AC/DC – the true adventures of Bon Scott

The inside story on AC/DC's "hippy seer" frontman

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By coincidence, Peter Head had also left Headband. “I put together a part-time band, Mount Lofty Rangers, with Bon singing,” he says. “We did country music because it was quick, easy and fun. After Fraternity he wanted comic relief.” Scott was also trying to hold his marriage together. “Bon was desperate to make a few bucks,” confirms Head. “He’d do a few weeks of hard work but deliberately choose a job he wouldn’t want to do for the rest of his life. He’d dig roads, paint boats, mow lawns. He worked at a fertiliser company, shovelling shit for 10 hours a day.” Scott even found himself briefly employed by his old friend, Vince Lovegrove, now a rock promoter. “Vince got me and Bon to run around town at midnight,” laughs Head. “We were pasting up AC/DC posters.”

In May 1974, Scott almost died. A keen motorcyclist, Scott enjoyed a typically carefree approach to road safety. He would ride naked, drunk, up and downstairs to make people laugh. Bisset recalls Scott taking him for a ride one day and driving his bike into a sand dune. “It was a practical joke,” admits Bisset. “He said after, ‘I knew you’d laugh or hit me.’”

However, what happened in May was far more serious. Before a Mount Lofty Rangers show, “Bon had an argument with Bruce Howe [ex-Fraternity bassist],” remembers Head. “Bon was pretty pissed and stormed off on his bike. Half an hour later we heard he was in a coma. It was touch and go.”
While Scott was recovering in hospital from cracked ribs, a lacerated throat, smashed teeth and a broken collar bone, there were changes taking place within AC/DC. Formed by George Young’s younger brothers, Malcolm and Angus, the band had played their first gig in December 1973, with singer Dave Evans, who also sang on the band’s debut single, “Can I Sit Next To You, Girl?”. But the Youngs wanted to replace him.

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“We were playing Largs Pier, out on a jetty,” recalls drummer Pete Clack. “Bon was in the crowd. We knew he was a fantastic singer so Malcolm, who was the brains, said, ‘I’m going to put it on Bon, maybe he’ll be interested.’ There was an audition and he invited Bon to join. Bon said, ‘Piss off, I’ve got my wife and I’m about to start a job.’ When we got back to Melbourne, Bon called up and said, ‘OK, Malcolm, I’m in.’ It turned out his job was to paint this big rusty ship in the dock at Adelaide. He was on his way in the cold, looked at the ship and said, ‘Fuck this, I’m not doing this for a living’, turned round, phoned Malcolm and packed a suitcase.”

Abandoning his life – and wife – on the west coast to head east was another bold change of direction for Scott, but Head wasn’t surprised. “He knew he was a good singer,” he says. “When AC/DC came to town, Vince [Lovegrove] organised a jam. Bon thought they were a bit young and they thought he was an old man [Scott was 28, Angus was 19]. But after they’d had a blow, the band knew he was good.”

The band’s new manager, Michael Browning, recalls his reaction to the news. “I wasn’t sure Bon was right – he was older and had been in the teeny-bop Valentines then the hippy Fraternity. But it worked. Bon took the role on like a character actor. He was the missing link. He made them real.”

Clack was also impressed. “Bon was charismatic and a tremendous singer. He was an MC, a proper showman, and the music was ideal for that. He’d have Angus up on his shoulders playing these screaming solos, or he’d be up on the PA stack – whatever it took to give people a good time.”

Scott’s work ethic, humour and experience meshed with the Youngs’ enthusiasm, ambition and talent. The band entered the studio almost at once to record High Voltage. “The brothers looked up to him,” says Browning. “Not because he was older but because they thought he was fabulous.” Malcolm claimed, “Bon was the biggest single influence on the band. We had a real character, with his own style and ideas for lyrics.” Angus has gone further: “I don’t think there’d have been an AC/DC if it hadn’t been for Bon. He moulded the character of AC/DC.” Scott once said “They told me to sound like myself,” and after years of having to rein himself in, it was no small thing.

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