Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980) was a Scottish-born Australian rock musician, best known for being the lead singer and lyricist of Australian hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until his death in 1980. He was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, and moved to Melbourne, Australia with his family in 1952 at the age of six.
Scott formed his first band, The Spektors, in 1964 and became the band's drummer and occasional lead vocalist. He performed in several other bands including The Valentines and Fraternity before replacing Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC in 1974.
In the July 2004 issue of Classic Rock, Scott was rated as number one in a list of the "100 Greatest Frontmen Of All Time" ahead of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant.
AC/DC's popularity grew throughout the 1970s, initially in Australia, and then internationally. Their 1979 album Highway to Hell reached the top twenty in the United States, and the band seemed on the verge of a commercial breakthrough. However, on 19 February 1980, Scott died after a night of partying in London. AC/DC briefly considered disbanding, but the group quickly recruited vocalist Brian Johnson of the British glam rock band Geordie. AC/DC's subsequent album, Back in Black, was released only five months later, and was a tribute to Scott. It went on to become the second best-selling album in history. Hit Parader ranked Scott as fifth on their 2006 list of the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of all time.
Ronald Belford Scott was born on 9 July 1946 at the Fyfe Jamieson Maternity Hospital, Forfar, Scotland to Charles ("Chick") and Isabelle ("Isa") Scott, and grew up in Kirriemuir. A younger brother Derek was born in 1949. The Scott family emigrated from Scotland to Australia in 1952 where they initially lived in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine. It was at Sunshine Primary School that he received his nickname; there was already a classmate with the name Ronald and as he had recently arrived from Bonnie Scotland he was dubbed "Bon" and the name stuck. A second brother, Graeme, was born in 1953.
In 1956, the family moved to Fremantle, Western Australia and Bon joined the associated Fremantle Scots Pipe Band, learning the drums. He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and spent a short time in Fremantle Prison's assessment centre and nine months at the Riverbank Juvenile Institution relating to charges of giving a false name and address to the police, having escaped legal custody, having unlawful carnal knowledge and stealing twelve gallons of petrol. He attempted to join the Australian Army but was rejected for being deemed as "socially maladjusted".
Scott's vocals were inspired by his idol, Little Richard. After working as a postman, bartender and truck packer, Scott started his first band, The Spektors, in 1964 as drummer and occasional lead singer. Two years later the Spektors merged with another local band, The Winstons, and formed The Valentines, in which Scott was co-lead singer with Vince Lovegrove. The Valentines recorded several songs written by George Young of The Easybeats including "Every Day I Have to Cry" which made the local top 5. In 1970, after gaining a place on the National Top 30 with their single "Juliette", the Valentines disbanded due to artistic differences after a much-publicised drug scandal.
Scott moved to Adelaide in 1970 and joined the progressive rock band Fraternity. Fraternity released the LPs Livestock and Flaming Galah before touring the UK in 1971, where they changed their name to "Fang". During this time they played support slots for Status Quo and Geordie, whose front man, Brian Johnson, became the lead singer of AC/DC after Scott's death.
In 1973, just after returning to Australia from another tour of the UK, Fraternity went on hiatus. Scott took a day job at the Wallaroo fertiliser plant and began singing with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a loose collective of musicians helmed by Peter Head (née Beagley) from Headband, who explains "Headband and Fraternity were in the same management stable and we both split about the same time so the logical thing was to take members from both bands and create a new one...the purpose of the band was for songwriters to relate to each other and experiment with songs, so it was a hotbed of creativity". Other ex-Fraternity members also played with the band as did Glen Shorrock pre Little River Band. During this time, Head also helped Scott with his original compositions.
Vince Lovegrove tells "Bon would go to Peter's home after a day shovelling shit, and show him musical ideas he had had during his day's work. Bon's knowledge of the guitar was limited, so Peter began teaching him how to bridge chords and construct a song. One of the songs from these sessions was a beautiful ballad called Clarissa, about a local Adelaide girl. Another was the country-tinged Bin Up in the Hills Too Long, which for me was a sign of things to come with Bon's lyrics; simple, clever, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek..."
