Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

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Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Thu 23 Apr - 16:01

It is the early 1970s in Adelaide.
Amazingly, this remote city has become an epicentre for Australia's emerging rock scene.
One of its fans is local girl Irene Thornton. She is just 19, gorgeous looking, living at home,
and working in an office.
Then she meets the man who'll change her life just as he will change the course of rock 'n' roll history.

Irene Thornton was married to Bon Scott in 1972. They split two years later, and divorced in 1978.
She now lives in Melbourne and lives with her son from a previous marriage.

Bon Scott is the singer for local band Fraternity.
He is a larrikin showman with more front than Myer and a smile that rules the world.
He is as wild as Irene is sensible. They meet and marry in 1972.
For the next few years, Irene is at his side as Bon Scott continues his driven
but often difficult journey that leads him to AC /DC and rock 'n' roll fame.

Irene gives us the scene without the airbrushing: the bitterly cold winters in London, the drinking and drugs,
the group living and frayed tempers, and the broken dreams and inner demons.
But she also shares details of her incredible bond with this extraordinary man, even after they separate,
as well as the excitement as dreams are realised and Bon gets to what he does best:
create and perform music that will eventually put him and AC/DC on the world stage.

This is a moving account of an artist at the height of his powers,
as well at the low point that tragically culminates in his death by alcohol in 1980.
It is a tale of great loss and a sense of what could have been,
but also an uplifting reminder of the rare gift Bon Scott gave the world of rock,
with his dazzling talent, unmatched energy and courage to be himself.


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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Thu 23 Apr - 16:04

Excerpts from the book... Smile


I DESPERATELY wanted to be back in Adelaide right up until I got there.
I spent a lot of time feeling homesick in London and then I wondered why the hell I ever left :

Adelaide was such a culture shock. There was no tube to the front door; Mum’s place didn’t even have a phone.
But it was more than that, really. The city felt wrong. It hardly felt like a city at all.

Andrea came to visit me the night I got back from England, when I was still sagging from the trip.
She had come over with our friend Julie, in a car they had borrowed from Julie’s new boyfriend,
a guy named Vince Lovegrove.

A few days later, I went round to visit Andrea and she told me about the people she’d met while
I was away, musicians she had met through Julie and Vince. She wanted to take me to this place
in the Adelaide Hills, a farm on the fringe of the city that had become quite a happening scene.
A band called Fraternity was living up there and they threw the best parties, Andrea said.
She wanted to introduce me to the singer. It was obvious Andrea had a bit of a crush on this bloke;
her dreamy way of speaking about him gave her away.

We headed off to the hills the following weekend, to a place called Hemming’s Farm in Aldgate,
a sprawling property on three and a half acres out on Cricklewood Road. Adelaide was dead
in the early seventies, far more so than even five years earlier … but Hemming’s Farm was out on its own in 1971.
They had three-day benders up at the property, fuelled by dope and mushrooms and speed and booze.
Fraternity played in town several nights a week and the crowd would follow them back after the show,
picking up strays like Andrea along the way.

As time went on, a lot of people starting referring to Fraternity as a kind of hippie act and Hemming’s Farm
as a commune, but it was pure rock ’n’ roll up there. It was more country rock than anything else.
It didn’t feel like a hippie place at all. It was packed when Andrea and I arrived, with people spilling
out of doors and music blaring through the windows. I felt anxious as I climbed out of the car because
there were so many strange faces, but I stuck my chin out and pushed the feeling away.
The sun was beating down and I felt overdressed in my frilly dress and black suede boots,
but I’m sure nobody noticed; everywhere you looked, people were busy getting pissed and stoned.
At some point I realised the singer Doug Parkinson was sitting next to me, which was a bit bizarre.
He was very well known back then. He struck up a conversation with me and I think he wanted to chat me up,
but he didn’t get anywhere. I was happy to sit and observe the crowd.

Andrea had reappeared and taken a seat next to me just as a commotion broke out on the other side of the room.

She grinned and pointed. ‘There he is.’

