Bon Scott is a legend of Australian rock and roll. The skinny front man from AC/DC had charm and charisma by the bucketful. He could sing, he could swagger he could play the bagpipes. During a period when Brian Cadd and Barry Crocker were topping the Australian charts, Bon was more than a breath of fresh air. He was the double strength Red Bull to music’s vanilla flavour at the time.
Bon was singing with Adelaide pop band The Valentines when in September 1969 they ventured down the Geelong highway for two weeks rehearsals in Torquay. They holed up at the Jan Juc Surf Life Saving Club in order to rehearse a new band line up. Torquay was a pretty quiet place back then. Still a major tourist destination in summer, but things got very quiet in the winter months. The surf industry was still in its infancy and Jan Juc beach was a cold remote beach that only the hardiest surfers ventured to.
For two weeks the band rehearsed away making as much noise as they wanted to while in the sand dunes behind the surf club, police from Melbourne (who had been tipped off about the band using drugs by one of their pop rivals) bunkered down with binoculars and hot thermos looking for any signs of drug taking.
On a cold Saturday night in late September, the police knocked on the door of the surf club and found a pipe and quantity of Moroccan powder. The Valentines were busted and it made national headlines. Influential music magazine of the time Go-Set reported, “The pop world rocked last week when the police raided the practice hide-way of top pop group the Valentines, and found them in possession of the drug, marijuana.”
It was a scandal. The first major drug bust of any band in Australia and although mainstream culture was shocked it merely reinforced the bad boy image that a number of rock bands at the time were started to promote. Five months later band members appeared in Geelong Court and received a $150 fine and a good behaviour bond.
Bon didn’t hold back. In a number of interviews he stated that pot should be legalised and the police should keep to themselves.
In a round about way, Bon found his singing and political voice as a direct result of the Jan Juc bust. Within four years he would replace Dave Evans as lead singer of AC/DC and the rock world would change forever.
Written by John Foss