Exclusive: AC/DC's Bon Scott died from drug overdose, claims new book

Bon Scott
Bon Scott (Image credit: Getty)

Jesse Fink, the author of a new book about AC/DC’s Bon Scott claims that the singer died as a result of heroin and not alcohol poisoning.

Bon: The Last Highway: The Untold Story Of Bon Scott And AC/DC’s Back In Black is out today via Black & White Publishing (opens in new tab) and examines Scott’s life and the final hours before his death in East Dulwich, London, in 1980.

An exclusive extract and interview with Fink are featured in the new issue of Classic Rock, onsale on Friday and available to subscribers today.

Fink, who also wrote The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC (opens in new tab), challenges the widely held belief that Scott died after a night of heavy drinking in the city’s Music Machine club.

He credits the work that Geoff Barton carried out for his groundbreaking piece on Bon Scott for Classic Rock in 2005, where the journalist brought to light new information about the mystery surrounding Scott’s death by interviewing UFO pair Paul Chapman and Pete Way.

Fink re-interviewed Chapman and Way for the book, tracked down other key figures including Scott’s former girlfriend Margaret ‘Silver’ Smith, and uncovered new information with regard to what happened between Scott and Alistair Kinnear leaving the club and the singer being found dead in a car outside Kinnear’s flat the following day.

Fink tells Classic Rock: “I spoke to both Chapman and Way for many hours, going over the sequence of events that Barton had laid out in his piece for Classic Rock. And what I discovered, the deeper I looked into it, was that Chapman and Way’s stories actually held up when it came to important, substantive details.

“Silver Smith and Joe Fury didn’t deny that Chapman was phoned with the news Bon was dead, and that Chapman then called Way to get a number for AC/DC.”

Fink continues: “The difficult part was reconciling Chapman and Way’s stories with the accounts of Joe, Silver and Kinnear, all of whom had their own versions of what took place between when Bon decided he was leaving his flat in Westminster on the night of February 18, 1980, to when he was pronounced dead on arrival at King’s College Hospital the following evening. The time-lines were all over the place.

“So the truth of what happened to Bon was in there somewhere, lost in this jumble of conflicting details and contradictions. It was a long, very involved process trying to make sense of all.”

He adds: “Then there was a breakthrough in my own investigation, involving Peter Perrett’s wife, Zena Kakoulli, who said she went with Bon and Alistair to East Dulwich after they’d left The Music Machine – she was inside Alistair’s apartment when Bon was in the car outside – and an eyewitness at the club who saw Bon ‘stoned’ on what this person clearly believed was heroin.

“That cast a whole new light on my interpretation of events. Clive Edwards, the drummer of Wild Horses, also told me Silver was at Jimmy Bain’s house snorting heroin when she got the call on the evening of the 19th to come to the hospital – not at home, as she claimed.

“In the end, I think I provided enough new information to show that Bon died from heroin and not from alcohol poisoning. The police investigation and the coroner’s inquest were substandard.”

The full interview along with the cover story featuring excerpts from the new book along with an exclusive interview Fink carried out with Silver Smith before her death in December last year, can be found in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which is out on Friday.

The last highway: the untold story of Bon Scott's death

Bon Scott - The Man Behind The Myth

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent more than 30 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. After initially joining our news desk in the summer of 2014, he moved to the e-commerce team full-time in 2020. He maintains Louder’s buyer’s guides, scouts out the best deals for music fans and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and has previous written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky. Scott grew up listening to rock and prog, cutting his teeth on bands such as Marillion and Magnum before his focus shifted to alternative and post-punk in the late 80s. His favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Drab Majesty, but he also still has a deep love of Rush.