This Day In Rock Music History: Feb. 19, 1980 – The Death of AC/DC’s Bon Scott

I am not really an AC/DC fan unless we’re talking about the music that came before the tragedy that occurred on February 19th, 1980. That tragedy was the death of their best singer, Bon Scott, and it is also what helped turn AC/DC into one of the most overrated, predictably boring bands to ever gain a massive following. (This is all opinion on my part and not fact in any way).

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few tracks after 1980 that are cool, and I really liked The Razor’s Edge album when it came out, but they were never the same to me after Bon Scott left this mortal plain.


AC/DC is your basic three-chord rock band, and they have been one of the most influential acts to ever grace the stage. The band was formed in 1973 by the Scottish-born brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, which makes AC/DC a whole year older than I am at the time of this writing.

They went through several lineup changes before unveiling their first album in 1975. That album was called High Voltage and featured Bon Scott on vocals. Angus was the lead guitarist, Malcolm supplied rhythm guitar, Phil Rudd on drums, and bassist Mark Evans (Cliff Williams replaced him in 1977).

In the following years, AC/DC would drop 7 more albums with Bon, many of which exhibit the same song structure that would make the band a hit worldwide, but they were never as interesting to me as they were with Bon handling the vocals.

Tragedy Strikes

Bon never shied away from a night’s party, and alcohol seems to have been his biggest vice. Bon drank to deal with the stress of being in a touring band, but the “sex, drugs, and rock n roll” cliche isn’t conducive to a safe or sober lifestyle; this was particularly true during the 70s and 80s.

In February 1980, Bon was in London to work on what would be the Back in Black album. As per usual, this also meant there were several nights of intense partying, which included heavy consumption of alcohol.

Sometime during the late evening of the 18th and the early morning of the 19th, Scott passed out and died at 33 years old. He had visited a London club called the Music Machine with friends and was left to sleep it off in a car owned by Alistair Kinnear. Later that day, Kinnear returned and found Scott’s lifeless body and the car covered in vomit, and he immediately alerted the authorities. Bon was then taken to King’s College Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, where the coroner concluded that Scott had died of “acute alcohol poisoning,” and it was classified as “death by misadventure.”

These facts seem straightforward, but some questions and alternate theories exist behind Bon’s untimely demise.

I’m going to quote a chunk of the article that All That’s Interesting did on this back in 2021 … 

“The idea that a seasoned partier would die after a few drinks seemed unlikely to many. As biographer Jesse Fink wrote in a later account of Bon Scott’s death, “He was a prodigious drinker. The idea that seven double whiskeys would put him in the ground seems strange.

Combined with the confusing initial reports about the death, this fact gave rise to several conspiracy theories. Some have even suggested that he may have been murdered by someone who redirected the exhaust from the car, possibly because the other band members wanted to get rid of him.

This theory of foul play is unlikely. Instead, it’s possible that drugs might have played a role in his death. Scott was known to use heroin, and many of the people he was with on this final night were reportedly linked to hard drugs.”

As it turns out, Bon had actually overdosed on heroin twice before, and it’s entirely possible that the combination of alcohol and a third OD could be the reason for his passing. Of course, this is all theorizing and conjecture, but that doesn’t place it outside the realm of possibility.

A Tough Decision for AC/DC

Bon’s death left his bandmates in mourning and, with the most difficult decision of their musical careers, carry on with a new singer, quit, and move on. As we know, they decided to move ahead with Brian Johnson and would find even more success than they had up till that point. Of course, more drama would surround the first album with Brian, the highly successful Back in Black. The All That’s Interesting article had this to say …

“Some speculate that Scott had written much of what’s featured on the album. An ex-girlfriend of his claims to have seen his journals with lyrics to the famous hit “You Shook Me All Night Long” before his death.

Some felt he deserved posthumous credit for the album rather than his replacement Brian Johnson. After all, Scott had helped launch the band to fame and was critical to their early success as a group.”

No matter what anyone thinks, the band honored Bon’s legacy with Back in Black and have continued with the same type of music that they did when he was alive, albeit with a vocalist who I feel is nowhere near as talented, nor does he have the charisma that Bon exuded onstage and off.

Final Thoughts

Bon Scott lived only briefly, but his contributions to AC/DC helped gain them their first taste of success, and his legacy lives on even now, 43 years after his death. The band has sold millions of albums with Brian Johnson, but it was Bon who started them on that path, and I feel that fact gets overlooked in comparison to his successor.

This article was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.

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