The Angels (Australian band)

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The Angels
The Angels.jpg
The Angels live in 2008
Background information
Also known as Angel City, The Angels From Angel City
Origin Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Genres Hard rock, Australian pub rock
Years active 1974–2000, 2008–present
Labels Mushroom, Epic, Liberation Music, CBS, Albert Productions, Chrysalis
Associated acts The Party Boys, GANGgajang, Red Phoenix, Mount Lofty Rangers, The Brewster Brothers
Members The Angels
Rick Brewster
John Brewster
Dave Gleeson
Sam Brewster
Nick Norton

The Angels 100%
Buzz Bidstrup
Jim Hilbun
Bob Spencer
James Morley
Past members Doc Neeson
Charlie King
Chris Bailey
Brent Eccles

The Angels are an Australian rock band that formed in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974. The band later relocated to Sydney and enjoyed huge local success, clocking up hit singles across four decades, including "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again", "Take a Long Line", "Marseilles", "Shadow Boxer", "No Secrets", "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "Let the Night Roll On", and "Dogs Are Talking".

The Angels were cited by Guns N' Roses and a number of Seattle grunge bands, including Pearl Jam and Nirvana, as having influenced their music. In the international market, to avoid legal problems with the Casablanca Records' act Angel, their records were released under the names Angel City and later The Angels from Angel City.

Lead singer Doc Neeson who fronted the band from 1974-1999 left pre-Millennium due to spinal injuries sustained in a car accident. After spending most of the 2000s apart, in April 2008, the original 1970s line-up of the Angels reformed for a series of tours.

In January 2013 it was announced that lead singer Doc Neeson had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and would undergo immediate treatment.[1] Neeson died aged 67.

It was also revealed that bassist Chris Bailey (1950–2013) had been battling an aggressive cancer. Bailey died on 4 April 2013; a benefit concert was held at Thebarton Theatre in Adelaide on 17 April.[2]


Early 1970s[edit]

In November 1970, brothers Rick and John Brewster formed The Moonshine Jug and String Band. In 1971, the band was joined by Belfast-born Bernard Neeson, an arts student and former Army sergeant and already a prominent figure on the Adelaide music scene. The band performed at university campuses and in 1973 released their debut EP Keep You on the Move, which made the top 5 in Adelaide. This was followed in 1974 by the single "That's All Right With Me". Both these releases were on John Woodruff's Sphere label. Woodruff went on to become the band's manager for most of its career.

In 1974 they changed their name to The Keystone Angels, switched to electric instruments and began playing 1950s rock and roll on the pub circuit. On 3 August 1974, just before Go-Set magazine, a number of small ads started appearing weekly announcing "The KEYSTONE ANGELS are coming", possibly the first mention of the band in an Australian national rock music publication.[3] In 1975, the band supported AC/DC during a South Australian tour, and later performed as the backing band for Chuck Berry.[4]

Late 1970s: First three albums[edit]

In 1975, on the recommendation of Bon Scott and Malcolm Young from AC/DC, the band was offered a recording deal with the Albert label. They dropped "Keystone" from their name and became simply "The Angels". At this point the band had four members: Neeson on bass guitar, Charlie King (Peter Christopolous) on drums, Rick Brewster on lead guitars and John Brewster on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.

The Angels' first single, "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again", was released in April 1976. They made their TV debut appearance on Countdown. Later in the year, Charlie King, at the time AWL from the army, was replaced by Graham "Buzz Throckman" Bidstrup on the drums. This was the first of three different versions of the song the band released as singles throughout their career.

The band's second single, "You're A Lady Now", was released in July 1977, followed a month later by their self-titled debut LP, The Angels. By now Chris Bailey had joined the band on bass, allowing Neeson to concentrate on vocals. Bailey had been a member of Mount Lofty Rangers with Bon Scott in 1974. They released Round and Round, later remixed by Vince Lovegrove as Round and Round and Round in 1996. Neeson's move to specialist frontman allowed the band to develop an energetic and theatrical live presence. Neeson typically appeared on stage as a wild extrovert, dressed in a dinner suit and sometimes a bow tie, and shaking maracas. As a foil, Rick Brewster remained motionless and wore sunglasses for every performance. He has stated that Beethoven convinced him not to move on stage.

