You know how amazing his voice is? The man can sing the phone book and it will most probably be a smashing hit. His distinctive raspy vocals just have a certain edge to it and it almost sounds like he’s not from this world. As a tribute to one of rock’s greatest vocalists, we compiled some of the little-known facts about this former AC/DC frontman.
This is proof that even legends had to start somewhere. It was in 1966 when Bon joined The Spektors as their drummer and occasionally provided vocals. But on the same year, they merged with another group thus forming what will be known as The Valentines. The image mostly associated with them is that of a teenybopper, bubblegum pop band who used to sing covers of “Build Me Up Buttercup” and would dress up in fluffy and colorful costumes. Their audience was mainly screaming teenage girls and since tattoos were still a taboo back then, Bon would cover up his ink with thick makeup. This is so their fans wouldn’t be frightened during their concerts. They eventually disbanded after being involved in a much-publicized drug scandal. Bon then joined Fraternity as lead vocalist for about three years before he met up with Angus and Malcolm Young and tried out for AC/DC in 1974.
It’s the classic case of ‘to hear is to believe.’ Okay, maybe we just had to tweak that out a little. You see, the original vocalist of AC/DC is Dave Evans but he had a falling out with the rest of the band members (and the Young brothers also thought he was more of a glam rocker which wasn’t the best fit for what they wanted for the group) and eventually left in late 1974. By this time, Bon was already an experienced and powerful vocalist and it was Vince Lovegrove who suggested to Malcolm and Angus that they try him out. When Vince brought Bon to see AC/DC at the Pooraka Hotel, he was very impressed. But he thought they were too young and inexperienced and may not be able to rock as hard as him. And the Young brothers thought he was too old for them. Nevertheless, they agreed to do a jam session and after hearing Bon sing, it became clear that it was a match made in rock heaven.
This was when people didn’t take things too seriously, including rock ‘n roll. He’s always been a bit wild and experimental but during their performance in Australian charts program ‘Countdown’ way back in 1975, the audience saw a different Bon. He was dressed up in a school girl outfit. Yes, you read that right. He even wore a wig, showed off some blonde ponytails and sported a seriously short skirt! And to top it off, he had blue eyeshadow, rouged up cheeks and a pair of earrings. Angus Young also debuted his school-boy look which as we know, eventually became his trademark ensemble. Whatever their reason was for this, it sure got people talking and Australian TV was never the same way again! They played “Baby Please Don’t Go” and the boys could hardly keep it together because they were trying so hard not to laugh at how Bon looked. Just look at Phil Rudd because his face says it all.
This is according to the tell-all, insider book of AC/DC’s former manager Michael Browning “Dog Eat Dog: A Story Of Survival, Struggle And Triumph By The Man Who Put AC/DC On The World Stage”. This is his very own account of what happened on and off-stage during the legendary band’s early years – when they were still struggling and he was managing the Hard Rock Café in Melbourne. Anyway, he revealed that two women who gave birth to Bon’s babies were in the same hospital and even the same maternity ward at the same time. Both women didn’t know the other one existed. Bon ‘shared’ the information to him when he was admitted because of drugs. Michael wrote: “When I visited him the next day in hospital, he was kind of chirpy and having a bit of fun with a couple of the nurses, then he made the comment that the last time he was in hospital was to visit two women who were both having his babies.” Although we’ll never know if this is true or Bon’s merely joking, it’s safe to say he was a real lady’s man.
Prepare to be mind-blown. We all know Bon lived in Kirriemuir before moving to Melbourne, right? Apparently, Kirriemuir is a burgh located in the county of Angus. And Bon’s mother, who was a huge AC/DC fan and even went to their concerts whenever she can, was born Isabelle Cunningham Mitchell. The band’s co-founder Malcom Young’s middle name is Mitchell. That’s crazy right? Here’s another one. Bon’s first gig with AC/DC was on October 5, 1974 at the Brighton Le-Sands Masonic Hall. It may not be a huge venue but it was a pivotal moment for the boys. Angus Young even said in one interview: “There was such energy, probably because we were very young at the time and everything was new and fresh. Everything we did, so much energy was put out.” So, what’s the connection? Remember the date? As it happens, Brian Johnson’s birthday is on October 5. Still believe in coincidence?
Bon’s voice is not just unique, it’s towering, commanding and distinctive. Although we could argue all day about whose vocals are better – his or Brian Johnson’s, but the fact remains that his overall persona is just larger than life. With all his drinking, you’d think it would severely affect his voice (it did eventually catch up with him and what tragedy it was). Helen Carter dished out what Bon did to help maintain his raspiness: “He used to gargle with Coonawarra red [wine] and honey, every morning. This is giving away trade secrets. But that was the secret to his great voice.” This is how he keeps the raspy edge to deliver those iconic songs. However, it’s a bit ironic because most people would say that red wine reduces vocal power. Nevertheless, honey is great at relieving vocal cord soreness. We’re not exactly sure if it really does wonders to the voice but judging from Bon’s vocal performances, maybe it does work.
Before you get all hysterical, read on first. If you can remember the book “The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC” by Jesse Fink which was released three years ago, former bassist Mark Evans was interviewed and he revealed that Bon was almost kicked out of the band in 1975 after a heroin overdose. This is highly detailed, by the way, and kudos to Fink for his stellar research (he didn’t get any help from members of AC/DC as he pieced the facts together). Anyway, the public has always been aware of Bon’s struggles with addiction and according to Evans, there was one isolated incident where he believes he overdosed. He further added: “There was a moment of madness. That’s all I can put it down to. There was disquiet. I have to put this into perspective here: in any decision like that I had absolutely f–k-all influence. It was just something that filtered through the band: that things weren’t looking good [for Bon]. There was mention of another singer. But it never got to that point.” Of course, they ended up working with him (and consequently enjoying their growing popularity) until his tragic death in 1980.