Tag Archives: AC/DC

First, Last & Always with Darren Johnson

Darren writes on rock and folk and as well as being a regular contributor to Get Ready To Rock and various other publications he runs his own music blog. He has also handled PR for a number of artists in recent years, including Bernie Torme, Thunderstick and prog-folk outfit Dandelion Charm. Visit Darren’s music blog here: https://darrensmusicblog.com/

The first album I ever bought…

Excluding the albums that I taped off my dad as a kid (Status Quo, Monty Python and so on) and excluding the copy of Highway To Hell that my older step-sister passed on to me when she decided she was punk and would no longer be listening to AC/DC, the first new album I bought (well it was actually a present for my 15th birthday but it was exactly what I asked for) was We’ll Bring The House Down by Slade. I have vague memories of Slade from my childhood at the height of the glam era in the early 70s but they had been out of the limelight for several years. However, I remember watching Top Of The Pops when Slade burst back on to our TV screens in 1981 with We’ll Bring The House Down and I became instantly hooked. From then on they were my favourite band (and still are!) I still play that album a lot. Probably not the best Slade album of all time but certainly a significant one for me.

Last decent album…

In terms of the veteran classic rock bands, after some ropey years in the 90’s and 00’s I generally think we’ve been seeing a real return to form from all of these bands in recent years. Rather than chasing trends they seem to have the confidence to sound like themselves once again and make the type of albums that made people fall in love with them in the first place. Girlschool, Judas Priest, Saxon, Uriah Heep et al have all made brilliant albums in recent years that stand proud against their earlier career-defining classics. However, I also follow quite a few newish heavy metal bands as well and after completely losing interest in modern heavy metal in the 00s with all of its bewildering sub-genres, there has been a brilliant renaissance of classic heavy metal in recent years where great song-writing, catchy riffs and strong melodies are back in vogue. A few bands have really impressed in recent years. Hell’s Gazelles are ones to watch and have released a couple of great EPs but for an album I’m going to go with Toledo Steel’s No Quarter released this year. Fast and furious, loud and heavy as hell but never less than tuneful and melodic Toledo Steel are everything you want from a truly great heavy metal band. No Quarter is a brilliant debut album.

An always album…

Over the past thirty-odd years there have been lots of albums that have come into my life and rapidly established themselves as favourites that I wouldn’t want to live without. However, for this one I’m going to go right back to that discarded copy of Highway To Hell that my stepsister handed on to me when I was 14. Every track a memorable classic, this album is as great to listen to now as it was when it came out. For me it shows the evolution of AC/DC from the sleazy bar-room rock n roll band of the early albums to the stadium-filling giants that they would become in the Brian Johnson era. And much as I love Brian Johnson, in spite of initial scepticism when it was first announced, I though Axl Rose handled the Bon Scott-era material brilliantly on the last tour. I’m going to be hugely controversial now and state that an Angus Young/Axl Rose collaboration album could be the long lost follow-up to Highway To Hell. I hope they record something together!

For Those About To Blog…We Salute You: Darren’s Music Blog

There are loads of music and reviews blogs out there, more seem to pop-up daily, although you do need to filter out the cut ‘n’ paste reviews ones. Here we have Darren Johnson, of the aptly titled Darren’s Music Blog is well worth a read covering rock, folk and more.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging about music?

I’ve always been passionate about music. However, I was a local councillor for years and it often meant that I when saw gigs advertised I couldn’t go because I’d be at a council meeting or a residents meeting or knocking on doors or something. I was telling my brother that when I stepped down I was going to take advantage of all the free evenings and start going to loads of gigs. He said I should keep a blog of them all. Three years ago that’s how the idea of Darren’s music blog was born.

What do you think makes for a good read for a music review?

I’m not a musician so I really have nothing in the way of technical musical knowledge to offer. I approach it completely from the angle of the fan. Looking back at some of my earliest posts now they tended to be fairly descriptive but over time I found myself talking more and more about how I first got into a particular band, about the range of emotions you go through watching the gig, about what the artist in question means to you personally and about the way they connect to their audience. At its heart live music is a communal and very human experience. Otherwise, you might as well just sit at home and listen to the records. I try to reflect that in my writing.

What has been the most popular post on your blog to date?

That’s easy. I was lucky enough to be at the Dave Davies gig at the Islington Assembly Hall in December 2015 when his brother Ray joined him on stage for a surprise encore. The first time they had shared a stage in nearly two decades. Normally, at a significant moment in rock history like that you would have loads of journalists there to cover it but as it was just a routine gig in a smallish venue there wasn’t really a press presence. I wrote my review first thing the following morning and posted it up. Dave Davies put it on his facebook page and it just went viral. It was a very special night and I was just in the write place at the right time to capture the moment first hand https://darrensmusicblog.com/2015/12/19/dave-davies-and-ray-at-islington-assembly-hall-181215/

What was your live highlight of 2016 and why?

There were many but I’m going to pick AC/DC at the Olympic Stadium. My heart sank when AC/DC first announced Brian Johnson had to pull out and that they were planning to fulfil the dates with a guest vocalist. I was even more sceptical when it was announced that Axl Rose would be the said guest vocalist. But he absolutely nailed it, particularly the Bon-era material. The first time I saw AC/DC Brian had just joined the band so I never got to see Bon live, sadly, but now I’m a complete convert to Axl-DC! https://darrensmusicblog.com/2016/06/05/acdc-at-the-olympic-stadium-london-4616/

Do you think the current state of the UK live scene is healthy right now?

The number of venues that have closed or have been threatened with closure is a huge worry and I’m a big supporter of the Music Venues Trust. However, there are some great live venues and some great new bands out there still so let’s not get too gloomy. I live in Hastings these days which has a superb live music scene.


Who are you musical heroes and why?

Noddy Holder and Sandy Denny! My musical tastes are broad but both of these two are really special to me. I’ve never seen anyone work an audience like Noddy did with Slade and he sang and co-wrote some of the best songs ever. Sandy Denny is, in my view, the finest female singer that ever lived. It’s a tragedy that she remained relatively forgotten for many years after her untimely death in 1978. But her music is finally starting to get the recognition it deserves and I’m never going to stop banging the drum for her.

Any good rock ‘n’ roll tales to tell?

I was at a posh reception for the opening of the London Olympics in 2012. I arrived at exactly the same time as Jimmy Page and we got chatting on the way in. After a quick look round he said he didn’t really know anyone else there and was it ok if he hung out with me for the evening! You can read the full story here https://darrensmusicblog.com/2016/12/01/the-night-jimmy-page-asked-if-he-could-hang-out-with-me/

Heard any good music lately?

One of the best new bands I’ve seen lately is KilliT who I saw on the Introducing Stage at Butlin’s Giants of Rock weekend at Minehead. They are a superb hard rock band. Great songs and great stage presence. They deserve to go far http://www.killitband.com/