1978's Face to Face album reached No. 16 in November and stayed on the Australian charts for 79 weeks. Mark Opitz engineered, and along with the Angels, co-produced the album. Peter Ledger, who designed the cover, won Best Australian Album Cover Design Award.[citation needed] Face to Face contained the band's first hit single, "Take a Long Line", which has become one of the Angels' most-recognised songs. In November, the band supported David Bowie on his first Australian tour, resulting in The Tour EP 7" single.

On 23 June 1979, No Exit was issued and entered the Australian album chart at No. 8. George Young contributed as a backing vocalist. On 29 September 1979, Albert released the Out Of The Blue EP, featuring the third studio version of "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" in three years.

On New Year's Eve 1979, the band performed in front of almost 100,000 people on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Their show, however, was cut short when a riot broke out in the audience. Doc Neeson was cut by a broken bottle thrown by an audience member, and Chris Bailey was knocked unconscious by another bottle, with both members being taken to hospital and receiving stitches.[5]

1980s: Face to Face overseas version to Beyond Salvation[edit]

The band signed an international contract with CBS Records and, in March 1980, released a new version of Face to Face on the Epic label - a compilation of tracks from the Australian Face to Face and No Exit albums, plus an edited version of the 1979 studio version of "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again". The band billed itself as "Angel City" to avoid legal problems with the Casablanca Records' act Angel. The band has gone on to say they hated the international name "Angel City".

"We're basically a live band playing rock 'n' roll for people who want to come down and dance."

−Doc Neeson[6]

On 16 June 1980, Dark Room was produced by the Brewster brothers. The overseas version of this album featured re-recorded versions of "Ivory Stairs" and "Straight Jacket" in place of "Alexander" and "I'm Scared". American band Great White later covered "Face The Day" (from this LP), as well as "Can't Shake It" from No Exit.

In March 1981, drummer Graham Bidstrup left the band, reportedly due to non-musical differences, and was replaced by New Zealander Brent Eccles. Bidstrup joined The Party Boys in 1983 and later formed GANGgajang. On 24 October 1981, Never So Live was issued and received heavy airplay. On the strength of the new song "Fashion And Fame", it went to sell some 80,000 copies. On 30 November 1981, Night Attack, produced by Ed Thacker and the Brewsters, was released.

The band's third international album, Night Attack, included a remixed version of "Back On You", previously only available on the flipside of the "Into The Heat" single. Early in 1982, it became apparent Chris Bailey would be unable to tour with the band in the US; American Jim Hilbun was recruited as replacement.

In January, 1983, the Angels headlined the Narara Music Festival. Doc Neeson arranged for a film crew to capture the performance, as he intended the show to be his last with the band, planning to leave the Angels to pursue an acting career. The Angels Live at Narara was released on VHS videotape only.

In May 1983, Watch The Red, produced by the Angels and engineered by Andrew Scott and Al Wright, was issued. The first single release, "Stand Up", written by Hilbun, reached the Australian Top 10. The album, critically acclaimed for its musical inventiveness, was the first self-produced album and featured saxophone leads from Hilbun, John Brewster on lead vocals for one track, and even a piano accordion. A great deal of the material was also derived from a 40-minute jam-session, later released in Australia as "The Blow", including an instrumental track and some improvised lyrics from Neeson. The recording of the album was also dogged by a fire that gutted the recording studio, almost destroying the master tapes.

In November 1984, the Two Minute Warning album was released following a three-month recording session in Los Angeles. The American version of the album, on MCA, included a new version of the 1978 song "Be With You", which became the Angels' last commercially available single in the United States. Metal Blade Records re-issued the album in 1990. Unfortunately for the band, an internal personnel purge at MCA meant that Two Minute Warning received no support from the label. MCA rejected the Angels' next album.

As Angel City, they performed four songs for the 1985 Oz for Africa concert, part of the global Live Aid program: "Small Price", "Eat City", "Underground", and "Take a Long Line". They were broadcast in Australia, (on both the Seven Network and Nine Network), and on MTV in the US.[7]

On 27 January 1986, John Brewster's last concert with the band was a double in Melbourne at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl and The Palace. John Brewster was fired from the band in February 1986. In his place, the band hired ex-Skyhooks guitarist Bob Spencer in March 1986. In October 1986, Howling was released on the band's new label, Mushroom Records. This album included a cover version of The Animals hit, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" which, at No. 6, became the band's highest charting single up to that point, While the album enjoyed huge chart success also. In the meantime, John Brewster joined The Party Boys and stayed with them until 1989.

