Sadly, it's time to stop rocking

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

There's an old adage that says: Father Time is undefeated.

Mostly I hear it used in the context of athletic endeavors. Sooner or later, even the best and most talented athletes face the end of their careers, and we've all been witness to the sad occasions when those athletes don't recognize that it's time to retire.

The same thing is true in the entertainment industry.

Folks who know me well know that my favorite band is AC/DC, aka The Thunder From Down Under. If you're familiar with AC/DC you know why the nickname is appropriate. If you aren't familiar with them, rest assured that they are the greatest band in the history of sound. They've been rocking the world for more than 40 years.

There's absolutely nothing subtle about AC/DC. They are loud, proud and unapologetic. Sometimes the band is criticized by folks who say all their music sounds the same, and I guess that's not untrue. But when you make the kind of window-rattling music that AC/DC turns out, there's no need for power ballads.

I've seen AC/DC perform live on two occasions, once at the Fleet Center in Boston and once at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. Each time, my ears were still ringing for days afterward. By far, they were the best concerts I've ever attended.

Sadly, the band has experienced some issues lately. Rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young is no longer able to perform because of reported dementia. Drummer Phil Rudd also has been absent from AC/DC's "Rock or Bust" tour because of legal issues including an alleged murder threat and drug charges.

AC/DC plugged in a new rhythm guitarist and a new drummer and set out on a world tour that hit the United States last August. Although I haven't been able to attend any of the shows, my plan was to see at least one before the tour's scheduled end in September.

Then came the biggest loss of all. Last week, the band announced that it was postponing the next 10 dates on its North American tour because lead singer Brian Johnson is suffering from hearing loss. Johnson's doctor reportedly advised him that if he didn't stop performing he could become completely deaf.

In a press release announcing the postponements, AC/DC said some shows could be rescheduled later in the year "likely with a guest vocalist."

I don't want to see that. I don't think any true AC/DC fan does.

Johnson is the band's second lead singer. He replaced the late, great Bon Scott after Scott died of asphyxiation following a drinking binge in 1980. The band's classic "Back in Black" album, featuring Johnson as the lead vocalist, was a tribute to Scott, and AC/DC kept right on rocking despite the loss of a musical legend.

That was 36 years ago, however, and the band was fortunate to find a singer with Johnson's ability. In fact, Johnson's voice bears a strong resemblance to Scott's. Plugging in a new singer at this point in the band's career doesn't make sense.

As much as I hate to say it, I believe the time has come for AC/DC to stop performing. I don't want to see them become the quarterback who hangs around for one season too many, or the slugger who suddenly can't catch up to the fastball. I want to remember them the way they were in their prime, with Scott telling us that "it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n roll" or Johnson singing "Thunderstruck" at the top of his lungs.

Without its lead singer, AC/DC simply will never be the same.

And Father Time remains undefeated.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com