In his book Highway to Hell: The Life and Death of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott, author Clinton Walker writes: Bon Scott was a man who lived for the moment. And when those moments had run out, his reputation solidified into legend – This was indeed one of the last true wild men of rock. The graffiti BON LIVES! is still to be found scrawled on walls all over the world.
One of my most memorable Rock concert experiences I have ever had occurred on October 12,1979. I was a 17 year old senior in high school. That Friday evening in 1979 I was heading east on I-64 in my 1978 Camaro towards Norfolk, Virginia along with three friends. We were on our way to see the band AC/DC in concert. Two months earlier I had purchased AC/DC’s album High Voltage and became instantly hooked on their music. When I heard on the radio the band would be performing two hours away, I immediately purchased four tickets.
The original venue for the concert was the Norfolk Scope, a typical big arena where basketball and hockey is played. Because early ticket sales were much lower than expected, the show was moved to a venue a few blocks away called the Norfolk Arena. The Arena’s capacity was 4,000 people and the attendance that night was 3,400. When we walked through the doors that night I couldn’t believe the scene. The Norfolk Arena was literally a large basketball gym. There were gym style bleachers on each side of a well shined basketball floor with no seats. The basketball hoops were reeled up to the ceiling. I told my friends we are about to hear the world’s loudest rock band in a gymnasium. We moved through the crowd and claimed our standing position approximately 25 feet from the stage.
Pat Travers was the opening band. Travers’ band was known for his kick-ass guitar playing and his song that was getting much radio air play at the time, Boom Boom Out go the Lights. The Out Go The Lights part involved audience participation. During the song whenever Travers sang “Boom Boom”, the audience would respond back with a resounding “Out go the Lights!” This fired up the crowd for the headlining AC/DC.
When AC/DC took the stage the electric guitars, bass, and drums sent a sonic boom of sound throughout the tiny arena. Angus Young donned in his usual school boy attire, shorts with shirt and tie, and playing his Gibson SG electric guitar like a madman. He was moving from one end of the stage to the other with his legs moving up and down as if he was marching and his head bobbing up and down to the rhythm of the opening song, Live Wire. He continued this non-stop movement throughout the entire concert. Little did I know at that time I was witnessing a band that would become the biggest rock band in the world and a lead singer who many consider the best rock singer in rock’n’roll history. Playing from that small venue that night, AC/DC was on the very edge of breaking through to legendary rock stardom but Bon would be left behind.
My close encounter with Bon Scott occurred about midway through the concert. During one of their songs Angus Young got up on Bon Scott’s shoulders and Bon proceeded to meander through the crowd while carrying the guitar playing Angus. A spot light was on them as they moved through screaming fans and I could see they were heading our way. Bon was a bit unsteady as he approached us and I will never forget the wild look in Bon’s eyes when he bumped into me as he passed by. As a 17 year old AC/DC fan, that was the ultimate rock concert experience. Thank you for the memory Bon.
On February 19, 1980, less than 4 months after the Norfolk Arena concert, Bon Scott died alone in a friend’s car in the middle of the night in London. The official cause of death on his death certificate was “Death by Misadventure”. The coroner stated that Bon died from alcohol poisoning.. Other accounts claimed Bon asphyxiated on his own vomit as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Jesse Fink, author of the book The Last Highway The Ultimate Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC’s Back in Black, believes Bon’s death was the result of a combination of excessive alcohol consumption and a heroin overdose. I have read Fink’s book and I consider him the authority on the life and death of Bon Scott. In future posts I will reveal Fink’s amazing findings from his 40 years of research into the mystery and cover up of Bon’s death and the band’s denial of Bon’s contribution to the platinum album Back in Black.