In December 1987, the double live album Liveline was released. The collection spanned ten years of the band's career. The majority of the album was recorded at the Bankstown RSL Club in Sydney, with some tracks taken from earlier tours featuring John Brewster. The CD version of Liveline included several songs not included on the vinyl release. A live version of "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" was issued as a single, as was a medley of "Love Takes Care" and "Be With You". Following the success of the album, the Angels embarked on a massive tour of Australia with a lengthy three-hour set that covered the entire history of the group. In 1998 Live-Line was later re-released as "The Definitive Digital Remaster" with 14 bonus tracks (4 from the original CD (not released on the vinyl edition) and 10 new unreleased tracks) - total of 34 tracks in all.

Chrysalis Records in the US issued Beyond Salvation (the band now billing itself internationally as "The Angels From Angel City") in November 1989. Domestic and international versions differed greatly, The international version included four new songs, three of which appeared on the Australian version of the album (along with 8 new tracks not available internationally), and new recordings of the classics "I Ain't The One", "Can't Shake It", "Who Rings The Bell", "City Out of Control" and "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again", none of which was made available in Australia. Alan Niven was signed on as manager of the band's affairs in the US. At the time, Niven was also managing Great White and Guns N' Roses. Jim Hilbun left during these recording sessions and was replaced by Australian James Morley on bass. Alan Niven bailed out soon after.

1990s: Beyond Salvation to Doc Neeson's departure[edit]

Neeson, The Forum, November 2008
Courtesy Mandy Hall

In June 1990, (the official Australian version of) Beyond Salvation was released and became the band's first and only No. 1 album. Produced by Terry Manning, the LP spawned five successful singles, including "Dogs are Talking" and "Backstreet Pickup". The flipside of "Dogs are Talking" featured demo tracks by three new Australian bands that the Angels had chosen to support them on their upcoming tour: The Desert Cats (Rob Tognoni), The Hurricanes and the John Woodruff-managed Baby Animals. The Angels then hit the road on their "Beyond Salvation" Tour with Cheap Trick as supporting act. The video for "Backstreet Pickup" was filmed the day the band were told of the album reaching number one on the charts and shows a very buoyant and enthusiastic band performing for the cameras. In New Zealand the b-side of "Dogs Are Talking" featured songs from the two support acts chosen for the NZ leg of the tour; both were the first releases for the bands: Nine Livez - Live It Up and Shihad - Down Dance.

Red Back Fever, parts of which were recorded in Memphis during the Beyond Salvation sessions, was released in November 1991. The band toured for two years, and the song "Tear Me Apart" was included in a multimillion-dollar government campaign highlighting alcohol-related violence. In July 1992 Mushroom re-issued Red Back Fever / Left Hand Drive as a two-CD set. 'Left Hand Drive" was a C.D. of unreleased or deleted rare tracks.

In 1992 and 1993, both Bob Spencer and James Morley left the band, and were subsequently replaced by returning members John Brewster and Jim Hilburn. The next year, the New Zealand chapter of the Hells Angels asked the band to perform for them. They immediately set out to write new material. The first results of this collaboration were included on Evidence, a 1994 career-spanning collection of the band's hits. Also released was "The Hard Evidence Tour E.P." containing the new tracks from "Evidence" and other new unreleased material for long time fans who the band didn't want to have to shell out the full price of the best of album just for the two new tracks they didn't already have on other Angels releases.

In 1993, the band performed at a one-off gig at the University of Western Sydney, with the Angels co-headlining with The Screaming Jets. Other bands on the bill for the night included Mental as Anything, Peter Wells (formerly of Rose Tattoo) and Wickud Skunk, a band from Tasmania.

In April 1995, they head-lined the Barbed Wire Ball tour, a national tour that also featured The Screaming Jets, The Poor and Who's Guilty. The band then took a break from recording and touring, reconvening in mid-1996 at Darling Harbour studios for the start of what became the sessions for their last studio album.