This was the bloke she’d been on about, this macho-man wrestler, the lead singer of Fraternity. Jesus, I thought.
The guy who came stumbling through the crowd was wearing nothing but a spray-on pair of tiny denim shorts.
He had a girl in one arm and a drink in the other, and he was stumbling left and right through the throng of people
as he laughed his head off. He was a wiry-looking thing, much shorter than Andrea.

‘His name is Bon Scott,’ she said. I didn’t think much of him.

I had a great time at the party, in the end. A few drinks in, I felt quite at home, not that I had a clue where anything was.
I went searching for the toilet at one point, opening every door I came across to empty rooms and dead ends, right up
until the very last door. I opened the door and froze in my tracks. Bon was naked in front of me, kneeling on the end of
the bed with a girl’s foot in his mouth. He turned around and gave me a surprised look with his lips still wrapped
around a couple of her toes.

‘Sorry,’ I stammered, ‘I didn’t mean to interrupt.’
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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Thu 23 Apr - 20:37

I closed the door, surprised and disgusted.
I hadn’t heard of toe-sucking before and I found the whole scene pretty alarming.
It was so much worse than if I’d stumbled in on them doing it; I couldn’t get the image of that girl’s foot
out of my head.

The next time I saw Bon he had more clothes on.
Julie was working in a shop in Rundle Mall, in the middle of the city, and I popped in one day to say hello.
We were having a chat at the counter with another couple of girls when we were startled by a series
of loud thumps, barrelling down towards us.
The shop was in a basement and Bon had decided to make a grand entrance by somersaulting down the stairs.
We thought it was an accident at first and all four of us gasped in shock,
but Bon bounced to his feet and started laughing, and the other girls joined in.
I might have smiled a little bit, but mostly I just rolled my eyes.
Julie introduced us to each other and Bon said hello, but I didn’t rate a second glance after that.
He chatted with Julie and the other girls, and as quick as he came he was off again, bouncing back up the stairs.
I didn’t know what to make of him.
He was a ball of energy and clearly a bit mad.
I couldn’t quite see what Andrea was on about, but he was certainly a scene-stealer.
I don’t think I’d met anyone like that before. I wasn’t sure I liked Bon, but I couldn’t help but notice him.
He’d virtually break his neck to get your attention.

It can’t have been more than a couple of weeks later that.

I saw Fraternity play live. Vince took me along to a gig at the Largs Pier Hotel, which was notorious in those days.
It’s legendary now. It was just a pub, really, but half the Australian rock stars of the 1970s played there,
before they were famous or on the way up.

It was on the beach, just past Semaphore in the seaside suburb of Largs.
The pub sat on a corner block — three storeys high, with big old arched windows from top to bottom —
and every inch of the place was full.
When Vince and I rocked up, it was heaving.
It was the middle of summer and people were coming straight off the beach and up to the pub,
spilling out over the footpath in their towels and togs. It was an unbelievable piss-up:
hundreds of people all drinking and dancing, all having a bloody good time.
It had the most amazing atmosphere.

Fraternity was on stage when we arrived and they were loud.
The sound hit you like a wall the second you walked inside,
big bluesy rock ’n’ roll with a progressive country feel.
There was a sea of people in the room and all eyes were fixed on Bon.
And to my surprise, he was quite something to look at. For a compact sort of bloke,
he really commanded your attention.
His voice was powerful, but it was the way he moved that drew you in.
It was incredibly slick and theatrical.
I’d never seen anything like it. When he danced, his arms were slightly outstretched,
elbows bending in time with the music.
Much later, I discovered that he had named his own dance moves.

‘Look.’ He smiled at a gig one night. ‘They’re all doing it!’

‘Doing what ?’ I asked.

‘The Bon.’

That first night at the Largs Pier, I started to understand Bon’s appeal.
I don’t know if I was impressed, exactly, but the band sounded great and Bon’s voice was just something else.
I found it quite hard to look away. During the break between sets,
he came over to say hello and Vince introduced me yet again.

‘Hello.’ Bon grinned.

