James: When I was working on Bad Boy Boogie, I read your book The Story of AC/DC-Let There Be Rock, how many books have you written now?
Susan: I have written six books so far-
Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy-My Life and Time with AC/DC, Van Halen, Kiss…
Famous WI Musicians-Foreword by Les Paul
The Story of AC/DC-Let There Be Rock-now in 11 languages
Family Tradition-Three Generations of Hank Williams
The Secrets of the Universe-Universal Laws, Past Lives and Ghost Adventures
AC/DC FAQ-All That’s Left to Know About the World’s True Rock and Roll Band-Foreword by Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
And you write heaps of articles for magazines?
Susan: I have, but not as much in the past few years. I did write a blog for my publisher for their Back Wing website, and I also wrote the introduction to the debut issue of Overdose Magazine.
James: AC/DC FAQ came out in 2015, are you working on a new book now?
Susan: I am considering a spiritual/self-help book at this time, and pursuing a movie deal for my book, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.
James: From reading about your life and your books, you seem to have a wonderful time – do you have any favourite stories that still make you smile?
Susan: OMG, I have so many! One of my favorites is when I got to hide behind the road cases on stage to watch AC/DC play in Milwaukee in 1978 when they opened for UFO. It is in my book if you want me to find the excerpt.
Susan: OK. “I worked out a place on stage at the Riverside, right behind some road cases. It was about as close as I could get without getting in their way. The band came out and ripped it up in proper AC/DC style; the crowd was going wild for them. There were many amazed faces staring back from the audience.
When Angus got on Bon’s shoulders and went out into the crowd they even made it up into the balcony of the theater. After a while we could hear Angus’s lead guitar but we couldn’t see them anymore. Angus was wailing away, but I couldn’t spot him anywhere. I noticed some of the audience looking around too. Just as I was thinking, where the hell is he? I felt this soft tap on my right elbow. My sister was on my left, so I turned around and there was Angus crouched down behind me jamming away! When I turned and looked at him he motioned for me to scoot over to the left and as I did, he rushed back out onstage. The roar from the crowd was thunderous (or maybe it was Angus’s guitar).”
James: Once you started transferring your experiences to the written word did the buzz from being backstage ever wear off?
Susan: No, the buzz of being backstage never rubs off. Especially with a band like AC/DC!
James: Surely when you’re backstage in an official capacity your approach to being there alters: can you say a bit about how you work when you’re trying to write a story?
Susan: Absolutely! I always carried a notebook and pen and made tons of notes during a show or an interview. We used to carry recorders and record an interview right after a show. That to me was extremely more interesting than doing phone interviews. My approach being backstage has always been business first. My goal (especially as a female reporter), was to come back to my paper with a story. I usually figure out how to open a story and how to end it. Then you just fill in the middle.
James: Great. Do you have any recordings of the interviews available?
Susan: In the back of The Story of AC/DC-Let There Be Rock, the 2009 edition contains an audio CD at the back of the book featuring the interview I did with the whole band in December of 1977. It can be ordered from Amazon.
James: If you were going to a deserted island and had to choose one AC/DC album, which one would it be?
James: Yes, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect rock and roll album. My favourites are Bullet to Bite On, Gone Shootin’ and What’s Next to the Moon. Also, Down Payment Blues. Ah, damn they’re all good. Did you know Bon Scott was a big Hank Williams fan? Can you see any similarities between Bon and Hank’s lyrics?
Susan: I agree! My favorites are Riff Raff, Gone Shootin’, and Down Payment Blues. That album is also a favorite of Malcolm’s and Keith Richards.
Especially since I have written about both Bon and Hank Williams, they were very similar indeed. They both wrote lyrics about what was happening to them in their own personal lives. Bon carried a notebook of lyric ideas and Hank wrote on little scraps of paper that he kept in his wallet. They both had a genius way of phrasing their lyrics, and their lyrics were often written about something that everyone could relate to. The fact that they both died at such young ages, and left such a legacy of music, is both eerie and remarkable.
James: Interesting. I made a table of the themes of Bon’s lyrics. If you agree with the table, you’ll see that nearly half of his songs were love songs. And often within those love songs the voice of the song, the singer, is the one experiencing unrequited love. Does this surprise you in any way? Do you think this goes against the common perception of Bon’s lyrics?