In July 1997, the Angels hit the road with The Lounge Lizard Tour, which included Angry Anderson (from Rose Tattoo) and Ross Wilson (from Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock) . The band provided acoustic backing for each singer's performance, which included classics from their respective bands. On 13 August 1997, the Angels signed a recording deal with Shock Records in Australia. A new single, "Caught in the Night", followed in October and a new album, Skin & Bone, in March 1998. Though only moderately successful in the charts, the album was nominated by ARIA as one of the year's best Australian recordings. On 20 October 1998, the Angels were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame by Angry Anderson.[8] In November 1998 the band performed a brief set at the Concert of the Century in Melbourne to celebrate Mushroom Records' 25th anniversary.

On New Year's Eve 1999, the Angels performed their "last" concert at the MGM Grand Darwin Millennium Concert. Doc Neeson announced his hiatus from the band following a major car accident that left him with neck and spinal injuries.

2000s: Spinoff bands - The Original Angels Band, Red Phoenix, The Angels, Doc Neeson's Angels[edit]

With Neeson's departure, the band effectively ceased, though founding members Rick and John Brewster did consider recruiting another singer. In November 2000, Shock Records reissued Left Hand Drive. The following year, the ABC featured the Angels in its music series program Long Way To The Top.[9]

In March 2001, the Angels reformed as "Members of The Angels" with John and Rick Brewster, Buzz Bidstrup, Chris Bailey and Jim Hilbun on lead vocals for The Ted Mulry Benefit Concert (released on video as Gimme Ted).

On 24 June 2002, Shock issued The Complete Sessions 1980-1983, a 4-CD box set collection of the band's recorded output from the period from the Dark Room to the Watch the Red albums. Around this time, Brewster, Bailey, Bidstrup and Brewster began touring as "The Original Angels Band". In the meantime, Neeson, Hilbun and Westfield chief executive David Lowy formed "Red Phoenix", releasing an album and touring briefly during 2005.

In July 2006, Liberation reissued the Angels' catalogue. Albums included: Dark Room, Night Attack, Watch the Red, Two Minute Warning, Howling, Beyond Salvation, Red Back Fever, and Wasted Sleepless Night - The Definitive Greatest Hits.[10]

On 4 December 2006, Live At The Basement was released, containing all the classics recorded by the line-up of Brewster, Bailey, Bidstrup and Brewster. This group was now once again using the name "The Angels". Doc Neeson pursued legal action to stop the founding members of the band from using the name.[11][12] Neeson toured as "Doc Neeson's Angels", with a line-up that included Hilbun, Lowy, Dave Leslie (ex-Baby Animals) and Paul Wheeler (ex-Icehouse, who was later replaced by Mick Skelton).[13] Neeson released the album Acoustic Sessions featuring Jim Hilbun, Dave Leslie and Tim Powleson percussion, with production through Liberation Blue, on 1 September 2007. The Brewster-led band meanwhile released the EP "Ivory Stairs".

In October 2007, the Doc Neeson band toured the Middle East playing 13 shows in 16 days for Australian servicemen and women in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and other countries in the region. The lineup for this tour consisted of Mick Skelton (drums), Dave Leslie (guitar), Sarah Graye (ex-Nitocris) (bass) and Mitch Hutchinson (guitar).[14]

Wasted Sleepless Nights: The Definitive Greatest Hits[15] was released on DVD 11 July 2007. It included live footage never before released, and tracks recorded live from ABC's Studio 22.

The website announced the reunion of Doc Neeson with the Brewster brothers, Chris Bailey and Buzz Bidstrup in April, 2008.[16][17] The re-formed band played a string of dates in July 2008 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal album, Face to Face.

Deepening rifts within the band were exposed in a documentary screened on national TV.[citation needed]


Doc Neeson's solo career[edit]

In late 2010, vocalist Doc Neeson announced he was pursuing a solo career. He went on to form "The Angels 100%" with ex-band members Buzz Bidstrup, Bob Spencer, James Morley and Jim Hilbun. This band played a single private show to 1,000 people at a mining installation in Western Australia in late 2012.[citation needed]

The Angels with Dave Gleeson[edit]

In May 2011, Rick Brewster, John Brewster and Chris Bailey recruited drummer Nick Norton, and Screaming Jets singer (and MMM FM radio DJ), Dave Gleeson to front the band, and were recording new songs for the first time since the late 1990s. In June 2011, they released the EP, Waiting for the Sun, and toured Australia in support of the new EP through to 2012, clocking up numerous sold-out shows. In January 2012, they recorded a live album, the Angels first in two decades, at the QPAC theatre in Brisbane, Queensland.

