The brother of famed AC/DC frontman Bon Scott has opened up on the rock star’s “sad, lonely, unglamorous death,” for the first time.
Bon Scott’s brother has spoken about the former AC/DC frontman’s death 40 years later, revealing what life was like for the singer before going global with one of Australia’s biggest ever bands.
Speaking alongside many of Scott’s friends and people around the band during its wonder years in the 1970s, Derek Scott recalled his brother’s penchant for risk-taking and living life on the edge.
While his devil-may-care attitude was certainly part of his appeal and skill as a performer, he eventually became his downfall. Like so many other rock musicians of his time, Scott’s dedication to the no-holds-barred rock star lifestyle led to his untimely death at just 33 years old.
He was found dead in a car in London after a heavy night of partying during a recording period for the band in 1980.
Bruce Howe, a close friend of Scott’s, said the iconic singer was dangerously prone to his vices, particularly when boredom set in between shows and touring.
He recalled being worried for his mate when a particularly long gap between work approached, fearing he would kill himself on his motorbike or push it too far partying.
“That’s when he would start taking risks, doing wild things,” longtime friend Bruce Howe said on the ABC’s Australian Story on Monday night.
“On days when he was bored, there was no future, there was only now.
“He didn’t give a bugger about whether he lived or died the next day. He’d try anything — magic mushrooms, marijuana, alcohol — and he would take risks on his motorbike.
“I said, ‘You are going to f***ing kill yourself. Do something about it!’”
After one particularly heavy night of partying in Adelaide, which reportedly included a bar fight, Scott crashed his bike and knocked a handful of teeth out.
“I just couldn’t understand why he didn’t really care about everybody who loved him. We all knew that this wasn’t going to end well,” Mr Howe continued.
“I just couldn’t believe that I was right, that he was going to hurt himself badly, if not kill himself. Thank God he didn’t.”
Speaking for the first time on the death of his brother, Derek Scott said Bon’s alcoholism had always worried those closest to him.
“He did get bored very quickly,” he said. “That was the biggest problem. When he got bored, he drank.
“He never worried about tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”
At just 16, Bon was picked up by police and sentenced to a year at the Riverbank Juvenile Detention Center in Perth, an experience his brother believed kicked him into line, and also built his love for playing music with others.
“It not only taught him a little bit of responsibility, it settled him down,” he said.
“While he was in there the others were playing guitars, so they formed a band, and when he came out he had a direction.”
In September 1974, Scott replaced Dave Evans as AC/DC’s vocalist, and the rest was history.
With his throaty howls soaring over Angus Young’s roaring Gibson SG, the sky was truly the limit for the band, whose working-class image was winning over millions of fans in the US and UK.
“Within the next 12 months, they were expected to be one of the biggest acts on the planet,” Murray Engleheart, author of the book AC/DC Maximum Rock and Rollsaid.
“The next album was going to be the one that was really going to kick them over the goalposts.”
But after barely five years helping AC/DC become a global act, the Bon Scott era was over.
“Bon’s passing as he did, on his own in a car in the freezing cold, after all his hard work and all his heartbreak getting there, was just an incredibly sad, lonely and unglamorous way to go out,” Mr Engleheart said.
According to Derek Scott, Malcolm Young was the one who made the tragic call to his family on their mother’s birthday.
“[Mum] thought, ‘Oh, Ron’s ringing me to say happy birthday,’ which he often did the next day because of the time difference,” Mr Scott said.
“Malcolm didn’t have time to explain because it was hitting the airwaves and he didn’t want them to hear it on the radio. So he just said, ‘Ron died.’”
His said he was gutted by the news, but knew in his heart an early death was always a possibility for his mate.
“He drank far too much,” Mr Howe said. “I did wonder if he would push it too far one day. And sadly, he obviously did.”