He was wearing the tightest pair of jeans I had ever seen; they didn’t leave much to the imagination.
Sometimes things blurt out of my mouth before my brain has a chance to kick in and that night
was one of the classics.

I looked down at his crotch and said, ‘What a well-packed lunch.’

‘Yeah.’ He winked. ‘Two boiled eggs and a sausage.’ He didn’t miss a beat and it made me laugh out loud.

Hello, I thought. I was suddenly very impressed.

Barry McKenzie is what finally brought us together.

McKenzie was this comic book character created by the comedian Barry Humphries
and he was huge in the seventies.
He was the British stereotype of an ugly Australian, this typical Aussie bogan character who was rough and rude,
and spoke in the silliest kind of ocker jargon. I thought he was hilarious (I still do) and for some reason,
I thought Bon would agree. I bought a copy of Bazza Pulls it Off!, the latest Barry McKenzie comic …
Bon and I who ended up side by side on the couch, flipping through the book together and laughing our arses off.
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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Sun 26 Apr - 6:55

We were in hysterics reading the ‘Glossary of McKenzieisms’ at the back of the book.
‘Nut-chokers’ were underpants;
‘snot-rag’ was a handkerchief;
‘up the freckle’ meant up the backside.
‘Crack a fat’ was in there (which means ‘get an erection’) and so was ‘brewer’s droop’
(which means you’re too drunk to get it up). I’ll never forget the explanation of ‘to slip someone
a length’ which was ‘to fall in love nicely’.

Later, when Bon started sending me letters, I could see the same sense of humour in his writing.
He had a knack for the vernacular but it was all tongue in cheek. He didn’t write things to be deep
and meaningful, he wrote to make you smile. Bon called it his ‘toilet poetry’.

Bazza was a real icebreaker for us. That day in North Adelaide was the first time Bon and I really talked.
It was the first time we really laughed together (and he had such a lovely, husky laugh).
I felt that nervous spark, that thing you feel when you meet someone and you think it could take off
but you’re really not sure.
I didn’t want him to know how much I liked him, but the truth is I liked him a lot.
I don’t know what Bon thought of me.
I wasn’t very sure of myself. I was timid, in a lot of ways. I knew I wasn’t ugly but I hardly thought I was beautiful;
I just knew that I was a bit different. More than anything, I loved to laugh, and I liked people who made me laugh.
Bon made me laugh more than anyone.

I almost jumped out of my seat to say yes.

The next Friday night, the three of them came to pick me up in Vince’s car,
Julie and Vince in the front and Bon and I sitting next to each other in the back.
I opened the door and there he was, with a nervous sort of half smile on his face.
He’d obviously made a bit of an effort for our date (or tried to, at least).
He was in a khaki-coloured long-sleeve grandpa T-shirt and a tight pair of bell-bottomed jeans.
The woven leather headband he was wearing was a bit funny looking, but it went well with the
patchouli oil he’d used for aftershave. (It’s not his fault; patchouli oil was big in the seventies.)
I thought his shoes were a bit odd. Bon was wearing these very girly boots, which had a bit of a heel.
I found out later they were actually women’s boots and that he’d borrowed them from Julie.
It was the first of many outfits I saw him in that made me giggle.

Our date went downhill pretty fast. It was horrible, really, I was that nervous.
I had a bad habit with blokes; it was always the ones I didn’t like who chased me;
if I didn’t care what they thought I would be easygoing and quick with a joke,
but the minute I actually fancied someone I just froze. He might as well have been sitting
next to a blow-up doll.
(He might have seen more action.) Not that Bon was doing any better than me.

Back in those days, you didn’t meet someone then start emailing them or text messaging them,
you had to wait for fate to throw you together again. Julie and Vince had a bit of a scheme, however.
They decided we’d all go to the drive-in together.

‘Bon wants to know if you’ll go out with him,’ Julie told me.

