Bon Scott: The mysterious death of AC/DC’s legendary frontman
The phone line went quiet: “Then I heard Joe crying his eyes out. He was losing it. I knew that Pete [Way] had AC/DC’s numbers; Joe didn’t have the numbers of anyone else in the band. Joe was back at this place he shared with Bon in central London [Victoria]. That was where he was phoning from. He was waiting for Bon to come home, because obviously Bon didn’t come back to my house in Fulham.
“They’d just rented the place [in Victoria], and I can remember Joe saying: ‘We’ve got a video and a telly and everything.’ So I called Pete Way and he gave me AC/DC’s numbers, and then I called Joe back at his and Bon’s place. This was in central London, as I say; it definitely wasn’t in East Dulwich [the location of Alistair Kinnear’s flat]. I spoke to Pete, I phoned Joe and I gave him AC/DC’s numbers.”
So, after that, Joe King must have called the guys in the band.
Chapman: “Yes. Or he told [manager] Peter Mensch. But I can remember Bon’s old girlfriend, Silver, calling me up and saying: ‘He’s a cunt, that Peter Mensch’.
“The first thing that happened [after Bon’s death] was the TV and the VCR went missing from Bon and Joe’s house. People cleaned out the place. I said to Pete Way: ‘Fuck, one minute Bon’s here, the next he’s gone, and then his telly’s gone and whatever else he might have rented is gone.’ It was like he got erased.”
So, to Classic Rock’s $64,000 question: obviously UFO were going through a major heroin period 25 years ago; it sounds as if dealers were here, there and everywhere. But when Bon’s death certificate was issued, it said the cause of death was ‘acute alcoholic poisoning’. “Yeah,” Chapman agrees. “And hypothermia.” [In fact, there was no mention of hypothermia.] The death certificate, we repeat, said drugs weren’t in Bon’s system.
Chapman: “I don’t think they were. I believe the reason Bon went to East Dulwich was he was going to get some smack. Maybe he couldn’t score at the Music Machine. I don’t know if it [the smack] was for us, or for us and him as well. I can never recall him being into that. He was just a hard drinker.”
But Bon also had a craving for sugar: “His teeth were rotten,” says Chapman. “He was always eating Mars Bars; AC/DC used to have Mars Bars on their tour rider. I’ve also seen Bon drink aftershave. Absolute truth. But I can never recall seeing him put anything in his mouth or up his nose; pills or smoking, nothing like that. But he drank like a wildman.”
Classic Rock urges Chapman to reiterate his comments, just to make sure there’s no doubt about what he’s saying. We ask: So, regardless of the fact that Bon had all these people who were into smack around him, you say that he would’ve abstained from indulging?
“I… er… yeah. I can say that I never, ever remember seeing Bon take drugs. I might be wrong. Maybe I just wasn’t there at the time when he did. Or if he did. That whole thing was just a total, fucking baffling mess, it really was.
“How the fuck Bon got to Dulwich, I don’t know. I can’t believe they left him in the car. It was February; it was freezing cold. I had Calor Gas heaters in my flat and they were fucking cranking just to keep the place warm. And after all this went down I called Pete Way back and I said: ‘Can you believe they left Bon outside in the car?’ And Pete said: ‘Who the fuck would leave him in a car?’”
On the subject of heroin, Clinton Walker’s book adds: ‘If there’s ever been a suspicion Bon was more deeply involved in narcotics than it seemed, the fact is that he never really got into heroin. Certainly, though, he dabbled in it. On at least one occasion, in Melbourne in early 1975, he almost died of an overdose. But that, it seems, was enough to warn him off it, even though heroin would surround him… for the rest of his life.’
So, we ask Chapman, do you know who this Alistair Kinnear guy was? “The name rings a bell” he replied. “Maybe it rings a bell from the reports. I never met him.”
How does Chapman think Joe King – who left Chapman’s flat in a drugged-out daze on the morning of Tuesday, February 19 – found out about Bon’s death so quickly, and ostensibly before Kinnear?
Chapman: “I don’t know. I have no clue. He [Joe] was a basket case on the phone. I’d just woken up. I think maybe the people that Bon went [to East Dulwich] with, whoever they were, maybe they might’ve had a phone number of where Bon was staying with Joe [in Victoria]. So they must’ve called Joe, and then Joe called me.
“Bon was found dead at five o’clock in the morning or something like that. Joe left my flat at seven and he called me at 10 or 11. He found out some time between those times. But I’ve no idea how.”
Classic Rock’s final words to Chapman are: so you’re saying that Bon would happily buy drugs for people, and then give them out.