I never set out to write a book about Bon Scott. I’d already written one on AC/DC (The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC) and that had consumed many years of my life.
Why would I willingly choose to do it all over again on a book twice the size of the last one about someone who’d been dead for over 37 years?
The Youngs had done pretty well internationally for me but money wasn’t my motivation. This might surprise some of you, but 99 per cent of writers don’t make a whole lot of money from books. There are far, far easier ways to make money. We do it because we want to write and have people read our work. If we make any income along the way, that’s a bonus. It's our profession, too, so we're entitled to generate an income from our expertise and skills as anyone else.
For me, the biggest motivation was the man himself.
Bon is regarded as something of a rock god in Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Central America, South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, parts of East Asia, South-East Asia, India, Africa… you name it, AC/DC is huge everywhere.
Yet for such an important figure, I didn’t believe there were any books out there that truly did him and his story justice. There were too many unanswered questions about Bon’s life, questions other books had avoided.
Had he really died of alcohol poisoning in London in February 1980?
Had any of his lyrics really ended up on the album released after his death, Back in Black?
Who did he really love?
Bon was also a personal hero of mine. I loved his music. I loved his personality. I loved his humour. The 40th anniversary of AC/DC’s first North American tour fell in 2017. The 40th anniversary of his death is coming in 2020.
I thought he deserved a big book.
And so, in early 2014, the research began. I wanted to create something vivid about him that wasn’t just another fan-made YouTube video or recycled meme on Facebook.
Short of an unreleased tranche of Bon’s songs landing on iTunes, a biography that finally revealed some of his and the band’s secrets seemed like the next best thing possible.
But as with any investigation of AC/DC’s history, the research involved was considerable, the obstacles formidable. AC/DC is not a band that goes out of its way to help biographers. In fact it is a closed shop.
That didn’t deter me. What others might have seen as an otherwise innocuous detail in Bon’s story, I saw as an important clue to something bigger. Often I was led down a garden path. Other times I discovered something totally new. But slowly, as time went on, I felt like I was filling in with colour and shading what had hitherto been just a rudimentary black-and-white line sketch of a man people thought they knew but actually didn’t know at all – including me.
I never knew Bon and never saw him perform live (I was six when he died), though a day doesn’t go by when I don’t hear his music or watch old vision of AC/DC from Bon’s years with the band and wish I had been given that opportunity – at least once. Maybe writing this book was the next best thing for me. I hope it is for other people too.
But during the four years of putting together this book I came to know many of his friends and lovers intimately. They became friends of mine too. I gained their trust and they took me into their confidence. They revealed secrets that I believe change everything we know about Bon Scott and AC/DC.
Custodians of the Bon myth rejoinder that I didn’t know the man; therefore I am not qualified to write a biography. This is both singularly absurd and utterly predictable.
To them, I ask them this simple question: Who, then, writes biographies?
Only people who personally know or knew their subject? If that were the case, how would any history ever be written? How many historians actually get to meet the historical figures they’re writing about?
The fact that I didn’t know Bon means I didn’t have to pull any punches because of band sensitivities or protect certain individuals from revelations about his life that will become clear in Bon: The Last Highway.
Bon Scott is a Scottish-Australian legend we should all know about and celebrate: for all his character traits, good and bad. He was a human being, not a cartoon.
BON: THE LAST HIGHWAY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF BON SCOTT AND AC/DC'S BACK IN BLACK is available now.
Jesse Fink is the author of Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC's Back In Black and The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC. For more information about Bon, click HERE or click the book covers below to be directed to editions in your preferred territory and language.