You don’t imagine that bands have to interview anyone. You imagine the Ramones emerging from a New York gutter as accelerated conglomerates of matter evolving into punky beings in the manner of a David Attenborough documentary time-lapse. However, like it or not, administration is everywhere in the modern world. Hell even Dave Grohl had to ‘network’.
Beaters don’t grow in petri dishes; you can’t pull a guitarist of your choice out of a tree. To find the right fit, you need to research high and low, then put them through their paces. So, it might come as a surprise, but a slew of music stars were initially put through their paces in an audition. Simon Cowell and co may not have passed judgment, but most bands weren’t fully formed brothers from the start.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the band‘s iconic members and how they came to join the outfits we know of them. Whether it’s Brian Johnson replacing the dearly departed Bon Scott in comedic circumstances or Dave Grohl finding a fitting place behind the kit, these are fateful stories we can all be happy about.
10 stories of fateful auditions in rock music
ACDC – Brian Johnson
“I was living at home with my parents in my thirties, fucking loser,” Johnson joked on the Howard Stern show. His band, Geordie, was floundering despite being advertised as a great live band, and Brian Johnson was forced to cope into adulthood. He planned to give the music industry a few more weeks while transitioning to an automotive business. He was literally weeks away from being a gravel-voiced man talking about power when finally the spotlight shone on him with an auspicious stroke of luck before the final hurdle.
As Johnson explains, “There was a Cleveland fan, whom I thank for my eternal debt, Mutt Lange [Record Producer] who said you had to try this guy. And unwittingly, Bon Scott himself had said, “Of all the singers I’ve seen in England, that kid called Brian Johnson was the best”… which was a very nice thing to say. .” So when Scott passed away tragically absent in 1980, his comrades in the AC/DC group already had a replacement in mind.
When he was invited to the audition, he was hesitant. “I’m 32, past the sell-by date of rock bands, I’m an old fart,” the Newcastle car dealership said when he received a mysterious invitation from a musician in London. He hung up thinking he wouldn’t participate. 30 minutes later he received a phone call promptly offering him £350 to record a jingle in – you guessed it – London. He decided to kill two birds with one stone and go down. The rest is ancient history.
The Beatles – Ringo Starr
There is a myth that Ringo Starr wasn’t even the Beatles’ best drummer. It was actually a line that came from a comedy sketch. Nonetheless, the quip persists that Ringo wasn’t a great drummer, and you can’t help but think that’s no small tragedy. You see, Ringo’s genius was that he was a reliable mover. As McCartney said himself when reminiscing about his first audition, “The first few minutes that Ringo plays, I look to the left at George and to the right at John, and we haven’t said a word, but I remember thinking , ‘Damn , this is amazing’.”
Its simplicity was a strength that kept the band freezing, as ‘Macca’ assessed: “Listen, I love Led Zeppelin, but you watch them play and you can see them watching John Bonham, like, ‘That’ do you give a damn? It’s the beat. You could turn your back on Ringo and never have to worry. He kept you both safe and you knew he was going to make it. So after a session, it became clear that he was the man to replace Pete Best.The rest is history.
Nirvana – Dave Grohl
Dave Grohl was content to respond to an ad when he joined Scream. And Kurt Cobain was simply forced to watch him by a friend. Cobain had abandoned Scream’s new style, but he was unaware that they had recently recruited a new drummer. At the show, he completely forgot his disdain, turned to his pal and proclaimed, “That’s the kind of drummer we need.” Six weeks later, they invited Grohl to Seattle.
A few days later, he was invited to a rehearsal room called The Dutchman, and midway through the first song, ‘Silver,’ Cobain and Novoselic gave each other a nod, “We’ve got our guy.” During an impromptu acoustic set on Calvin Johnson’s KAOS radio show the next day, Cobain announced that Nirvana had found “the drummer for [their] dreams.” That’s how Grohl knew he was in the band.
Pink Floyd – David Gilmour
In 1961, Syd Barrett’s father died a month before his 16th birthday. The grief this caused often seems downplayed in what followed. This moment encouraged him to perform in the first place, as his mother thought it might help him recover from his heartbreak. Within four years, Barrett had found some solace and Pink Floyd formed in 1965. On January 3, 1968, David Gilmour had accepted a tryout to replace him. And a few weeks later, he was in the front row of a gig at Imperial College London, watching almost motionless as his old college friend played his licks.
