On Nov. 7, Bon: The Last Highway – The Untold Story of Bon Scott and AC/DC’s Back in Black will be published.
Written and researched by Jesse Fink, who previously delivered the engaging The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, the book delves deep into the long-rumored story that Bon Scott contributed much more to the album Back in Black than the Australian music legends would have you believe. It’s something that’s been brought up before, but Fink uncovers some enticing new facts.
Finding some of this new information opened other doors, like the one involving Roy Allen, a Texas native who had met Scott at a bar the night before AC/DC played their first show ever in the U.S. in 1977. The two became friends, so close that as the band’s Highway to Hell tour wound down in late 1979, the singer rang up Allen and expressed a desire to visit Texas — not just to give up on his wild drinking, but to declare something even more huge, which you can read about in our exclusive excerpt from Bon: The Last Highway.
In early December 1979, Roy Allen got a call from Bon Scott, who was in a hotel room in France. It was morning in Rockdale, Texas, but Roy was already “stoned on weed” and had been drinking beer.
“It was a day I’ll never forget and I have carried much regret since then. I was at home. The phone rang. I answered. It was Bon. I have replayed this conversation over in my mind a million times through the years; so many questions. I have told this story to very few people.”
Bon got straight to the point.
“Roy, I want to come to Texas. I’m coming into a good bit of money soon. I’ve had it: the living on the road, the shows, the drinking. I’m ready to leave the band. I’ve got to get out. It’s all killin’ me and I know it. I want to know if I came to Texas, I could stay with you. We could try quit drinking together.”
Roy still kicks himself that he wasn’t quite alert to what he was being told. He was more hung up on the news Bon wanted to come visit rather than the fact the lead singer of AC/DC was telling him he was thinking about stepping down from a band that had just scored the biggest hit of its career. It tallies with what Vince Lovegrove, Bon’s former bandmate in the Valentines, says he was told by Bon before he died. He wanted out.
But why did he want to come to Texas and not follow through with his plans to take his girlfriend in Miami, Holly X, to Australia? It could be explained by Holly’s suspicion that Bon sensed she was “drifting away” into the arms of someone else, either the guitarist in the other famous band she’d hooked up with or the local singer she’d go on to marry. He would have instinctively known that his hopes were dashed: the engagement, the house, the kids, all of it. His other Miami lover, Pattee Bishop, didn’t want him. In London, Silver Smith didn’t want him. It would appear that this was a phone call from a depressed, lonely individual on the road who didn’t know what he wanted to do and had few people he could genuinely call friends, perhaps least of all the members of his own band. There is a crushing pathos imagining the loneliness and isolation Bon would have been feeling in that hotel room when he made that call.
“Bon always talked about coming to Texas to spend time when he got the chance; we talked about it often. So, it was not a total surprise when he called and asked about coming,” says Roy. “I just got too excited and was not listening closely to what he was saying. I wish I had that day to do over again. I didn’t get the feeling Bon had a lot of close friends back then. Somebody like a good friend you’d call and shoot the bull with, all that; somebody he could really fall back on and trust.
“We had always talked about him coming and maybe living in Texas. He loved Texas. He loved our culture. We were so much the same, the way we lived, how we partied, the food we ate, barbecues; that was appealing to him. I had told Bon many times that he was welcome to stay with me if he ever decided to come. My dad had recently built a nice home on the golf course at the country club in Rockdale; he had to live in town because he was a judge and had to reside in his precinct, so I lived there off and on.
“When it was my turn to talk, I said, ‘Of course, you’re welcome to stay,’ and then went off on a rant about partying, women and fun. Bon told me that that was what he was trying to get away from. I told him I was willing to do whatever, just come and we’d figure it out. He sounded discouraged, said he had to go. The conversation didn’t last long. He didn’t sound like he’d had much, if anything, to drink. He was not drunk. He sounded more like he was desperate, anxious, talking fast.
“As I stood there by the red rotary wall phone, hearing that dial tone in my hand, what he had really said to me and asked me finally sunk in. I had a really bad feeling; uneasy. There was something in his voice. He was my friend before anything else. I was really worried and wanted to talk to him again; convince him to come and, yes, I would give no booze a try. Maybe we could do it.”
Roy didn’t have Bon’s number, so he rang around whoever he could think of that was connected to the band until he got hold of someone from Atlantic Records.
“I explained a little of the situation and that I needed to talk to Bon again. ‘Do you know where they’re staying or how I can find them?’ I remember [the Atlantic staffer] saying he knew Bon had some stuff going on but he couldn’t help me because he didn’t know where they were staying or how to find them. He kind of laughed, if I remember right. I just couldn’t think of anyone else or any other place to call, so I had to give up. So that was it.”
He hung up the phone. I ask Roy again: Are you absolutely sure what you heard, that Bon was going to quit AC/DC?
“Definitely. He said he’s going to have to leave the band to [get] cleaned up, is what he said; he had to get away from it, the way he put it, in his words, ’cause it was killin’ him. He said it was just too much; he couldn’t handle it any more. There was something in his voice that it took me a little bit to pick up on and I wish I could have got to talk to him again that day. I would have done anything if I could have got back hold of him.”
It was the last time they’d speak.
Excerpted and adapted from Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story of Bon Scott and ACDC’s Back In Black by Jesse Fink. © 2017 by Jesse Fink. Published by ECW Press Ltd. in North America. www.ecwpress.com.
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