SIL­VER SMITH

THE GREAT MUSE OF BON SCOTT

Classic Rock - - Bon Scott - By JeSSe fink

Mar­garet ‘Sil­ver’ Smith was one of the great loves of Bon Scott, the in­spi­ra­tion for many of his best songs, in­clud­ing Gimme A Bul­let and Gone Shootin’ from AC/DC’s 1978 mas­ter­piece Pow­er­age. They lived to­gether in Aus­tralia and Eng­land. They trav­elled to­gether on the road in the United States. And she died in a hos­pice in Jamestown, South Aus­tralia on De­cem­ber 12, 2016.

Bon, sep­a­rated from his wife Irene Thorn­ton in 1974, had fallen hard for Sil­ver, re­put­edly spray­ing her name in sil­ver paint at the head­quar­ters of AC/DC’s Australian record com­pany, Al­bert Pro­duc­tions, and men­tion­ing her in a let­ter from the road in 1977: “I haven’t seen my lady for four months… love will pre­vail.” But it didn’t. A mu­tu­ally agreed 12-month break in their re­la­tion­ship in early 1978 be­came per­ma­nent, on Sil­ver’s wishes.

She saw Bon alone only once or twice in the last year of his life, though im­por­tantly he phoned her to in­vite her out on the evening prior to his mys­te­ri­ous death in Lon­don on Fe­bru­ary 19, 1980. She de­clined his in­vi­ta­tion. By then she’d made it very clear there was no fu­ture for them as a cou­ple.

Be­fore her death, Sil­ver spoke ex­clu­sively to Jesse Fink for his bi­og­ra­phy of Bon. The in­ter­views she granted to Fink were her last, among only a few she ever gave dur­ing her life, and gave a rare in­sight into her pas­sion­ate but tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship with Aus­tralia’s great­est rock leg­end. This in­ter­view ex­tract is ex­clu­sive to Clas­sic Rock.

On her Be­gin­nings

I don’t know who my bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther was and knew noth­ing about my bi­o­log­i­cal mother un­til about fif­teen years ago. I have had four names, all of them le­gal, one I didn’t know about un­til rel­a­tively re­cently. I have been legally ‘Sil­ver Smith’ for four and a half decades. I think of my fam­ily as the peo­ple who raised me.

On lOne­li­ness

I’ve been alone for thirty years. The Bon ad­ven­ture was one too far for me. I got scared. I buried my­self in work.

On BOn’s re­la­tiOn­ship with irene thOrn­tOn

Bon was big on telling peo­ple how much he owed Irene for tak­ing him in af­ter his mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent

[in 1974] al­though they weren’t to­gether any more, and how he couldn’t wait to be able to help her out. She was preg­nant and strug­gling. But he didn’t, did he? In­stead of show­ing off by show­ing up in a limo with ex­pen­sive booze, he could have given her the money. I would have been pissed off [with him] if I were her.

On BOn’s 1975 herOin Over­dOse in the cOm­pany Of his friend Judy King

He told me very early on how close he had gone to fuck­ing up over the King in­ci­dent, and that he had made a prom­ise to the Youngs [not to do drugs]. If any­thing, I was stricter [with him] than the Youngs, be­cause he was a to­tal em­bar­rass­ment even when he over­did the ‘smoko’ with al­co­hol at in­ap­pro­pri­ate times, and I was the one who would have to get him home and up five flights of stairs. Not to men­tion that this be­hav­iour was con­sid­ered re­ally tacky in Lon­don. To the best of my knowl­edge, Bon kept faith with his prom­ise to the Youngs.

On hOOK­ing up with BOn at ac/dc’s first lOn­dOn gig, at the red cOw puB in hammersmith in 1976

I used to go past [the Red Cow] on the bus to my work agency in Hammersmith. It was such a lonely, homely build­ing; just a stone cube. Stuck out like a sore thumb be­cause there were no other build­ings on that side of the road. How dif­fer­ent my life would have been if I had not been home, not an­swered the phone, not gone to the Red Cow that night. At that time I was truly happy, con­tented for the first time in my life, had lovely friends, was learn­ing some won­der­ful things, and it had been that way for a cou­ple of years. I felt like I was fi­nally home. And then it all went to shit.

On the dif­fi­culty Of hav­ing a re­la­tiOn­ship with BOn

It was the what-the-fuck im­pulse things that did the real dam­age. On the sec­ond trip [home] to Aus­tralia [from Eng­land in 1978], while we were stay­ing in Coogee, Syd­ney, two things hap­pened like that, and I knew I could no longer be with this man, couldn’t live like this any more, and the babysit­ting stuff was be­com­ing in­tol­er­a­ble and dangerous. I wanted to break up then, but set­tled for a twelve-month sep­a­ra­tion, where I could go back to Lon­don and think se­ri­ously about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and then make a de­ci­sion.

On drugs Be­ing in­vOlved in BOn’s death

Bon knew AC/DC was his last shot at mak­ing it, and he was re­ally con­sci­en­tious af­ter his OD with the King girl in Mel­bourne. He told me straight away about it; he did smoke hash when he had down­time, and drank hor­ri­bly, but I don’t know of any pills. I was per­son­ally re­ally tough on him with smoko even, as he had re­ally em­bar­rassed me by eat­ing a huge piece of hash at a ridicu­lously in­ap­pro­pri­ate time very early on in Lon­don.