The drive-in didn’t do us any favours. We should have gone to a bar and had a couple of drinks
to grease the wheels, but instead we sat there stiff as boards,
staring straight ahead without saying a word to each other.
It was painful. I was starting to think I should have brought the old Barry McKenzie out with me,
when all of a sudden he lay down across the back seat and put his head in my lap. What the hell is this ?
I thought.

‘Scratch my head,’ Bon said.

‘Scratch your own head!’ I told him.

‘Nah, go on, give it a scratch.’

I scratched his head and it was probably the most awkward five minutes of my life.
I had no idea what he was doing. I suppose he was just looking for a window of opportunity
but instead of pulling me over for a kiss, he fell into my lap. It was pretty weird.
I’m sure Bon regretted it the minute he got down there — What did I do that for ?! –
but I was more embarrassed about my reaction than anything else.
Anyway, it didn’t last long and it didn’t go anywhere, if that’s what he intended.
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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Sun 26 Apr - 13:51

He sat bolt upright a few minutes later and we watched the rest of the film in virtual silence.

I felt like a terrible idiot and it only got worse on the way home.
Bon complained that he had to go interstate the next day with the band and I turned my nose up at him.

‘That’s the price of fame,’ I said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

I can still hear myself. I was trying to hang shit on him, as they say.
I think I meant to be funny or cool but I just sounded like a dope.
I really, really, really liked him, but I wasn’t doing a very good job of showing it.
The whole date was a disaster.

Bon walked me to the front door and very politely said, ‘Thank you for coming out with me, Irene.’

Then he turned around and left. My heart sank. Oh god, I thought, I blew it.

The next day Bon sent me flowers at work, dark red roses. I’d never been given flowers in my life.
Why would he send me flowers? I thought. He must be having a laugh.
I was trying to figure out what it meant. I know that sounds ridiculous,
but I really didn’t want to look stupid.

I’d had enough of that the last time around.

I’m not sure how Bon managed to convince me that he was into me, but he convinced me.
Don’t ask me why he was into me. Must have been the Barry McKenzie afterglow.
Anyway, I don’t think it was that hard. I wanted to be won over.

He started calling me at work and we went out on a few dates,
and soon enough we were hanging out regularly. I was back in the public service by then,
working for the Civil Aviation Authority in the Da Costa Building on Grenfell Street.
The best part of my day was at 5pm when Bon roared up on his little yellow trail bike to get me.
I’d hike up my tiny skirt, swing a leg over and we’d be off.

Sometimes we wouldn’t go anywhere in particular; we’d just cruise the winding roads
around the Adelaide Hills. Bon loved his bike. He loved to ride fast and he loved to muck around.
My brother had motorcycles so I was pretty fearless on the back, not that I really had much to worry about.
Bon was more silly than macho.

In the beginning, we were both real smart-arses. We teased and mocked each other all the time.
I gave him a hard time about being a musician and he called me ‘The World Traveller’
(he was taking the piss). We were both naturally quite defensive and didn’t like to let on when
we were keen on someone, so we pretended we didn’t like each other that much at first.
But it didn’t last long. Once the two of us relaxed and started being nice to each other,
it was really easy going. Not that we softened completely.
One sunny day up at the farm, we were crashed on the grass with a couple of beers,
and I was grinning from ear to ear.

‘You look really happy,’ Bon said to me. ‘You’ve got more wrinkles round your eyes than I do.’

Slowly but surely, we got to know each other. It was easy enough. Bon was so warm and relaxed,
and we really loved being in each other’s company. The conversation never dried up.
I don’t know if we talked about anything too serious, but we certainly talked a lot.

