Bon in bronze and other hits

Bon bronzed ... the statue features a real microphone used by Scott.
Bon bronzed ... the statue features a real microphone used by Scott. Photo: AFP

Led by a diehard AC/DC fan, Mal Chenu finds Fremantle littered with tales of dirty deeds.

There's a sad man driving a tour bus around Fremantle every Sunday. Geoff Morgan conducts Highway to Hell tours, visiting sites in the area that were pivotal in the life of rock'n'roll legend Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC from 1974 until his death in 1980.

AC/DC are touring Australia next month and Morgan doesn't have a ticket. He is downcast as he tells us the two-concert Perth leg sold out in seven minutes and he missed out. Morgan is not any happier when a bloke on the bus pipes up and says he got 20 tickets for one of the Brisbane shows.

Stoically refraining from stuffing a set of bagpipes down the windpipe of the lucky fan, Morgan professionally continues the tour commentary wistfully glancing up from the road at video clips of the band running on a TV at the front of the bus. In his black Bon Scott T-shirt he refuses to shed a tear.

The show must go on.

The show begins at the statue of Bon (from his mother's nickname for him, "Bonny Ronny") near the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, home to Little Creatures Brewery, the Fremantle Sardine Festival and the best fish and chips in Australia.

The statue is a life-size bronze but it looks too small until Morgan tells us Bon was just 157 centimetres tall. He could have been a jockey. Bon stands atop a 1970s amplifier with that trademark cheeky grin. With the microphone at his mouth you can almost hear him belting out one of Acca Dacca's anthems such as Long Way to the Top, TNT, Jailbreak, High Voltage and Highway to Hell.

It was (perhaps a bit too) lovingly created by sculptor Greg James, who crafted the nude Bon and added the flared jeans and denim jacket later to make it as life-like as possible. The girls in the group take a closer look as Morgan tells us the mic is one Bon actually used and the Levi's buttons are real.

The Scott clan emigrated from Scotland when Bon was six, settling in Fremantle four years later. As we cruise past Bon's childhood home (a fairly pointless exercise since a renovation), Morgan colours the tour with fascinating bons mots such as his association with the Caledonian Scots Pipe Band of Fremantle, which awarded young Bon Novice Champion for Drumming four years running. Morgan also delights in telling us Bon was a legendary local root-rat.

The veracity of the accounts of Bon's sexual prowess does not seem to matter to Morgan or anyone else on the bus. Apocryphal or not, it's more fun to imagine this diminutive frontman as a huge pants man.

Morgan points out Bon's school and the nearby bushes where he took the girls. We drive up a small mound called Monument Hill for one of the finest views in Freo - overlooking the working harbour and out to Rottnest Island - and Morgan tells us that although he doesn't have any hard evidence, Bon almost certainly entertained a lady or two up here.

The next item of Bon-orabilia is the disused Fremantle Prison, a must-see on any tour of Freo, and Morgan explains that rather than make a jailbreak, Bon was simply processed here on his way to Riverbank Juvenile Detention Centre for stealing petrol, escaping police custody and carnal knowledge with a girl under 16 - his girlfriend at the time.

Bon worked in the area as a bartender and on crayboats and we see plenty of bars and crayboats. Not particularly interesting sights but Morgan's annotations keep us enthralled, including his favourite Bon Scott quote: "When I joined the band my wife asked me to write a song for her. I wrote She's Got Balls and she divorced me."

At Fremantle Cemetery we pass through the Bon Scott Memorial Entrance, a cast-iron gate cleverly designed to incorporate the star of St Andrew and the AC/DC lightning flash, on the way to Bon's final resting place just inside. Geoff tells us this is the most visited grave in Australia and pays due reverence before launching into a discussion of rock stars' deaths.

Five months after Bon died in 1980, aged 33, in London from the classic rock-star cause of death - pulmonary aspiration of vomit - AC/DC released the tribute album Back in Black, which remains the second highest-selling album of all time. "New" recruit Brian Johnson, who replaced Bon as lead singer and has been with the band for 29 years, is still regarded by many as a ring-in.

It may well be a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll, and a great deal further for Sydneysiders to do this tour, but hard-bitten, rusted-on Acca Dacca fans will love it.

And if you have a spare concert ticket, give poor Geoff a call.

The writer was a guest of Highway to Hell Tours and WA Tourism.

TRIP NOTES

Highway to Hell tour departs from the Bon Scott statue in Mews Road, Fremantle, every Sunday at noon, 2pm and 4pm.

Tickets: Adults $25, children $10. Obligatory "been there, done that" T-shirts $30; two for $50.

To book phone (08) 9431 7878 or 0408 998 188, see highwaytohelltour.com.au.

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