On BOn us­ing herOin

I would be re­ally sur­prised if you find any­one cred­i­ble who will swear they saw Bon take heroin dur­ing his Lon­don-based years with AC/DC. But with Bon I guess any­thing’s pos­si­ble. He had a re­ally bad rep­u­ta­tion for tak­ing any­thing and to ex­treme ex­cess back in Adelaide with [his pre-AC/DC band] Fra­ter­nity. But he did take the heroin em­bargo from the Youngs af­ter Judy King re­ally se­ri­ously, and did not want to get fired. Given what it was like to have to look af­ter him when he was co­matose on Scotch, I was very glad there was an em­bargo. Bon do­ing smack would be any­one’s worst night­mare, and I per­son­ally wouldn’t have had any­thing to do with him [if he had used it].

On Keith richards vis­it­ing her at her flat

We had a griz­zle to­gether about the

par­lous state of the le­gal sys­tem at the time, and the nasty at­ti­tude of the plain-clothes po­lice in Bri­tain and they way they try to hu­mil­i­ate you.

On fOr­mer ac/dc Bass player marK evans

He was very young, but was def­i­nitely the smartest in the band, a lot more aware of what was go­ing on in the rest of the world.

On fOr­mer ac/dc drum­mer phil rudd

Prob­a­bly the last time he was home [in Aus­tralia, from tour­ing in Amer­ica], Bon told me Phil was re­ally freak­ing; ex­hausted from all the driv­ing. I’ve read Phil was on coke, but I don’t think so. Bon would have men­tioned it. Bon was re­ally pissed off that noth­ing was be­ing done to help Phil. But Bon didn’t speak up. I was so sad when Phil had that re­cent [le­gal] trou­ble. It seemed so un­fair. I had the urge to write him a let­ter, but what could I have said or done af­ter nearly four decades?

It was a cou­ple of months af­ter that Amer­i­can tour that Phil and I had a day out on a cata­ma­ran that we got in trou­ble for [with the Youngs]. It was a lovely silly happy day and we laughed like drains. And that’s how I choose to re­mem­ber him, not look­ing so lost and hunted on the telly.

On her lOn­dOn sO­cial cir­cles

Bon asked me how I knew so many wealthy peo­ple. Trav­el­ling was still very ex­pen­sive in the 1970s; lux­u­ri­ous gi­ant planes were of­ten only a third full. So on long-haul flights pas­sen­gers so­cialised, swapped sto­ries and passed on ad­dresses of friends to look up, and par­tied in the bar. Aus­tralians were an un­known nov­elty and were wel­come in the world of the ‘beau­ti­ful peo­ple’ of the 70s if they were smart, amus­ing and at­trac­tive, dressed well and had good man­ners. So­phis­ti­cated Euro­peans didn’t sit around divvy­ing up the bill af­ter a meal; you never saw the bill. Amer­i­cans and South Amer­i­cans fought for the right to be able to pay it, prov­ing they were the rich­est per­son at the ta­ble.

On BOn’s self-de­struc­tive­ness

He would be fine for ages, and then do some­thing re­ally de­struc­tive at the worst pos­si­ble time, with no ex­pla­na­tion, and re­ally make things dif­fi­cult for other peo­ple, with­out giv­ing them a sin­gle thought. Con­sid­er­a­tion of oth­ers was not a strong point.

On why she didn’t Keep any Of BOn’s let­ters Or phO­tOs

Ev­ery­thing I owned dis­ap­peared; I’ve had to start again twice… I’ve never been able to find out where it [all] went. The first big loss was in Lon­don: three huge trunks. Two mod­ern alu­minium trunks. One old wooden, steel-banded trunk, painted mid­night blue with sil­ver stars. Plus a gi­ant wooden fridge crate. Th­ese con­tained all my doc­u­men­ta­tion, books, records, pho­tos, diaries, col­lec­tions of let­ters, bibelots and pre­cious things from my fam­ily days, my mother’s world-class em­broi­dery, ev­ery­thing I owned up to the age of twenty-nine, ex­cept for what I had with me. The past com­pletely wiped out. It is still dev­as­tat­ing to me. Over the last few decades some pho­tos have been given to me by friends and fam­ily. I had some great pro­fes­sional shots that were lost.

On where she was when she fOund Out frOm King’s cOl­lege hOspi­tal that BOn had died

I was at home. [Bon’s and my friend] Joe [Fury] was ei­ther there, or ar­rived just af­ter the call… They didn’t say [Bon] was dead. They asked me to come to the hospi­tal be­cause it was se­ri­ous. They never give death mes­sages over the phone. They look af­ter you, put you in a nice room with a cup of tea. Joe had worked in hos­pi­tals, so he had fig­ured it out, and told me his fears be­fore the doc­tor came in. I can’t talk about what I thought and felt.

On BOn hav­ing Or nOt hav­ing a will

I never heard of there be­ing any wills at any time. Bon wasn’t big on be­ing or­gan­ised. He knew he owed Irene a big favour, and he talked about help­ing her with a de­posit for a house all the time be­cause she had taken him in af­ter the bike ac­ci­dent, but he didn’t do it, did he? I thought he should have done it, not went around to visit her with ex­pen­sive booze and just talked about it.

On BOn’s par­ents chicK and isa af­ter his death

I felt pro­tec­tive of Isa. His par­ents were re­ally happy in their own new unit. They didn’t want a big house, or money. They were happy and proud of what they’d achieved for their fam­ily. I could re­late to that. Isa just wished that Bon had seen his own suc­cess. They were good but naive peo­ple, Bon’s par­ents.

“Bon would be fine for ages, then do some­thing de­struc­tive at the worst

pos­si­ble time.”

Sil­ver Smith

Ride on: Bon in happy times.

Sil­ver Smith: ap­pear­ing to wear the pen­ta­gram chain Bon wore on the High­way To Hell cover.

Ace of bass: Bon goes up in the world.

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