In return, Scott recorded vocals for Head's "Round & Round & Round" and country ballad "Carey Gully". Head released these original recordings in 1996, also teaming up with producer Ted Yanni, another old friend of Scott's, to create an entirely new backing for Round & Round & Round that more accurately reflected the original intentions Head had. Long out of print, and massively bootlegged, this EP finally got an official digital release in June 2010. Unrecorded original compositions of Scott's, "Bin Up In The Hills Too Long" and "Clarissa" have been recorded by Head on his Peter Head & The Mount Lofty Rangers album, also released in digital format only in 2010.
"About 11pm on May 3, 1974, at the Old Lion Hotel in North Adelaide, during a rehearsal with the Mount Lofty Rangers, a very drunk, distressed and belligerent Bon Scott had a raging argument with a member of the band. Bon stormed out of the venue, threw a bottle of Jack Daniels on to the ground, then screamed off on his Suzuki 550 motorbike." Scott suffered serious injuries from the ensuing motorcycle accident, spending 3 days in a coma and a further 18 days in hospital. Vince Lovegrove and his wife, by then running a booking/management agency, gave Scott odd jobs such as putting up posters and painting the office during his recovery, and shortly after introduced him to ACDC who were on the lookout for a new lead singer.
"There was a young, dinky little glam band from Sydney that we both loved called AC/DC...Before another AC/DC visit, George Young phoned me and said the band was looking for a new singer. I immediately told him that the best guy for the job was Bon. George responded by saying Bon's accident would not allow him to perform, and that maybe he was too old. Nevertheless I had a meeting with Malcolm and Angus, and suggested Bon as their new singer. They asked me to bring him out to the Pooraka Hotel that night, and to come backstage after the show. When he watched the band, Bon was impressed, and he immediately wanted to join them, but thought they may be a bit too inexperienced and too young. After the show, backstage, Bon expressed his doubts about them being "able to rock". The two Young brothers told Bon he was "too old to rock". The upshot was that they had a jam session that night in the home of Bon's former mentor, Bruce Howe, and at the end of the session, at dawn, it was obvious that AC/DC had found a new singer. And Bon had found a new band."
Fraternity later reformed and replaced Scott with Jimmy Barnes.
Bon Scott replaced Dave Evans as the lead singer of AC/DC in September 1974, when it became obvious the band and Evans were heading in different directions, with Evans interested in pursuing a more glam rock look and sound.
With the Young brothers as lead and rhythm guitarists, session drummer Tony Currenti (see AC/DC lineups) and George Young as a temporary bassist, AC/DC released High Voltage, their first LP in Australia in February 1975. Within a few months Currenti was replaced by Phil Rudd and Mark Evans was hired as a permanent bassist, and AC/DC began recording their second album T.N.T., which was released in Australia in December 1975. The first AC/DC album to gain international distribution however was a compilation of tracks from the first two albums, also entitled High Voltage, which was released in May 1976. Another studio album, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was released in the same year, but only in Australia; the international version of the album was released in November 1976 in the UK and in March 1981 in the U.S., with a different tracklisting.
In the following years, AC/DC gained further success with their albums Let There Be Rock and Powerage. The 1978 release of Powerage marked the debut of bassist Cliff Williams (who had replaced Mark Evans), and with its harder riffs, followed the blueprint set by Let There Be Rock. The album was the last produced by Harry Vanda and George Young with Bon Scott on vocals and is claimed to be AC/DC's most underrated album. Only one single was released for Powerage — "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation" — and gave AC/DC their highest chart position at the time, reaching #24. An appearance at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow during the Powerage tour was recorded and released as If You Want Blood You've Got It.
The band's sixth album, Highway To Hell, was produced by Robert "Mutt" Lange and was released in 1979. It became AC/DC's first LP to break the U.S. top 100, eventually reaching #17, and it propelled AC/DC into the top ranks of hard rock acts.
After Highway to Hell, Bon Scott and company began developing a new album that was to eventually become Back in Black, but Scott would not be a part of its success. On 19 February 1980, Scott, 33 at the time, passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (hosted at the Camden Palace, currently known as the KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance named Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich, South London. The following afternoon, Kinnear found Scott lifeless, and alerted the authorities. Scott was rushed to King's College Hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott's death, and the official cause was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning" and "death by misadventure". Scott was cremated and his ashes were interred by his family in Fremantle, Western Australia.
