For those about to rock

Fremantle shakes Tim Richards all day long as he traverses the home town of a late Australian frontman.

'It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock'n'roll." I'm barrelling through the streets of Fremantle in a replica red tram on a sunny Sunday with AC/DC's immortal lyrics resounding through my head.

We pass the microbrew sippers, ice-cream lickers and graceful sandstone cottages of this gentrified port city.

"It's a long way to the top of this street where he lived," guide Geoff Morgan adds, interrupting my rock reverie as our Highway to Hell tour bus climbs the hills that rise beyond the Freo CBD. Starting from the Fishing Boat Harbour's diminutive but life-size statue of Bon Scott, the legendary AC/DC vocalist, Morgan takes music fans on a weekly journey through the formative years of the rock star.

He's a bit vague on exactly which of the former working-class houses (now pushing a million bucks in value) was the residence of our Bon but we're happy nonetheless.

Most of us, I think, are reliving our childhoods, when we'd watch the band on Countdown and substitute "sausage roll" for the final words in the above lyric.

As we cross the Swan River into North Fremantle, Freo's dainty old residences give way to giant cranes and container ships in the working port between the bridge and the river mouth. It was in this gritty industrial environment that Bon Scott grew up - he lived here between the ages of 10 and 24 - and played in his first bands.

Morgan takes us past landmarks illustrating his life in Freo: there's his primary school, the former Caledonian Hall where he learnt to play the bagpipes, the high school from which he often played truant and the old Fremantle Prison, which he once passed through en route to a juvenile correctional institution.

So he was a bit of a bad boy and, famously, he liked the ladies. "His mum still lives in a nearby suburb," Morgan says. "She was the only woman in Perth that he didn't sleep with."

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We head east towards Scott's final resting place, Fremantle Cemetery. Though he left Perth in 1970 for Adelaide, where he finally met Angus and Malcolm Young and joined AC/DC, his story has remained entwined with the West as fans make the pilgrimage to his ashes.

The mock tram pulls up on the grass verge and we pile out in front of a gate bearing an arch with the singer's name in large block letters. Just within the cemetery's boundary, metal ornaments have been embedded in the path, including a lightning flash, a musical note, a record and a star. A short distance away is Scott's memorial plaque, surrounded by flowers and, for some reason, a cap with an Aboriginal motif reading "Respect Yourself, Respect Your Culture".

A cemetery should be a sad place and we should regret any death at the young age of 33 but standing in the sunshine, looking down at his plaque and the tokens of affection left by fans, I can't help thinking that Scott did a lot with those years and enjoyed them thoroughly. And he got to stay young forever.

Whether the eastbound highway from Freo to Perth really was the highway to Hell referenced in the AC/DC song, we'll never know - but Bon Scott's lively Fremantle years are likely to be remembered as long as there are fans to follow his lyric commandment: "Let there be rock."

The Highway to Hell tour departs three times each Sunday from the Fishing Boat Harbour, Mews Road, Fremantle. It costs $25/$10. Phone (08) 9433 6674, see highwaytohelltour.com.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of the Western Australian Tourism Commission.

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