Gilmour had gone to school with the band and was originally recruited just to help out. As Peter Jenner explains, “The idea was that Dave…would cover Barrett’s eccentricities and when that became impractical, Syd would just write. Just to try to keep him involved. However, even that became untenable, and it was clear Gilmour would have to step in as a permanent core member. The rest is ancient history.
Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder
The beginnings of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament in music were tragic. Things were about to swell with their band Mother Love Bone when suddenly frontman Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose just months before their debut album was released. The group disbanded and both gave up music in times of mourning.
However, Gossard quickly got back on the horse and eventually teamed up with Ament after encouragement from Mike McCready. Their next job was to find a drummer and a leader. They released an instrumental demo and passed it on to Jack Irons of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, hoping to recruit him as their own blacksmith. He refused, but played the tape to a singer he knew in San Diego called Eddie Vedder.
Vedder listened to the demo before going surfing. Then the part-time gas station employee had a brilliant idea while having fun in the waves. he would feather his own opera in three parts over the instrumental tracks describing the tragic rise of a killer. He pitched those three tracks — “Alive,” “Once,” and “Footsteps” — to his recruiters, and within a week he was sent to Seattle, and Pearl Jam had formed. The rest is ancient history.
Black Sabbath – Ozzy Osbourne
In 1968, Geezer Butler placed an ad in the local paper announcing a singer in a new kind of band. The notion of heavy metal remained a mystery at this point unless you were referring to Tungsten, but somehow he attracted the perfect fit.
“There’s this thing at the door,” Geezer’s older brother reportedly informed him. ‘What do you mean This thing‘, replied Geezer. He was simply told to go and see. He was greeted by a skinhead kid in a brown dress with a shoe on a leash (presumably for the “I’m just stepping on a boot” pun, but who knows?) and a chimney sweep brush in his other hand . This best pronounced, “Hello, I’m Ozzy,” and the rest is history.
Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Rhoads
When Ozzy then left Black Sabbath in a fit of madness, he decided to pursue a solo career. However, when he was auditioning for future band members, he soon noticed that everyone was just impersonating his former Black Sabbath cohorts. If he had wanted to, he would have stayed at Black Sabbath.
After about 100 Tony Iommi impersonators had failed to pass the rally and Randy Rhoads entered. He plugged in, and in the simple act of practicing and finding his fingers for the first few minutes, Ozzy said, “You’ve got the gig.” Rhoads hadn’t even played a single song at this point in the audition. The rest is ancient history.
Roxy Music – Phil Manzanera
Roxy Music placed an ad in Melody Maker saying, “The perfect guitarist for the Avant-Rock band. Quirky, creative, adaptable, melodic, fast, slow, elegant, witty, spooky, steady, delicate. Quality musicians only. 20 musicians applied. Phil O’List got the gig. Phil Manzanera was just good enough to be given a job as a roadie.
However, over time, O’List’s rowdy manners led to an argument that got him fired. Manzanera knew all the songs and the lively attitude he displayed after he offered to work as a roadie endeared him to the band. Soon they would discover that he was indeed: “The perfect guitarist for the Avant-Rock band,” and he was given the full-time job. The rest is ancient history.
Pixies – Kim Deal
God loves a chance, and Deal takes the proverbial cookie. In true punk fashion, Deal auditioned to be in the Pixies without being able to play bass. Luckily, the ad she replied to read, “The band is looking for a bass player in Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul and Mary. Please – no chops. And thankfully further still, the smiling post-punk face was the only person to respond.
So the guitarist borrowed her sister’s bass and thought, “How difficult it can be to transpose your guitar playing skills to four-string,” and set out for her audition. She turned out to be the perfect person and she even knew a drummer. Having met David Lovering at her wedding reception, she suggested it to Black Francis and soon the Pixies had all the boxes ticked. The rest is ancient history.
The Killers – Brandon Flowers
The only thing guitarist Dave Keuning asked for when he placed an ad in a Las Vegas newspaper for musicians was that all applicants be fans of Oasis. Although he grew up in a small town where AM radio reigned supreme, Brandon Flowers was a huge fan of the Britpop giants.
So, he responded and immediately sympathized with Keuning. In fact, they got off to such a barnstorm start that the very first song they worked on happened to be “Mr Brightside”. Now, that first idea happens to be a record-breaking triumph. The rest is ancient history.
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