AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson feels betrayed by his bandmates after the Australian hard rock giants announced he was losing his hearing and postponed a tour, a friend claims.
The stadium-packing rockers, who are known for painfully loud concerts, last week abruptly halted a US tour and said that a doctor told the 68-year-old Johnson that he risked complete deafness if he kept performing.
Johnson has not spoken publicly but, in the first indirect remarks attributed to him, US comedian Jim Breuer said he went to the singer's home in Florida and found his longtime friend to be "really depressed".
"But he wasn't upset about his health. He was upset in that he kind of feels he got kicked to the curb," Breuer said on his podcast.
Breuer said Johnson did not believe his hearing was so dire and felt he could still perform some shows, especially open-air concerts where there would be less pressure on his ears.
Johnson had told his bandmates about his doctor's examination in hope of finding a solution but "literally the next day in the press it was, 'Tour canceled; he's losing his hearing,"' Breuer said.
The comic said that Johnson told him that the band's co-founder, guitarist Angus Young, was unresponsive and that all of Johnson's luggage from the tour was unceremoniously delivered to his home.
"He heard from someone that they have already hired somebody and it just hasn't been announced yet," Breuer said, adding that the tour could consist of "karaoke guest stars" who appear for individual shows.
Potentially complicating the relationship, Johnson is not an original AC/DC member. He joined the band in 1980 after singer Bon Scott died following a night of heavy drinking.
But the first AC/DC work with Johnson, Back in Black, was a phenomenal success and remains one of the top-selling albums of all time.
Dave Evans, who was briefly AC/DC's vocalist before the band chose the more experienced Scott, has volunteered to rejoin.
The front man for Swedish punk-rockers The Hives also offered to step in.
Johnson's woes are only the latest for the rock elders. Angus Young's brother, Malcolm Young, retired from the band ahead of the latest album Rock or Bust as he suffers from dementia.
The band has also parted ways with former drummer Phil Rudd.
The band were just here in December for a well-received performance at Auckland's Western Springs Stadium.