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  • Writer's pictureJames McMaster

Bon Scott’s ‘Highway to Hell’

I have a confession to make; my first denim jacket had ‘Bon Scott- we salute you’ plastered on the back thanks to my artistic brother. Even today I still have to admit it that there is something altogether captivating about AC/DC’s original front man. The singer, who like the band’s guitarists, Angus and Malcolm Young (who founded the band), had been born in bonny Scotland and had immigrated to Australia with his family as a child.

Bon’ style of singing was unmistakable- every word was belted out with an intensity that no other rock vocalist could equal as every lyric was sung like it was his last. This, combined with his cheeky song writing skills made him a one of a kind musician. Tragically, Bon totally lived the wild rock an’ roll side of life with endless amounts of alcohol, sometimes mixed with drugs, and nonstop womanising being the order of the day. Although Scott could be very charming- which was often used to certain ends with the fair sex- he did have an aggressive streak that came out in his drinking. Band members had to watch him when he was drinking to make sure that he didn’t get into fights. He once boasted to a friend that he had visited two women in a maternity unit who were giving birth to his children and, according to Scott, neither knew of the other’s existence. No doubt about it- Bon left a trail of damage behind him.

Bon’s last album was entitled ‘Highway to Hell’, which got the band noticed on the world stage and is still considered one of the great rock albums of all time. The title track contained the lines-

Living easy, living free Season ticket on a one-way ride Asking nothing, leave me be Taking everything in my stride Don't need reason, don't need rhyme Ain't nothing I would rather do Going down, party time My friends are gonna be there too

I'm on the highway to hell On the highway to hell Highway to hell I'm on the highway to hell

No stop signs, speed limit Nobody's gonna slow me down

Like a wheel, gonna spin it Nobody's gonna mess me around Hey Satan, paid my dues Playing in a rocking band Hey mama, look at me I'm on my way to the promised land!

Within a few months, it would seem, Bon got his wish when his life ended in a drugs and alcohol fuelled overdose in early 1980. On the 19th of February, after a typically heavy night of hell-raising, Bon was left, by friends, in a car in South London to sleep it off. Hours later he was discovered in a pool of sick. He was rushed to hospital, but it was too late. Bon had suffocated on his own vomit and had died alone. He was 33.

AC/DC didn’t waste too much time grieving and quickly grabbed Brian Johnson to fill Bon’s shoes and went on to, just five months later, release what many considered to be the greatest rock album of all time- ‘Back in Black’ (which was the band’s tribute to Scott- although they were careful not to credit him with the lyrics for some of the songs which he almost certainly wrote). It was this album which launched the band as superstars having gone platinum something like 22 times over in the USA. But to many fans the band had lost something with Scott’s death as Johnson, despite having a voice that was credited with having the power to halt a high speed train in its tracks, couldn’t equal Scott’s poetical song writing abilities and had little of his charisma.

Moreover, Bon Scott lost something infinitely precious the night he died- his soul. I wonder if we could speak to Scott today – would he be so happy to be in Hell? I think not. Despite what he, and popular culture, like to think -hell is NOT a place of partying but of punishment. Punishment for all who have rejected God and his Christ.

Let’s end by reading the words of someone else who died at 33, not in revelry but in offering up his life for the salvation of all who would trust in him; ‘what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own soul’. Let’s make sure that we don’t make the same mistake as Bon Scott who lost his soul for rock+ roll.

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