Books & Literature

Book Review: Bad Boy Boogie, by Jeff Apter

BIOGRAPHY: The life, death and rock’n’roll rollercoaster career of AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.

The perfect companion piece to Apter’s (unofficial) Young Brothers’ Trilogy – the raucous, unexpurgated, true tale of Oz Rock’s legendary front man, Bon Scott.

If there is one aspect of Australian music that Jeff Apter knows well, possibly better than the band themselves, it’s the strands that brought together Australia’s first family of Rock: AC/DC. He most recently penned what has been described as “The Unofficial Trilogy of the Young Brothers”, books on Angus, Malcolm, and George Young. Now, in his latest work, he focuses on their brother from another mother, Bon Scott.

Like so many of Australian music’s founding sons and daughters, Bon Scott (real name Ronald Belford Scott, but only his mother, Isa, called him Ron) was one of the wave of UK immigrants whose families uprooted themselves and came to Australia for a new beginning as a “Ten Pound Pom”. Bon’s love for music came from within his family ranks and his lyrical capacity came from his quick wit and willingness to use his own life experience in his lyrics. These are lyrics that, almost five decades later, still form the core of AC/DC’s performances and support their ongoing back catalogue sales.

In Bad Boy Boogie, Apter chronicles the personal and professional journey of the too brief, but most definitely full, life of the man known as Bon Scott. From his earliest days, learning his stagecraft with bands The Valentines and Fraternity, to his introduction to a pair of emerging rockers—Malcolm and Angus Young—this is the true story of the man who gave Oz Rock a springboard for international recognition and crafted such classics as ‘The Jack’, ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, and the timeless ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (if You Want to Rock ‘n’ Roll)’.

Alongside the developing front man/lyricist story runs the parallel tale of the everyday man. While he lived the epitome of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle; hedonism doesn’t begin to describe his sexual appetite and alcoholic consumption. Bon was also a devoted son, brother (to both his own family and the Youngs), and friend. No matter where his life led him, he never lost touch with those who mattered, including his ex-partners. The summation of the book, a collection of personal reflections on his sudden passing, demonstrates the genuine love and affection that those who truly knew Bon had for him.

A not insignificant number of books have been published on Bon Scott and, more particularly, AC/DC. Those that have focused on Bon have been told from personal perspectives, about particular times in his life. The difference here is Jeff Apter has taken the cream from this crop and mixed together a telling of the whole tale of Bon. He openly and genuinely quotes from those who’ve written of Bon before, while retaining his own individual take on the antics and activities that made him a legend.

Having written about Angus and Malcolm Young and their intrinsic role in AC/DC’s lifespan (as well as co-authoring Mark Evans’ book Dirty Deeds about his time in the band), plus the recent biography of George Young (a man whose influence set the path for the band), Bad Boy Boogie is a suitable addendum-esque addition to his AC/DC-focused works. However, like the legend and his statue in Fremantle, the work also stands alone.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: 3 August 2021
RRP: $32.99

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