Stevo from Gosnells is a one heckuva collector.
I got his number from Robi at the Fremantle Arts Centre. As is often the case with the Bon Scott tragics I’ve been meeting lately, my tentative phone call, which is supposedly just “to work out if you might be up for a visit”, results in an avalanche of information being transmitted right then and there on the phone.
“I’m the biggest collector I know!” Steve said, and then he launched into a big list of the AC/DC items he owns. I had to rein him in – a lot of the stuff he was saying didn’t make any sense to me at all. Blue labels? Certificates of authenticity?? Souvenir songbooks??? Bon’s face on a dollar bill????
I jumped in the old Ford Laser with Bec the photographer and her trusty sister/assistant Brenda, and we arrived at Stevo’s place around sunset. Gosnells is an old suburb of Perth, but the section where Stevo and his wife Veronica live, with their kids Chelsea and Hayden, is pretty new. It’s the kind of place where the bush was cleared to make an expanse of sandy desert and then the roads were laid out before anyone even thought of buildings. The streets are winding labyrinthine configurations that look like the drawing of a brain from the air. It’s tricky to find your way around. Houses take up a significant portion of the land mass, and the smallish lawns and bubbling ponds tend to be well manicured. Everything (except the grass and the road) is coloured beige.
You might not expect to discover an oasis of Bon in all this suburban utopia. Wasn’t Bon the antithesis of suburban living? But I guess the Western Australian mining boom has been good to tradies, which might explain why fans like Stevo have begun to occupy this kind of real estate.
Stevo is a roof tiler. He works tradies’ hours, finishing around three pm each day. He’s set it up so that if he has an Ebay auction finishing while he’s at work, he can duck home, make his final bids, then catch up on his tiling later.
Online auctions are the main thing Stevo does on the internet. Apart from that, the virtual world is a bit of a mystery to him. For Stevo, the web is just a tool he can use to acquire tangible objects, namely, Bon-Scott-era AC/DC paraphernalia.
Stevo and Veronica invited us in. Arrayed across a large black pool table were dozens of albums, many of them autographed in black marker pen. While Veronica organised beers and iced water and peanuts and salty biscuits for us, I rummaged through the collection with Stevo.
Stevo hasn’t been collecting long. He began dabbling online a few years back, looking for first edition records from the 1970s. Apparently, you know they’re authentic Aussie LPs by the dark blue label with the little drawing of a kangaroo on it. He showed me a “blue label” copy of Dirty Deeds. It was in “mint” condition. I wondered how this could be possible, given that the record is more than 30 years old. It must never have been played. Which means either that someone was given the record as a gift and didn’t like AC/DC (unlikely) or that it’s a special copy purchased by another collector, way back in 1977, and put aside carefully as a legacy for the future (much more likely).
Stevo’s collecting obsession really took off at the 2007 fundraising concert for the Bon Scott statue:
“Backstage at that concert I got a few autographs on a big poster. Buzz from the Angels and Angry Anderson and Dave Evans and Mark Evans. Then for some reason all these rockers threw their weight behind my autograph-collecting project. It turned into this frenzy, everyone racing around trying to assemble a full set of signatures for me.”
[Stevo and Veronica unfurl the autographed poster…]
Stevo got everyone who played at the concert to sign the poster, except for a teenage AC/DC tribute group called The Flairz. I forgot to ask why he missed their signatures. Maybe they were too young to hang out with the adults backstage or something.
After that concert, a collecting bomb went off inside Stevo’s head. He went autograph crazy. The pride of his collection is a first edition of Let There Be Rock. He bought it from EBay – it came from America, and had all the AC/DC autographs except Mark Evans’. Then Stevo met Mark at the Bon Scott concert and got him to complete the set.
“The thing about Let There Be Rock“, said Stevo, “is that although Mark Evans played bass on it, the album wasn’t released until after he’d already left the band. So all the other signed copies of Let There Be Rock lack Mark’s signature. This may in fact be the only copy in the world with a complete set.”
Stevo’s enthusiasm is surprisingly infectious. It made me stop and think. Having Bon Scott’s scrawl on the cover of the album meant that at some time in the past – probably after a concert – a nervous fan had fronted up with the sleeve, together with a specially-purchased indelible texta. Bon Himself, sweaty and exhilarated after giving the performance of his life, had taken the album in His own hands, and written on it. And now, here I was, in a kitchen in Gosnells, holding that same piece of cardboard. How many cities had it visited, how many hands had the album passed through, on its journey to me?
Then again, I was a bit concerned about the autograph thing. Stevo said these signed albums often cost over 500 bucks. I wondered what would stop cunning profiteering forgers from “manufacturing” signatures to sell to devotees like Stevo.
He wasn’t entirely sure himself. The signed albums often come with authenticity certificates, but who authenticates the authenticator? Do you have to resort to something like this service, which runs a whole barrage of scientific tests including DNA and “Video Spectral” comparisons? Caveat Emptor! There are warnings galore online about faked AC/DC signatures.
Googling around some of these authentication sites, I found this image:
Yowsa. What a strange world of arbitrary value. Fake is “worth” nothing… real is “worth” shitloads! But aren’t they both “just” baseballs with a scrawl of ink?
And what about poor old fans like Stevo, who would never dream of selling their collections? Could Stevo, I worried, be in possession of a set of fakes?
If they are fake, in some ways it would be better he never found out. Stevo is in it for the love. But if his stuff is real, then Veronica and the family could be looking at a nice little nest egg for later on, when (heaven forbid) Stevo heads off to join Bon in that big backstage in the sky…
Back in the Den, Stevo and Veronica rummaged through a huge stack of T shirts to find the right one for the photo shoot. Veronica went off to iron their chosen shirts, and brush her hair, and then they were ready to have their portrait taken. Bec tried out a bunch of different arrangements, but eventually decided that Stevo’s own aesthetic configuration was best: a wall of carefully framed CDs and posters behind, and his custom-built Jack Daniels pool table in front.
While Bec clicked away, Stevo and Veronica’s 14 year old son Hayden wandered into the kitchen. I was poring over all the stuff Stevo had laid out for me, including an AC/DC comic book, and his own growing list of signatures still to be obtained… I asked Hayden what kind of music he listens to. “Ah you know, the new stuff they play on the radio,” he said. But he digs AC/DC when dad plays it, and pretty much gets about non-stop in his Bon Scott baseball cap. “And what do you think of this huge pile of Bon Scott stuff your dad collects?” I asked. He paused and thought for a moment. “Expensive,” he replied.
Before we left Gosnells, Stevo hit us with a barrage of numbers. As much as he’s obsessed with first-edition records and autographed posters, he’s also constantly ruminating about coincidences in numbers and dates. These things hold great significance for him.
“When we bought this house, the keys were handed to us on July the 9th. Right? That’s Bon’s birthday. And when we put the house on the market to sell it, just a few weeks ago, guess what date it was? The 19th of February – the day Bon died! And whenever I buy lottery tickets, I always use those three numbers: 9, 19, and 33.”
Stevo is now 33: the same age as Bon when he died, drunk in a car in the freezing cold in a suburb of London, a million miles from Gosnells.