Meeting Clinton Walker

Clinton Walker at his desk
(Clinton Walker looking over the Bon Scott timeline he constructed while writing his book…)

It just so happens that one of Bon Scott’s biggest fans lives in Dulwich Hill, only fifteen minutes walk from my house. Last Thursday Katie and I popped around for a cup of tea with him. He took us out to his “den” – a revamped chookshed in the backyard, stuffed with books and records, and spilled the contents of his filing cabinets all over the coffee table.

It’s impossible to recount everything Clinton told us. I won’t even try. In the process of writing Bon Scott’s biography, he accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. I was a little overwhelmed by facts and anecdotes. I could have made an audio recording of everything he said, and then uploaded it for you… but then again, you could just go read the book

Before visiting Clinton, I jotted down some questions which I had diligently prepared like a good journalist. Here were my questions:

What about the fans? What is it that makes Bon such a popular figure? (As opposed to Brian Johnson, Bon’s replacement in AC/DC).

Do you think a larger proportion of people have encountered Bon after his death, than knew him during the 1970s? What about this whole mythologising thing? Why does our culture need mythological figures like Bon?

How about the tension between Bon’s desire to be popular/to be a star, versus the need to remain “authentic” to his “true voice”? (For example, the Valentines (Bon’s late 1960s band) went through a strange “bubblegum pop” era, where they abruptly changed their music, and their “look”, in order to sell records and gain publicity.)

What do you think makes AC/DC appealing as a “working class” band? (Isn’t it a bit funny that the music holds great appeal for working class fellas, given that Bon railed against “9 to 5 living”?)

Of course, once we actually started talking, I forgot to refer to these hard-hitting questions. So I can’t pass along the answers. But here are a few factoids gleaned from Clinton that might stand in…(note that I, not Clinton, will take full reponsibility for possibly spurious factoids amongst the following…)

The Young brothers (Malcolm and Angus) ran the band like a business. Drummers and bass players were hired and fired depending on whether they suited the Youngs’ vision of success. Some were axed because they were too tall, or too good looking.

Being so businesslike, the Youngs largely shied away from interacting with fans, and, possessed of a musical superiority complex, were disinclined to mix with members of other bands. Bon, by contrast, was socially promiscuous, and when the band was on tour, often disappeared for hours on end to have a chinwag or drink whiskey with anyone he happened to find interesting. This may be one of the reasons he has remained so popular with the fans: he was never too “big” to hang out – he was “one of us”, just a regular guy, etc…

Following on from (b). it thus seems unlikely that Angus or Malcolm would be interested in responding to my blog project (they also refused to answer any correspondence from Clinton when he was preparing his book). If you look at the line up for “The Aussie Rock Celebration Concert” at which Bon’s statue will be unveiled, it features many bands happy to pay homage to Bon’s memory – but conspicuously absent on the list is AC/DC… Clinton thought this was crazy – they’ve got nothing to lose, and they could gain so much by opening up with generosity to their loyal fan base…


…a conspiracy theory! – After Bon died, AC/DC quickly recruited a new singer (Brian Johnson) and went on to release Back in Black, their most successful album ever. Bon was not credited for the work he did on the album before he died, which means that no royalties ever made their way back to his estate. But it is entirely possible that he did write some of those songs…(Clinton isn’t alone in this suspician – see the controversy raging on this fan discussion board… those in favour of the theory that Bon WAS involved in the album cite the “fact” that the band never subsequently released anything anywhere near the quality of Back in Black…)

On a less conspiratorial note… Bass player Mark Evans, who got the chop from the band in 1977 “for being too pretty”, still lives here in Sydney. He plays blues with the “Tice & Evans Blues Combo” every Saturday arvo at the Sandringham Hotel in Newtown.

Speaking of Sydney, Malcolm owns an enormous mansion on the water in Balmain. (How much of the year does he spend there? Could he be sitting in there now, not 15 minutes drive from my own living room in Petersham, at the other end of the 445 bus route?) Malcolm’s mansion was formerly known as “Cockroach Castle”…

Going out on a limb now… in Clinton’s opinion, if Bon hadn’t died in 1980, he probably would have left the band a few years later anyway, to pursue a solo career. His creativity may have needed more space to grow than was afforded by the band.

Phew. Enough with the factoids and theories! Back to work, people!

12 thoughts on “Meeting Clinton Walker”

  1. It’s awesome to do a book on Bon but to taint it with conspiracy related slander is a crime.
    Clinton should have done 2 books, one book telling Bon’s true story based on the facts and a second based on the bullshit quoted above.
    The Young brothers are tuff characters and if they ever met Mr Walker face to face I would not be suprised if either of them gave him a good crack to the jaw.
    I have seen video of Angus talking of Bon and he had nothing but love and respect for this man to imply that they wanted Bon to Die and encouraged his party lifestyle so as this would happen is TOTAL BULLSHIT.
    Bon was responsible for his own life and death end of story.
    Phil Rudd played drums on all the classic Bon era material the drummers before and after did not match his skill and the band has every right to pick the right members to suit their music.
    Yes they treated it as a business because it is their livelyhood, their way to survive this is what the Young brothers do and they do it well and they know this so they take themselves very seriously and won’t allow others to fuck up their hard work.
    If they didn’t have this attitude or work as hard as they did to establish themselves we might never have been lucky to have experienced them and music the World over would be a hell of a lot softer.
    Mark Evans was replaced by Cliff Williams because he is a better bass player his sound and style was a great improvement to the band.
    Bon talks of this in an interview with Molly Meldrum of countdown which is on the extra features of the AC/DC Plug Me In DVD.
    It comes across in a very obvious way that because the Young brothers refused to talk with Clinton whist doing his book he took a grudge against them and tried to slander their names with speculation and outright lies.
    Considering that there is so little published work on AC/DC this is a real shame. yes Clinton you should be ashamed of yourself and I hope you run into the one of the Young Brothers one day and they set you straight.

