Bon Scott: The mysterious death of AC/DC’s legendary frontman
Chapman is still angry about having his guitar work deleted from Waysted’s aforementioned album, Back From The Dead. On his website he has even posted soundbites of his original work for the album, claiming it was rejected for no good reason. So, plainly, there is no love lost between Paul Chapman and Pete Way.
Nevertheless, Chapman’s recollections of Bon Scott’s death follow on seamlessly from Way’s.
Chapman is convinced that he was one of the last people to have seen Bon alive. Bon’s biographer, Clinton Walker, admitted he never interviewed Chapman for his book,explaining why the full account has never emerged until now: “I never spoke to Chapman,” Walker told us, “but in the interviews with him I’ve read he sheds no light, and I even doubt his claims of closeness. Therefore I was content to speak to the people who saw Bon on that very last day: his then girlfriend [Anna Baba], his old girlfriend [Silver Smith] and ‘Alistair Kinnear’.” (The quotes around ‘Alistair Kinnear’ are Walker’s own.)
Be that as it may. Classic Rock asked Chapman straight out about his early-morning phone call to Pete Way and his request for the phone numbers of Angus and Malcolm Young so they could be informed of Bon’s death. As we say, if the timing is accurate, then Chapman would have made his call several hours before Alistair Kinnear’s ‘discovery’ of Bon’s body in the Renault 5 outside the flat in East Dulwich in the evening of Tuesday, February 19, 1980.
“I’ll tell you exactly what went down,” Chapman responds eagerly. “We [UFO] were playing at Hammersmith. And Bon arrived; it was on the second or the third of our nights there. The guy who was with Bon that night was someone called Joe Bloe, an Australian guy. He changed his name by deed poll to Joe King, but his real name was Joe Bloe.”
(The actual dates of UFO’s Hammersmith shows were February 3, 4, 5 and 7.)
Chapman continues: “Joe used to work for me; he was my guitar tech for about six months. I remember how I met Joe. There was a flat in Hammersmith – it was Joe’s place – and one of the guys there was a smack dealer. And I, er, used to go there. Joe was going out with someone called Silver Smith [Bon Scott’s ex-girlfriend]. Silver Smith and Joe King – funny names, you know.” [In Clinton Walker’s Bon Scott book, there is also a character called ‘Joe Furey’ with UFO connections.]
“I remember when [names top British prog-rock musician] pulled up in a Rolls-Royce outside. The flat was on the second floor, and Joe King dangled the smack down – it was attached to a piece of rope, and he had a rock in the bag to weigh it down – and he dangled it through the sunroof of his Roller, and this guy just drove off.”
Chapman returns to the subject at hand: “Anyway, Joe ended up working for me for quite a while, although he wasn’t when the Bon thing happened. So some days after our Hammersmith gigs, just before Bon died, I met up again with Joe and Bon, and I said: ‘Why don’t you come back to my house?’ I lived in Fulham, just off Wandsworth Bridge Road – I could look out the window and see the Young’s brewery on one side and the Gordon’s gin factory on the other. A perfect place to live. I said to Joe and Bon: ‘Why don’t you pay me a visit?’ Joe said: ‘We haven’t got very much smack left’. And at that point Bon went off.”
The above events presumably occurred during the afternoon or early evening of Monday, February 18.
Chapman adds: “He [Bon] was actually going to get some more smack for us. [But] Bon never showed up. Bon never came back to my flat. After a long time waiting, I can remember Joe saying: ‘I have to get back home.’ Joe and Bon had rented some place to live in Bayswater or Maida Vale, somewhere like that, I can’t quite remember where.” [Chapman probably means Bon’s flat in Victoria.]
So, were Joe King and Bon Scott living together at this time? “Yes,” Chapman affirms. “Joe was, like, Bon’s minder. He was looking after him. So, as I say, Bon went off to wherever he went, and he said to me: ‘I’ll see you back at your place with the stuff’. Bon had my phone number, and he had all the directions of how to get to my flat in Fulham.”
Here’s where the time-difference factor kicks in big-time. Kinnear’s claimed 7.45pm discovery of Bon Scot’s corpse – on Tuesday, February 19, remember – contrasts sharply with Chapman’s recollection of learning about the singer’s death in the morning of that day.
Chapman reiterates: “Anyway, by seven o’clock in the morning [of February 19], Joe and me are still in my flat in Fulham. The sun comes up, and I say: ‘I have to go to bed.’ I say to Joe: ‘I’ll call you a minicab if you want.’ And Joe says: ‘No, they can take a while to arrive, I’ll make my own way home.’ And off he went.”
Chapman’s ex-roadie was totally wasted when he stepped into the morning light. “I went downstairs and opened the front door,” the guitarist says, “and this winter sunshine comes blasting in. Joe was green. He was the colour of my fish tank.”
Upon Joe King’s departure, Chapman went back upstairs: “I didn’t have much furniture, there were cushions on the floor and I fell asleep on them. At 10 or 11 o’clock [in the morning] the phone goes. It’s Joe. He goes: ‘Are you sitting down?’ I go: ‘I’m lying down, where you left me.’ He says: ‘I’ve got bad news. Bon is dead.’”