZZY as well as heavier rock artists and went against the current music trends to spearhead what became known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They talk in detail about the “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” tours and the tragedies that befell the band along the way: the sacking of guitarist Pete Willis (for uncontrollable behavior), drummer Rick Allen‘s car accident in which he lost his left arm, and the death from alcohol abuse of guitarist Steve Clark. Joe then recounts some of the unique moments on those tours — the concept of playing in the round and being smuggled on stage in laundry baskets (once by Robert Plant!); the day in 1995 when they played three gigs on three continents and took their place in the Guinness Book of Records; the Las Vegas residency at the Hard Rock Hotel where they supported themselves (in disguise!); and the recent “Hysteria” cruise. They finish up by covering aspects of Joe’s career after the DEF LEPPARD glory years and some of his various side projects, and they look forward as the band gear up for a major North American tour beginning in 2017.
Episode 6 – Brian Johnson and Robert Plant (Friday, June 2)