A friend of Bon Scott's, Margaret "Silver-Smith", gave her version of events in an interview in February 2010 about the facts surrounding the death:
Inconsistencies in media accounts of Scott's death (incorrect spelling of Alistair Kinnear's first name, amongst others) have been cited in conspiracy theories, which suggest that Scott died of an alcohol overdose, or was killed by exhaust fumes redirected into the car, or that Kinnear did not exist. Additionally, Scott was asthmatic, and the temperature was below freezing on the morning of his death. Ozzy Osbourne states in the documentary Don't Blame Me that Scott actually died of hypothermia. The coroner had no such doubts based on the medical facts.
Shortly after Scott's death, the remaining members of AC/DC briefly considered quitting. However, it was eventually decided that Scott would have wanted them to continue and, after the blessings of Bon's family, the band hired Brian Johnson as the new vocalist. Angus Young stated in an interview with VH1 that Scott's mother, whom all the band members personally knew, heartily approved of the band continuing, and felt that it was the only way to properly remember her son and their bandmate.
Five months after Scott's death, AC/DC finished the work they began with Scott and released Back in Black as a tribute to him with two tracks from the album, "Hells Bells" and "Back in Black", dedicated to his memory. It is now the second best-selling album in history, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller. The French rock band Trust wrote their hit song "Ton dernier acte" ("Your last act") in memory of Scott in 1980. Ozzy dedicated "Suicide Solution" to him. This song is known for alleged subliminal messages about suicide, but Ozzy stated it was only a tribute to the singer.
Scott's ashes were interred in Fremantle Cemetery and his grave site has become a cultural landmark; more than 28 years after Scott's death, the National Trust of Australia decreed his grave important enough to be included on the list of classified heritage places. It is reportedly the most visited grave in Australia. On July 9, 2006, the plaque was stolen from the site.
AC/DC released a box set named Bonfire as a tribute to Scott on 18 November 1997. It contains four albums; a remastered version of Back in Black; a "rarities" album with alternate takes, outtakes, and stray live cuts, Volts; and two live albums, Live from the Atlantic Studios and Let There Be Rock: The Movie.
Live from the Atlantic Studios was recorded on December 7, 1977 at the Atlantic Studios in New York City.
Let There Be Rock: The Movie is a double album which was recorded on December 9, 1979 at the Pavillon de Paris in Paris, and was the soundtrack of the motion picture, AC/DC: Let There Be Rock.
AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Members of Scott's family joined the band at the podium to accept the honour in his place.
In 2003 Bon Scott's final studio album with AC/DC, 1979's Highway to Hell ranked 199 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In 2004 the song "Highway to Hell" that Bon Scott cowrote with Malcolm and Angus Young ranked 254 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In the July 2004 issue of UK magazine Classic Rock, Scott was rated as number one in a list of the "100 Greatest Frontmen," ahead of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant.
On 6 May 2006, the town of Kirriemuir in Scotland held a service and unveiled a Caithness stone slab commemorating the singer. A message was read from long time friend and fellow member of The Valentines, Vince Lovegrove in which he said:
The thing I loved most about Bon Scott, was his almost unique self honesty. What you saw was what you got, he was a real person and as honest as the day is long. To my mind he was the street poet of my generations and of the generations that followed.
On 24 February 2008, a bronze statue of Bon Scott was unveiled in Perth, Western Australia. The statue which portrays Scott atop a Marshall amplifier was installed at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour in October 2008.
On 4 December 2008, Undercover.com reported that a Bon Scott movie was in the works. AC/DC representatives confirmed this report via their record company's band website. A Melbourne man claiming to be Scott's only son has expressed an interest in playing the role of his father, although he currently has no acting experience.
Walker, Clinton (1994), Highway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott, Verse Chorus Press, ISBN 0-283-06263-0.
Stenning, Paul (2005), AC/DC - Two Sides to Every Glory, Chrome Dreams, ISBN 1-842-40308-7.
Link to article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Scott
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