He was best known to millions of fans around the world as the lead singer of Australia’s and, arguably, the world’s greatest rock band, AC/DC. But to Mary Renshaw and John and Gabby D’Arcy, he was a very dear friend. John D’Arcy was Bon’s roadie and a good mate; Gabby was a fan and a close friend of Bon’s and eventually became John’s wife and Mary began a close friendship with Bon that grew into something very special.
The three have been good friends since Bon’s days with The Valentines and, between them, have enough memories of the man to write a book. And that is precisely what they have done. ‘Live Wire’ is a memoir by three of the people who knew him best. I spoke with Mary recently about her long and treasured friendship with the singer and what led to the idea to write a book. “I was sitting around talking to Gabby and D’Arcy one day about all the rubbish that you read about Bon and we talked about how we should write a book and really tell the story of who the real Bon was,” she explains. “We’d known him longer than most people so we started working on that.” And it has been a labour of love.
Mary first met Bon in 1968 at a venue in Melbourne called 10th Avenue. “That was the first time I‘d ever seen The Valentines,” she recalls. “One of my girlfriends had seen them before so we went along together and when I was outside, Bon just came up to me and asked me about the beads that I had around my neck. I told him that I’d made them myself and he asked me if I could make him some and so I did.”
From that day on, the two were friends. “I think we both sort of fancied each other in a funny way,” she admits. “But through The Valentines days, it always remained just a really good friendship. We got along like a house on fire; we just clicked.”
Mary says “Bon was a genuine, incredibly likable, cheeky, fun but deep person. He wasn’t a snob. He was just a good guy and totally genuine. If he didn’t like you, you’d know it but there weren’t that many people around that he didn’t like. He got along with women, he got along with men, he got along with fathers and he got along with mothers and everybody genuinely loved him because he was genuinely a good guy.”
She remembers when Bon had just joined a band called AC/DC and they were playing at Hard Rock Café in Melbourne. “I’d left a message at Hard Rock when I heard that he was going to be the singer of that band and he rang me that day. I went to see him play that night and he came back to my flat in Carlton. I made him sleep on the lounge room floor on my big pillows but the next night he come over again and said he wasn’t sleeping on the lounge room floor any more. I had just separated from my husband and Bon had just left Irene and so we had a relationship at that point. Our relationship ended due to a stupid misunderstanding but even though our relationship in that way ended, we basically just kept the friendship going and it made us probably closer than ever. I went overseas for my work and stayed there for nine months so we wrote to each other a bit. He told me about his life and all the stuff that AC/DC were doing. He wrote really funny, informative letters about AC/DC and other bands that they were probably supporting like Skyhooks and when I came back, we started hanging out together again and then Bon went overseas and we just kept writing letters and we kept the friendship going.”
Mary recalls that Bon was very happy when he was overseas with the band. “They worked really hard. In the letters, he was just telling me the different venues that he played at and how people were really enjoying the shows. He had come back here just after Christmas 1979 and spent about a week or a week and a half at my shop. He was really looking forward to the next album coming out and was in really high spirits about that. When he had to go back to Perth, I drove him to the airport, said goodbye and then …” The time that Mary spent with Bon when he came back to Melbourne before he passed away is something she will always cherish. “We had a really good time and I was really pleased that he’d come back and that I spent those last times with him. It was a shock when Irene and I were talking on the phone after he’d gone and having a laugh about Bon and just who he was… and just an hour later, Irene rang to say that he’d passed away…”
Remembering the early days when their relationship was just beginning makes her smile. “He was good to be around. There were just so many things about Bon. There were so many good things. There are some really, really good memories. He really thought that the new album was going to make it really big. He’d always wanted to settle down but he needed to do this one thing first. He was driven to be famous as a rock ‘n’ roll singer. And he is famous but he’s not around to see how much people loved him and what a rock and roll legend he is and all the different stories and the different books. He’d be up there laughing his head off so the purpose of the book is to get the real story across. Each story is different because each person knew him in a different way so it’s a very good read just for that reason. It’s three different perspectives so I suppose it’s an interesting read for all Bon Scott fans.”
Bon set Mary many letters throughout their friendship and she is grateful that she kept them all. “I would always wait to get a letter from him and they were always so interesting and funny so I’m glad that I’ve still got all of that. It keeps his memory alive, not as Bon from AC/DC but as Bon, my friend.”
Mary’s last three words sum it all up. “I miss him…”
by Sharyn Hamey
Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2015. All rights reserved