Bon Scott would have turned 69 this July 9th. Alas, the legendary AC/DC frontman departed this life at just 33 back in 1980. The band, of course, soldiered on as Bon would have wanted them to, but he remains such a presence in AC/DC (and the rest of rock) that even the group’s best-known effort, Back in Black, is a tribute to their fallen leader.
As AC/DC’s bass player between 1975 and 1979, Mark Evans knew Bon Scott as few others ever possibly could. He details the amazing, hilarious, frightening, inspiring, and louder-than-life experience in a memoir than more than matches each of those descriptors itself: Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside AC/DC (Bazillion Points).
In honor of Bon Scott’s 69th (a numerical occasion he seemed to spend his whole life actively anticipating), here are ten quotes from Mark Evans’ extraordinary book that offer unique insight into rock’s most mythical madman. Read these passages and, wherever you are today, raise a glass and your horns to Bon Scott!
1. In His First Band, The Valentines, Bad Boy Bon Covered His Tattoos With Makeup
“Build Me Up Buttercup” – The Valentines
Bon Scott’s singing career began with a soul-tinged Perth group called the Valentines that briefly reigned as one of Australia’s hottest bubblegum pop acts. Alas, it was a guise that couldn’t possibly last.
“I was sitting in front of the PA on the side of the stage and I could see him disappear into the wings during solos and after songs to slug from a bottle of Johnnie Walker. He had a bit of style abut him even in the ghastly orange getup.
As the set progressed he built up a descent sweat and I could see something strange going on under the sheer chiffon sleeves. Tattoos were starting to appear—he had tried to hide them with makeup but the sweat was making it run. The guy was turning into Bon Scott before my eyes.”
2. Bon Preferred Living as a Citizen of Rock-and-Roll to Knowing Where He Actually Was
“Live Wire” – AC/DC, live in Paris, 1979
Wherever Bon Scott went, so went the good times. Location, obviously, didn’t hold much truck with the singer.
“So Bon and I were on our balcony, sipping away, feeling more than a little pleased with ourselves and our deux filles Parisiennes très attirantes. We were well and truly lit up and savoring a stunning Parisian sunrise. Life was good.
As I was having a serious gloat to Bon, who was somewhat the worse for wear after two days, he stared fixedly at the Eiffel Tower with an odd look on his face.
’What’s up, mate?’ I asked him.
Slowly, Bon turned to me. ’You know,’ he said, ’there’s a tower just like that in Paris.’”
3. Party Monster Bon Battled Demons of Depression
“Problem Child” – AC/DC, live at the University of Sussex, 1978
As raw and revealed as Bon Scott came off on stage, he was equally unvarnished once the music stopped—and his moods could shockingly darken.
“Bon could suffer on he road; some days he’d seem lonely and depressed. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—try to hide it, either; that just wasn’t his makeup. Bon always wore his heart on his sleeve.
[Temporary Phil Rudd replacement drummer] Colin Burgess provided the kind of camaraderie that was quite possibly missing with the rest of us, maybe because of the age difference—Bon was from a different generation, after all.
In a sad footnote, Bon was drinking with Colin at the Music Machine in London on the last night of his life.”
4. Bon Was His Own Entourage
“High Voltage” – AC/DC, live, 1976
There was no one Bon Scott. He was a man of many facets, and he remained true to them all.
“Bon [was] a gentleman with old-school manners but a wild side that would appear after a few charges went down, or as gig time approached.
Bon was by nature outgoing, friendly and very protective of others. That was tempered by a recklessness that could border on the self-destructive. He also suffered bouts of loneliness.
I once heard it said that Bon ’was a great bunch of guys,’ but that was a bit flippant for me. Bon was a chameleon; he could pretty much fit into any situation he found himself part of. He’d charm the pants off anybody, too, if he was in the mood. He once called himself ’a wolf in wolf’s clothing.’ Maybe he was right.”
5. Bon Scott, Man of Letters (Beyond Just A, C, D, and C)
“Rock-n-Roll Singer” – AC/DC, live in Birmingham, 1976
Keith Richards once said, “Rock-and-roll is from the neck down.” Few bands embody that notion more than AC/DC. And to pull that off, it took as smart and sharp a thinker and communicator as Bon Scott.
“Bon was also an avid letter writer; he was always knocking out postcards or letters to family and friends, keeping them up with news from the front-or should I say, his front.”
6. Bon the Ladykiller Was Actually a Devoted Boyfriend
“Baby Please Don’t Go” – AC/DC live, 1975
For the rest of the boys, AC/DC was a full-time raging roadshow. Bon’s heart, however, had other destinations.
“Bon, meanwhile, was shacked up with [his girlfriend] Silver. I had the feeling he wanted to be free to pursue his own thing without interference from anyone, least of all the guys in the band. Michael Browning always held the view that Bon was aware of his limits.
I agree, but there were times when Bon gave those limits a severe testing. When Bon was with us he gave everything needed, onstage and off, but he was always ready to cut out whenever the opportunity arose.
Unlike the rest of us, Bon had a life away from the band, something he very much needed.”
6.9 Comic Geek Bon Loved Barbarian Brutality and Caveman Comedy
“If You Want Blood (You Got It)” – AC/DC
We know Bon was a Mork and Mindy fan from the “Shazbot! Nanu-Nanu!” at the end of “Night Prowler.” It turns out his affection for nerdy fun ran even deeper than that.
“Conan the Barbarian was a constant at the time, and Johnny Hart’s B.C. comics. Bon was very big into comics. That’s one memory of Bon that comes to me quite regularly: his head buried in a comic book, reading with intent if it was Conan or having a good giggle if he was reading B.C.”