Bon Scott Homilies Linger Beyond The Grave


May 16, 2008

Most teenagers would probably think hanging out in a cemetery was a very uncool thing to do at the weekend — unless you are Rebecca Dagnall, and the grave you are visiting belongs to the late AC/DC frontman Bon Scott.

When photographer Dagnall was 15, she made regular pilgrimages from her Thornlie home to visit Scott’s gravesite at Fremantle Cemetery. At that stage a huge AC/DC fan and a lover of heavy metal, she looks back on these frequent vigils — as much social gatherings as a tribute to a lost rocker — with fondness and nostalgia.

“Me and my teenage girlfriends used to go down to Bon Scott’s grave practically every second weekend and do what teenage girls do, which is drink beer and sit around talking and singing until 3am, then try to work out how the hell we were going to get home,” she laughs.

So when the Fremantle-based photographer learnt that the Fremantle Arts Centre was hosting The Bon Scott Project, a month-long celebration of the pint-sized man with the big vocal cords, she jumped at the chance to take part. Dagnall placed ads in community newspapers asking for Scott fans to come forward and be photographed. Responses were swift, coming from suburbs as far afield as Scarborough and Rockingham.

At a Bon Scott tribute concert in February, she found more devotees — in particular, one Hamilton Hill clan consisting of about 26 family members, whom she photographed in a games-room shrine bedecked with AC/DC posters, plaques, photographs and memorabilia.

“I basically wanted to involve the fans on an artistic level,” Dagnall says. “I wanted it to be collaborative, so I asked the fans to set up a space in their home that shows their dedication to Bon Scott. I sent out photos of Elvis shrines to give people an idea of what I meant.”

There were a few exceptions to the in-house rule, however. Dagnall also photographed a group of hardcore fans at Billy Weston’s Pool and Snooker in Scarborough, which they described as their second home.

In one shot, eight Bon Scott devotees lean over a pool table draped with the Australian flag; in another, the group pose around tables, candles flickering from the tops of Jack Daniels bottles.

Ten-year-old AC/DC fan Charlie emerged as one of the stars of Dagnall’s project. In one picture, he pulls a rock god pose on the floor, surrounded by Bon Scott’s name spelt out in tea lights, Scottish bagpipes nearby.

“The idea for the tea-light candles came from Charlie’s mum and aunty, but the other photograph I took of him, where he’s standing on top of a power box, was all his idea,” Dagnall says. “He basically art-directed the whole thing; the bagpipes, the guitar, the high-voltage powerbox. It was great because I got two very different shots on the same day.”

Another of Dagnall’s subjects was Justin, a member of former local heavy metal outfit Rawkus, which Rolling Stone once anointed as The Loudest Band in the World.

“He set up his whole shed with all his old guitars and tonnes of music gear behind him and sat on his amps with a photo of himself taken 10 years ago during a lightning storm,” she says.

“He had really long red hair and it was all standing up on end. We got that old photo printed up as big as we could and replicated what he was doing in that photo. It looks fantastic.”

Another fan, Glen, is just one of many people Dagnall has met in the past six months who surprised her with the ferocity of his fandom.

She says she was explaining her project to him when he lifted up his shirt, exposing a back covered in Bon Scott tattoos, and said: “Well, does this show my dedication to Bon Scott?” She photographed him in various situations; by his pool, grabbing a beer, lying with his girlfriend. We never see his face; his tattooed back truly is the window to his soul.

The Bon Scott Exhibition opens tomorrow night at Fremantle Arts Centre and runs until June 29.

Courtesy of