(apropos of last week's Bruce Springsteen "Highway To Hell" video-grab, we at pencilstorm thought we would run Ricki C.'s close encounter with Bon Scott & the boys in AC/DC, which originally ran in Growing Old With Rock & Roll back in April, 2012.)
In June of 1979 I was working in the warehouse of a K-Mart discount store on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, and writing for a rock weekly called Focus. My one and only cover story for the magazine came when they sent me to interview Bon Scott of AC/DC at a downtown hotel and then cover their concert that night. (Said cover story is reproduced below.) My boss at K-Mart, Mike Mills (not the later bass player of REM), gave me an extra-long lunch break to go downtown for the interview, which was scheduled for 11 am. I thought that was an unusually early call for a rocker like Bon Scott, and I was proved correct. A few minutes before noon Bon staggered into the Holiday Inn conference room I had been ensconced in by an Atlantic Records publicity woman. She had run out of excuses for Bon’s tardiness about a half-hour earlier and had left me to my own devices.
Bon was great. He was already drunk at 11:55 in the morning, introduced himself and we got right down to the business at hand. By my third question – "Have you ever had an orgasm onstage?" – I think Scott had realized that this wasn’t going to be a pro forma interview. He grabbed my notebook away from me and demanded, "What else you gonna ask me then, if I ever fucked me mudder?" By 1 pm when the Atlantic Records woman came in to call a halt to the proceedings Bon and I were laughing along like old friends. I got him to autograph my baseball glove (I was big into softball from my 20’s to my 40’s) and then had to explain the entire concept of the sport to Bon, which he claimed never ever to have been aware of. "Sounds stoopid," was his one-word estimation of America’s pastime, "doesn’t anybody ever get punched in the mouth like in rugby?"
Publicity woman said, "We’ve got to go now, Bon, lunch is ready." We shook hands as I stood up to leave and Bon said, "Where do ya go now?" I told him I had to go back to the store where I worked. "’Ave you had lunch, then?" he asked. "No, I’ll have something at work," I replied. "Well, stay and ‘ave lunch with us," Bon said. "He’s not having lunch with us, Bon," the Atlantic Records lady cut in. "Do you wanna stay and ‘ave lunch?" Bon reiterated. "Yeah, I’d love to," I said. Ms. Atlantic was now staring daggers at me, she was totally pissed at my lack of professionalism, but my only thought was that I was going to get a much better lunch out of this deal than the K-Mart cafeteria had to offer.
At lunch I was seated across from Angus and Malcolm Young, all the way at the other end of the table from Bon. I think that was my punishment from the publicity woman for cadging my way into the meal. They had cordoned off a corner of the dining room for the band because back in the day you had to have a coat & tie to eat in the dining room of the Downtown Holiday Inn. (The hotel is still there, it’s the one right across the street from the Greyhound Bus Station. I’d be willing to bet that you don’t have to have a coat & tie to eat there anymore. And I also bet that nowadays you just might be able to get crack from room service, or at least from a bellhop.)
Angus and Malcolm never said a word to me. And I soon discovered that Angus couldn’t order his own meal. I just sat and stared as he perused the large, leather-bound Holiday Inn menu, then turned to his older brother Malcolm and slurred, "WhasshouldI’ave, Malcolm?" "Have whatever you want, Angus." came the curt reply. Malcolm didn’t even look from his own menu to answer his little brother.
Angus returned to looking intently at his menu, narrowing his eyes and hunkering down to make it abundantly clear he was really giving it his utmost consideration. "ShouldI’avebreakfussorlunch, Malcolm?" It was a plaintive question from the notoriously fierce little lead guitarist. "Have whatever you want, Angus!" was the testy, shot-back reply from Elder Sibling.
In the end, of course, Malcolm wound up ordering Angus’ meal for him. Just as inevitably, when the food arrived, Angus took one quick look at his plate, one longing look at his brother’s dish, and asked sheepishly, "Can I have some of your food, Malcolm?" Malcolm never replied, completely ignored his little brother, and the two never exchanged another word for the rest of the meal. There would be no sharing. It was genuinely sad to watch Angus pick at his food in that swank hotel dining room. He couldn’t have eaten more than four bites.
That was my first glimpse into the bubble that rock stars exist inside of on big-time rock & roll tours. To this day I don’t know whether Angus Young just couldn’t decide what he wanted to eat that afternoon or if he literally COULD NOT READ the menu. At any rate, the editors at Focus took out virtually all of my lunch story, as they thought it would piss off Atlantic Records if I implied in print that Angus Young was illiterate. (I had already caused RCA Records to pull all of their advertising for two entire issues when I suggested that Canadian metal-clowns Triumph "wouldn’t know rock & roll if it fucked them in a closet," in a derogatory live review earlier that year.) They also changed Bon Scott from already drunk at noon to hung-over.
Eight months later, February 19th, 1980, Bon Scott was dead from some combination of alcohol poisoning, aspiration of vomit or hypothermia, depending on which magazine you read and who you believe. At any rate, massive amounts of alcohol were involved. When I heard about it I thought back to that June afternoon. Bon Scott was the happiest pre-noon drunk guy I had ever or have yet ever encountered. Some rock stars just are not supposed to get old. Would I enjoy watching a 65 year old Keith Moon embarrass himself on some endless Who-reunion tour in 2012? Nope. Do I wish Pete Townshend had lived up to his hope and died before he got old? Sometimes.
Bon Scott, salut.