  2. Whoa Damo!

    Do ya really think that Clinton’s book amounts to slander? While I agree that the Young brothers don’t come out looking super rosy in Clinton’s book, don’t you think that if they had a serious objection to what he wrote, they might have done something about it by now? I dunno, they might have taken action against the publisher to have the story corrected or something? I must say, although I have no vested interest in supporting Clinton’s version of events, I did get a strong impression from meeting Clinton that he feels certain he could back up everything he wrote in the book if it was challenged. Clinton’s bio on Bon was published way back in the early 1990s, and it’s now onto its third edition or something – basically unchanged, except for a small update because on the guy who was hanging out with Bon on his last night finally came out of the woodwork and told the full story a couple of years ago.

    The conspiracy you mention, Damo, that Angus and Malcolm encouraged Bon’s party lifestyle so he would die… I must have missed that in the book… Does Clinton really imply that?

    But googling around, it seems you’re not alone! There are some reader reviews over on Amazon that imply the same thing. For instance, fan Micheal Hunt from Melbourne, in a largely positive review entitled “Mr Walker sure has done his homework!”, criticises Clinton for what he sees as an excessively anti-Young-bros stance:

    “I get a strong vibe that [Walker] feels that the Youngs pushed him into his grave, and drove him to drink himself to death. But I dont think so, Bon i’m sure died of a broken heart after splitting up with his girl.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really know enough to take sides on this whole thing. I haven’t read any other AC/DC books yet, although I’ve got the Englehart one sitting on the desk waiting for me… But I do find the lack of consensus fascinating. And the way that fans like you take passionate ownership of the history. The official stories are still yet to be cemented in place, and you’re not content to leave the writing of those stories to “experts”. Not that I think Clinton would regard himself as an “expert” anyway… more a fan who did a bunch of research and wrote a book. I’m sure he would welcome another version of Bon’s life story, if someone were to write one…

  3. Well I read it ages ago and I picked up on his negative attitude towards the Youngs just like Micheal Hunt did and I think it sux.
    By the way I wonder if Micheal Hunt sometimes calls himself Mike Hunt try saying it fast as one word lol.
    Glad you made it to the unveiling keep up the great work.
    x Damo

  4. This seems crazy.As an acdc fan I realise that there are two eras of acdc .Bon is naturally most peoples’ favourite.I grew up on acdc it may be hard to realise but acdc has been kept pure by the lack of bullshit written about them There are no bizarre photos in the gossip mags….acdc fans aren’t interested in all the hype just the music and the freedom of expression that Bon and the boys gave musically to those from the wrong side of the tracks Listen to ” LIVE WIRE ” and ”PROBLEM CHILD ” for example.People can babble on all they like and analyse it to infinity but if an acdc fan has to explain why they they love acdc the person they are talking to will never understand anyway . enough said . cheers .

  5. As early as the 1st chapter of his book, Mr Walker gives ample evidence of a resentment towards both Albert Productions and The Youngs for failing to grant him permission to use AC/DC’s music in what originally started out as an idea for a film. This resentment can be detected throughout the remainder of his book at regular intervals, the nadir being a supposed quote from Mark Evans ‘That it was gonna be both me and Bon!’ when his departure from the group is mentioned. As stubborn and headstrong as The Young brothers are depicted in the book, I doubt that Malcolm ever gave serious consideration to ‘giving Bon the arse’ (to paraphrase what was written.)
    Mr Walker deserves credit for his research and his success in documenting the memories and tales of Bon’s friends and acquaintances; however the resentful undertone which pervades throughout the entire tome turns what should have been a definitive book (think ‘The Severed Alliance’ or ‘Catch a Fire’ into merely a decent read. Pity.

  6. Hey there. I so would love to email Clinton Walker. I just translated his book for the Italian market.
    Scott Too Much

  7. Hi Roger – (and Tanya too)

    I’m afraid the contact I have for Clinton isn’t working any more. If I manage to track him down I’ll let you know.

    Roger, sono sicuro che Clinton sarebbe felicissimo sapere che tu avessi tradotto il libro!


  8. clintons book for the most part isnt trustworthy
    but after bon died the back in black album was out in 5 months!
    if someone fell out a cherry tree thinking he didnt write alot of the stuff
    and why credit bon? would have to divy up the money to his mum
    met malcom once when i was living in perth what a prick!

  9. Spuds, to be fair, what book about AC/DC can be said to be really and truly ‘trustworthy’?

    The band is often described as ‘legendary’ for a reason. The stories that circulate become myths and legends. And although lots of people who were there at the time are still around, no individual holds the whole story. And each person has his/her own take on the situation, or has something at stake in their version being held as the official one.

    For good or bad, that pretty much sums up history in general!

    I agree with you that the “Bon wrote a significant portion of Back in Black and didn’t get credited for it” theory can be quite compelling, when you consider the quality of the material for the album, and the rapidity with which it emerged after his death.

    And yet, there’s no evidence that I know of (yet). Where is that legendary notebook?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *