On this day in 1980, one of the most rebellious and audacious frontmen of all-time passed away: AC/DC‘s Bon Scott.
The tattooed, squealing Aussie joined AC/DC in 1974 and immediately transformed what was destined to be another talented-but-stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll band into an organic mix of raw blues, sex, drugs — and dare I say punk. Scott’s styling complimented every element of the band; his shrill made lead guitarist Angus Young’s solos that much nastier; his simple melodies kept the foot-tappin’ tunes within the reach of a mass audience.
Scott was 28 when he replaced then-frontman Dave Evans and began working with the band to record its debut, High Voltage. The chemistry was matchless right from the start. The band would go on to release a half-dozen or so other albums and would also tour the globe. In 1979, AC/DC released Highway to Hell — the album that truly broke AC/DC into the mainstream. The album was AC/DC’s first to break into the U.S. top 100 — eventually reaching #17.
In February of 1980, Angus and Malcolm Young were in the midst of a session in London, working on the beginnings of two songs (“Have A Drink On Me” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You”) for an upcoming album (Back in Black). Scott joined the Young brothers for the session, but on the night of February 19, he passed out after a heavy night of drinking in a club called the Music Machine. According to reports, he was left to sleep in a car in South London owned by an acquaintance. The following day, the owner of the car found Scott lifeless and called police. Scott was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.
The heartbroken members of AC/DC were just about to call it quits after Scott’s death. But after some talking and encouragement from family members, they realized Scott would have been disappointed if the band were to hang it up, especially after the success of Highway to Hell. 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 singer Brian Johnson on lead vocals — two tracks from the album, “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black”, were dedicated to Scott’s memory.
Back in Black is now the second best-selling album in history.
A bronze statue of Scott was unveiled at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour in Western Australia in 2008 (seen above). The statue portrays Scott atop a Marshall amplifier.
Rest in peace, Bon Scott.