March 25, 2019

Former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott’s tour letter bought at auction

Former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott’s tour letter bought at auction

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The identity of the bidder who paid $14,000 at a US auction for a letter written by former AC/DC frontman Bon Scott has been revealed.

It was the McGowan Government.

The three-page letter — written two years before his death to former girlfriend Valerie while the band was touring the US in 1978 — was auctioned in Los Angeles earlier this year.

It makes direct references to his hard-drinking, financial struggles and the band’s grueling tour schedule.

Scott also writes about the mental health struggles of drummer Phil Rudd and his own desire to “check myself into a sanitarium for a month”.

The letter was written on Hilton stationery while AC/DC were in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is printed in capital letters, with several spelling mistakes and the use of ampersands rather than the word “and”.

But, according to the WA State Library’s local music expert Adam Trainer, the letter also reveals an articulate, sensitive man who clearly understood the trappings of success.

“There is a perception of Bon Scott — especially from the lyrics of his songs — that he was a malevolent, mischievous person,” Mr Trainer said. “But this letter shows a different side, tender and emotional.”

Mr Trainer said Scott — who migrated to WA from Scotland and grew up in Spearwood — was important to WA’s cultural identity, having been involved in the local music industry since the 1960s.

His first band The Valentines recorded with WA’s first record label, Clarion.

When the letter was written, AC/DC was already a major international music force. They were promoting their fifth studio album Powerage and had recorded their first concert album If You Want Blood You’ve Got It.

The band’s first album High Voltage – including the tracks It’s A Long Way Top the Top and TNT – had sold three million copies in the US after its 1976 release.

And the second album Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap, featuring Jailbreak, sold twice as many.

Given this success, it was surprising to read in the letter of Scott’s money problems.

“I had to stop making phone calls when I got too much in the red with the money situation,” Scott wrote. “I’m already about $130 into this week’s wages but about two weeks ago I owed the band about $70 on payday & that’s crazy.

“But being crazy is about the only way to keep my sanity if you know what I mean.”

Mr Trainer said this showed the band was probably on a weekly wage while they were touring, with most of the royalty riches only becoming available at a later date.

“It also shows that bands have a lot of other people – like agents, managers and venue operators – who would also be taking a cut,” he said.

Scott died in 1980 after a heavy night of drinking in London. He was 33.

His letter will be displayed in the State Library for the next three weeks.

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