I’d like to share another lesson I did for Australian Guitar Magazine in the series “AC/DC The Bon Scott Years”.
I break down 2 of AC/DC’s classic songs in this lesson.
Firstly “Highway To Hell” then “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
These 2 songs really bookend the Bon Scott years.
Baby Please Don’t Go was one of Bon’s earliest recordings with AC/DC & Highway To Hell was the last record that he was to play on before his death at the age of 33.
Irene Thornton’s “My Bon Scott”
Irene Thornton, Bon’s wife, wrote her book “My Bon Scott” which is of enormous interest to anyone interested in AC/DC.
It’s full of great anecdotes and stories that give a real insight into Bon Scott’s career and personality.
Bon first gained national attention with the Valentines and it’s interesting to see Bon in their video clip of “Build Me Up Buttercup” a song the Valentines had a hit with, you can see Bon singing back up vocals with that cheeky grin!
Vince Lovegrove was the Valentines frontman and singer but Bon grabs your attention with his quirky stage presence.
His next band, Fraternity, receives a a detailed description in Irene Thornton’s book.
Their rise from a local Adelaide band to the top of the Australian music scene and their relocation to London, their ultimate demise and failure and return to Australia.
The wives and girlfriends worked to support the band and Thornton recounts how the girls went to their rooms to cry when it was announced that Fraternity was finished.
A few of the couples had to borrow money to get home as did Bon and Irene.
Fraternity’s unsuccessful attempt at breaking into the British music scene gave Bon plenty to draw from with his lyric writing.
Songs like “It’s A Long Way To The Top” & “Highway To Hell” give a vivid account of how difficult and hard gained success is.
Irene’s ordeal in London with Bon and Fraternity took its toll and the couple separated soon after their return to Adelaide.
She wasn’t to stay single long when Vince Lovegrove, Bon’s former band mate from the Valentines, decided to play matchmaker.
Lovegrove was managing a young band so he introduced Irene to the bands shy young guitar player.
The band was “Cold Chisel” and the guitarist was Ian Moss.
Their relationship lasted until Cold Chisel moved to Sydney.
I read her anecdotes with interest because Ian Moss had played on my first “Guitar Heroes” CD and I’d played support for a couple of his gigs.
Irene Thornton recounts how she then moved to Melbourne and met Maggie Tolhurst, the wife of Kerryn Tolhurst the guitar player from the Dingoes who’d written their hit “Way Out West”.
Maggie and Irene shared a flat and Irene would see the band regularly, she then became romantically involved with the Dingoes’ bass player John Dubois.
Their relationship ended when the Dingoes relocated to America.
I was fortunate to interview Broderick Smith and Kerryn Tolhurst when the Dingoes reformed and their story is really interesting.
After establishing their reputation in Australia they were signed by the American record label A&M.
The label had the band wait in Canada until they were ready to launch the Dingoes in America.
A tour was arranged so the Dingoes would support Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Unfortunately and tragically several key members of Lynyrd Skynyrd died in an accident and that was basically the end of The Dingoes.
Kerryn Tolhurst stayed in America and made his career as a songwriter/producer and had received success with acts like Pat Benita and the massive hit song he wrote for her “All Fired Up”.
The Dingoes story is kind of like that of Fraternity’s.
As Mark Twain said “history may not repeat itself but it certainly rhymes”.
With AC/DC Bon Scott was able to achieve the success that he’d work so hard for.
He was a born frontman and in a band like AC/DC he would shine.
Irene says in her book that Bon could be crude but he was always funny.
She recounts how on one occasion when Bon was at a TV station to do some filming they were walking down a corridor and Bon was opening doors and looking in.
There were people in one of those rooms having a board meeting so Bon turned his back on them, bent over and let rip with the loudest fart then closed the door!
Irene asked “what did you do that for”? He laughed and said “they deserved it”.
Bon was a bundle of laughs and fun and that came across in his performances so naturally AC/DC gave him the perfect vehicle.
These riffs and licks from “Highway To Hell” and “Baby Please Don’t Go” show us the other side of the band’s strength and attraction.
So Bon’s antics and Angus Young’s guitar playing were a killer combination.