Bon Scott: The mysterious death of AC/DC’s legendary frontman
Thirty-three years ago today, AC/DC frontman Bon Scott died in tragic circumstances. But mysteries surround the event to this day. Geoff Barton investigates Bon’s last hours, the underworld he moved in, the disappearance of ‘Alistair Kinnear’ – the last man to see Bon alive – and the UFO connection.
Originally published in Classic Rock, February 2005
Unless a person has suicidal tendencies, no one can choose where he or she dies. Least of all if that person is a rock star with a hard-drinking, full-on, party-animal lifestyle. But having said that, there’s something uniquely unnerving about the location of AC/DC frontman Bon Scott’s sad demise.
It’s an overcast winter’s day and Classic Rock is making its way to a fateful setting: No.67 Overhill Road, in East Dulwich, South London. This is where Bon died, his body found abandoned in a Renault 5 car parked on the road just outside the address 33 years ago. We don’t plan to rubberneck the scene like a bunch of sickos ogling a motorway pile-up, we just felt that we had to check it out before we began to write this story. You can call us morbid if you like; we’ll just call it research.
It takes a while to get to East Dulwich from the centre of the English capital. You ride the Victoria Line tube to Brixton and hop on the single-decker P4 bus. You rumble through posh Dulwich Village, and the best part of half an hour later you alight outside the grim tenements of the Lordship Lane high-rise council estate. You walk a little way up the street, turn left by the Harvester pub, and Overhill Road is the second turning on the right. The first thing you notice is a tatty building on the corner called the Rockbank Hotel, and you can’t help but raise a wry smile.
No.67 is at the top of steep gradient. And it ain’t a pretty sight. It’s a dour, featureless block of flats penned in by ranks of bright-green wheelie bins. It could have been transplanted here direct from the Eastern bloc. There’s a graffiti’d old ambulance parked directly outside the flats, which wipes that grin off your face straight away. To compound the irony, there’s even a Renault behind it (although admittedly it’s a Mégane, not a 5).
The trees that line Overhill Road are bare of leaves, but No.67’s front garden is a thriving jungle of roots, weeds and hawthorns. There’s litter all over the place. There’s a wheelbarrow in the corner that had once been full of white paint, but which is now all dried-out and crusty. The only evidence of anything remotely rock’n’roll-related is a skateboard propped up in the porch of the house next door. Of Bon Scott’s heritage, there is not a sign.
But hang on a second… There’s a scratchy silver plaque attached to the front of No.67. Tiptoe up the path, look closely, and you can see a handful of scribbled tributes grouped around the legend ‘Flats 1-6’. The messages have been written in obvious haste:
‘To Bon, from Björn in Sweden’; ‘AC-Foxi-DC’; ‘Ronald and Frank from Germany – cheers’; ‘To Bon, Szmery from Poland.’
And that’s it. Nothing else, apart from the drone of an aircraft; the distant sound of schoolchildren playing; brambles rustling dryly.
Overhill Road must have changed substantially since 1980, the year of Bon’s death. Opposite No.67 is a big new apartment block called Dawson Heights that plainly wasn’t around two and a half decades ago.
The Asian proprietor of a nearby Londis store has been in the country for only three months. He expresses surprise when he hears that a top rock star popped his clogs just down the road. The shopkeeper says he doesn’t know of any local residents who would have been on the scene so many years ago.
A tradesman unloading a white van shrugs; he’s only making a delivery, and he actually comes from Bromley. He’s heard of AC/DC, but not of Bon Scott.
There’s no reply from pressing any of the door buzzers stuck on No.67’s front wall, just the empty hiss of the intercom, like static from a badly tuned radio.
You turn on your heels with an air of resignation and trudge back down the hill. Fine rain fills the air. As you grapple with your umbrella, you notice the silhouette of a bright-yellow dog stencilled on to the pavement. It’s accompanied by a warning to owners not to allow their pets to shit on the pavement: Bag It & Bin It.
Try as you might, you can’t prevent that wry smile returning to your lips: Bag It & Bin It? It sounds like a bleedin’ Bon Scott song title!
Ronald Belford Scott was born on July 9, 1946, in Kirriemuir, Scotland. He emigrated with his family to Australia in 1952. He left school at age 15, and held a variety of part-time jobs before deciding to ply his trade in music; as a drummer-cum-vocalist, he enjoyed limited success before a motorcycle accident cut short his ambitions.
Once recovered, Bon took a job driving a stomping little outfit called AC/DC around: down the streets of Melbourne, across tumbleweed trails, along desert roads and beyond. But Bon always hankered to be a solid-gold-proper AC/DC band member, not a humble roadie.