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Bon Scott & Angus Young, Atlanta, Georgia, 1978 (printed 2010)

Rennie Ellis

gelatin silver photograph, selenium toned (sheet: 40.5 cm x 50.5 cm, image: 29.2 cm x 43.7 cm)

Angus Young (b. 1955), guitarist/ songwriter, was a founding member of Australia’s most successful ever band, AC/DC. Glasgow-born brothers of The Easybeats’s George Young, Malcolm and Angus Young formed the band in Sydney in 1973, with Angus soon adopting his trademark school uniform onstage. Ronald ‘Bon’ Scott (1946–1980) had come to Australia with his family in 1952, aged six; had lived in Melbourne and Fremantle, where he joined a pipe band; had dropped out of school at fifteen; and had spent some time in custody. By 1974, Scott was working at a fertiliser plant by day and writing songs at night. Artistic differences had arisen between AC/DC and their lead singer, Dave Evans, and Scott had had a terminal falling-out with his own loose group, the Mount Lofty Rangers. He liked AC/DC but thought they were too young to rock; they thought he was too old to rock; but their first jam session was enough to ratify the first AC/DC lineup. The following year, with two albums and four huge singles in Australia, the band was signed to an international deal, but American success did not come until Highway to Hell reached number 17 on the US charts in 1979. Bon told Rennie Ellis in 1978 that he could see no end to it, but two years later he was dead, having inhaled his own vomit while ‘sleeping off’ a bender in a parked car in London. His grave in Fremantle is the most-visited grave in Australia. Largely thanks to Angus Young’s star status, AC/DC weathered the loss of Scott and his replacement by Brian Johnston. Back in Black, issued five months after Scott’s death, is one of the world’s all- time highest-selling albums.

Rennie Ellis (1940–2003) interviewed Scott and Young for the documentary Australian Music to the World in Atlanta, Georgia in 1978. Earlier in the night Ellis had seen the band play, Bon’s ‘tight, firm tattooed body a pronounced contrast to the pallid, underdeveloped torso of the convulsing, grimacing Angus … Bon is charging into the audience, the paperweight Angus astride his shoulders still plucking frenetically at his radio pick-up controlled guitar.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010
© Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive

Accession number: 2010.106

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Rennie Ellis (age 38 in 1978)

Angus Young (age 23 in 1978)

Bon Scott (age 32 in 1978)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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