There wasn’t a trace of a Scottish accent on Bon, although he did a great impression of his mum.
He was true-blue Aussie, but he wasn’t rough. And while he often played dumb, he was as sharp as a tack.
He liked people a lot. He wanted people to like him, too. Bon drank a lot and liked to have a good time,
but he could also be really gentle. There was something a little bit hippie about him
(perhaps it was more a sign of the times than anything else).
Bon had been to see a white witch when he lived in Melbourne, a fortune-teller.
He didn’t say much about it, but he believed in supernatural stuff,
which was a surprise given the type of guy he was.
He told me he’d once woken up and seen a ghost at the end of his bed,
somebody he knew who had died. He said it in a very matter-of-fact way.
I didn’t know what to think.
The fortune-teller told him he’d be close to a blonde woman and a red-headed woman,
which sounded quite promising to me.
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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Sun 26 Apr - 13:54

Bon’s fashion sense was all over the place.
He got around in band T-shirts and tight jeans but he carried this long, fringed bag over his shoulder,
which is where he kept his recorders (Bon played the recorder on a Fraternity tune called ‘Seasons of Change’).
He always had that hippie bag flopping around on the back of his motorbike.
He burned incense, too, and he had candles ever ywhere.
He had a collection of beautiful, ornate tiles he found up at Hemming’s Farm that he used as candleholders.
He came across a beautiful old clock in the shed at Aldgate, too, a lovely miniature grandfather thing
that sits on a mantelpiece. He restored it and gave it to me as a present. I still have it.

He was talented but he had a rough edge to him I really liked — not that he was macho.
Bon was a peacemaker; that was his nature. He wouldn’t back away from a fight but he didn’t go looking for them,
although his sense of justice often got him into trouble.
There was a night down at the Largs Pier when he went toe-to-toe with the security guards,
just because he thought it was the right thing to do. The bouncers were massive,
speed-fuelled blokes who delighted in throwing drunken punters out the door and on this particular night,
three of them were laying into a mouthy drunk. Bon appeared in the doorway and asked them to stop.

‘Come on guys, that’s enough,’ he told them.

These huge guys turned away from the drunk and squared up to Bon,
but Bon wasn’t scared and he wouldn’t walk away.
I was sitting in the car with Julie when someone came over and told us that Bon was hurt.
There were other girls hanging around outside and the rumour had obviously spread.

‘Oh no, not Bon!’ they were muttering.

I think women felt protective of him because he was so little. I knew Bon could take care of himself.
When he eventually climbed into the car, he had blood all over his T-shirt.

‘Honestly,’ he grinned at me, ‘it wasn’t my fault.’

I’d never dated a guy with tattoos before and Bon had a few. Tattoos were unusual back then, not like now.
Wharfies and ex-cons had them in the seventies and they were real backyard jobs;
Bon got most of his in Western Australia when he was working on the docks.
He’d had to cover them with makeup when he was singing in The Valentines.

He had pictures of daggers and the Scottish coat of arms,
but his favourite was the birds he had inked across his pelvis.
Bon loved to unzip his jeans and show them to me.

‘Do you want to see the branch they’re on?’ he’d grin.
We’d been dating for ages before we finally did the deed. It felt like ages, anyway.
There was a lot of kissing in dark corners at the Largs Pier Hotel, and lots of dates that ended
with me getting walked to the front door and deposited there like a box of fragile goods.
I was starting to think I smelled funny or something. Then one day, things just went off on a different course.

The Fraternity place in Norwood had two bedrooms at the front of the house: one off to the left,
which was Bon’s, and one off to the right for Bruce Howe. We were hanging out in Bruce’s room
one night, talking music and other bullshit, when I got up to go to the toilet.
On my way back, just before I made it to Bruce’s door, a pair of arms shot out from
Bon’s doorway and pulled me in the opposite direction.
The door slammed shut behind us and away we went.

It was pretty funny, I’ll say that much.
I don’t think I’ve been flipped around quite so enthusiastically, before or since.
It was like the Olympics. Right, there you go, over you go, I can do that, I can do this.
He was like a little hurricane, swinging from the chandeliers —
I actually had no idea what the fuck was going on. Anyway, I’m glad it wasn’t like that every night.
I think Bon proved whatever he needed to prove that first time and then settled down
into slightly more manageable behaviour. The most ridiculous thing I had to put up with after
that was when he came out of the shower with a towel hanging over his business parts.
That was just Bon though. He’d do anything to make you laugh.

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Re: Bon Scott by Irene Thornton

Post by T.N.T. on Sun 26 Apr - 13:56


Irene in 2014


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