On 31 August 2012, the Angels (with Dave Gleeson) released their first new studio album in 14 years, Take It to the Streets, which debuted at number seven on the ARIA Australian albums chart. On the same day, the Angels also released "Live At QPAC", the band's first live album since 1988's "Liveline". It was briefly available as a 2 CD SET.

In November and December, 2012, "The Angels with Dave Gleeson" joined the Baby Animals and the Hoodoo Gurus for the national "a day on the green" tour, resulting in a sold-out headlining show in front of 8,500 in Perth. Also in November, The Angels with Dave Gleeson began recording songs for a new studio album, and announced their 2013 "Take It To The Streets" national tour, beginning 22 February 2013.[citation needed] In 2014, the Angels released a second album with Gleeson, called Talk The Talk.

Illnesses and death[edit]

On 10 January 2013 it was announced that Doc Neeson had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and would undergo immediate treatment.[1]

On hearing of Neeson's diagnosis, Rick and John Brewster (who formed the first line-up of the Angels with Neeson in 1974) released the statement:

"We have spent many years working together, and some years apart. We are thinking of all the good times we had, and the camaraderie that came with them, the hard work we all did over so many years.
Our thoughts are with Doc and his family, and we wish him a speedy and complete recovery."
- Rick and John Brewster and Chris Bailey (from the Angels).

It was also revealed that Chris Bailey had been battling an aggressive cancer, and his place in the touring lineup had been filled by John Brewster's son, Sam. Bailey died on 4 April 2013.[2]

On 4 June 2014, it was announced that Doc Neeson had died in his sleep at 7.15am, after a recurrence of his brain tumour.

Rick and John Brewster released the statement:

“Doc stood out as one of a kind, a totally unique performer. His feverish stage presence was unsurpassed yet beneath the public persona was a gentle soul.

He leaves behind a wealth of shared memories. Good times, hard times and the thrill of creating timeless music together.”

RIP Doc – Rick Brewster

“I’ve found myself thinking back to the wonderful days of the Moonshine Jug and String Band when we first met Doc, the residencies at the Modbury Hotel, Adelaide Rowing Club, the Finsbury, all the great gigs that that zany, crazy band performed at, the parties at Doc’s rented house in Glenunga, SA. We had so much fun back then.

Somehow that band turned into the Angels, i.e. Doc, Rick, Charlie King and me, and we went out on the road, literally, in my old 1964 EH Holden station wagon. The endless highway playing every night of the week, mostly in dives, learning how to do it by live performance and writing better and better songs.

Eventually the band, including Buzz Bidstrup and Chris Bailey, hit it big in 1978 and Doc became one of the great frontmen of all time, a dynamic, demonic, artistic and imposing performer who would give it his all night after night, totally spent at the end of each show. There was a deep, sensitive and gentle side to Doc. In this sad time of his passing I’ll remember him for that and the good times we had together, now and forever more.”

- John Brewster

Iconic live audience chorus[edit]

The Angels tried three times in the late 1970s and early 1980s to make a hit out of the song Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again. It wasn't until the song was played live that it attracted, in the mid-1980s an unexpected chant response of "No Way, Get Fucked, Fuck Off" from the audience to the question posed in the title of the track, that the song became an iconic part of Australian culture, so much so that the song cannot be played anywhere at any time in Australia without the chant being sung by whatever crowds are present.

The audience chant: "No way, get fucked, fuck off", has become the most famous audience chant in Australian rock history, though the exact origins of it are already lost in Angels mythology.[9] In 2008 Neeson and Brewster tried to discover who started it. The band first heard it in Mount Isa, Queensland, and were shocked they were being told to "Fuck off!". Neeson asked one of the crowd who said that it originated at a police sponsored 'Blue Light' disco.[18]



Current members[edit]