Susan: Very cool lists, James! I do agree with you, although I’ll bet a lot of the fans don’t realize it. Bon was always so upbeat and acting like he was having a great time. I know through research and what he told his friends not that long before his death, that he was tired, burned out and lonely.
Sadly, being on the road for 13 years before his death, (counting Fraternity and the Valentines), Bon had a hard time keeping a relationship. Some (Silver) weren’t healthy for him, and I read that he wanted to move to California, buy a house and settle down. Being around him from time to time between 1977-1979, I had no idea he was lonely. It makes me sad that I didn’t know.
James: Why do you think Silver and others were a bad influence on Bon? Surely he was his own man who could make his own decisions?
Susan: From what I have read, Silver was into heroin, which was also the case with the man Bon spent his last night with. Bon could make his own decisions, and he could also get blind drunk, which was usual for him. There are many unanswered questions on why Alistar Kinnear (?) left Bon lying flat on his back in a car in the middle of February. Especially when the whole band and band manager were in London and a phone call away. Kinnear claims he called Silver for advice. How about take him to the hospital because he was passed out cold, not leave him alone in a car to die?
James: Yes there are many unanswered questions and it was a tragedy, but I’m not sure you can point the finger at any one person being responsible. If there was, charges would have been laid. Nor do I think you can blame Silver Smith without asking her yourself. A lot of what has been written about her seems hyperbolic and to blame her for Bon’s alcohol consumption seems a bit unfair. Overall, I take your point, Bon’s life could have been saved. Do you remember what you were doing the day you heard he had died?
Susan: I agree, James, and good point on many aspects. You can’t blame any one person except for the decision to leave him alone.
Actually, I was listening to an AC/DC song on the radio, on my way to pick up my terminally ill mother from the hospital. At the end of the song, the DJ came on the air and said, “And that was for the late Bon Scott who was found dead in a car in London…” As soon as I heard the words, I pulled over and burst into tears. I had just seen them play the previous October, and I never imagined it would be the last time I would see Bon. He was a real sweetheart, and I am honored to have known him.
James: The other aspect of Powerage in my opinion is that it represents for me Bon Scott’s coming of age lyrically. You’ve mentioned the phrasing – are there any particular lyrics of Bon’s that you think are just perfect?
Susan: Yes, I have several. “Dog Eat Dog,” is the story of life in one song. I love “Let There Be Rock” and how prophetic it is. …15 million fingers learnin’ how to play, and you can hear those fingers pickin’, and this is what they had to say…Let there be ROCK! 🙂
James: Yes I love the balance between the past and the future in Let There Be Rock. The references to Chucky Berry and The Book of Genesis ground the lyric. The ironical self reference ‘and the singer turned and he said to the crowd’.
But it’s also the way the structure of the song lends itself to the allegory of the theme – the way Bon shuts up and let’s there be rock in the last third, the kind of structure that I dare say Mutt Lange would not attempt.
Allegory is an aspect rarely explored in AC/DC criticism but they had been working on the idea of Rock as a religious symbol for some time before Bon’s death. Hell recurs continuously as a state to be enjoyed. Do you think AC/DC were alone in this approach or were other bands doing this in the 70’s too?
Susan: I believe it influenced plenty of bands at the time. Look at Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for example. I think their music (I know personally) became like a religion to us at the time. Their music was the end all, be all. Whatever Jimmy Page was playing, or Ozzy was singing was the what we looked up to.
Bon dressing as a preacher in the Let There Be Rock video also backs up the idea of rock and roll being a religion and not just an art form. Now there are signs all over Facebook stating, “AC/DC is my religion.” Funny also, that their roadie Barry Taylor left the band and became a minister, and wrote a book about how religion and pop culture are intertwined.
James: Haha that’s hilarious.
I want to thank you so much for your time Susan. Can you reveal anything to us about your next book?
Susan: You are very welcome, James. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 I am still promoting my AC/DC FAQ book, and my next book will be a spiritual/self-help book. Unless a rock star captures my attention first. Please feel free to include my website, www.susanmasino.com, and thank you so much! It was a pleasure.