Banger Picks

Rose Tattoo: 25 To Life (SPV)

Over the last few years the sentiment of Rose Tattoo’s classic, Nice Boys has proven to be disturbingly prophetic. There’s no real rebel stance, no attitude or aptitude for that matter. There’s nothing tribal, nothing brotherly or sisterly in terms of group cohesion. Everyone just looks at their feet and moans and wouldn’t know Chuck Berry from Frank Zappa. But the remedy is at hand with the return of Rose Tattoo, the loudest, meanest most lock up your entire extended family rock’n’roll band to ever stalk this earth. But this is not just any lineup of the Tatts, we’re talking Angry Anderson, Peter Wells, Rob Riley and Steve King with Big Paul DeMarco admirably handling the swing.

“I think the world needs a band like Rose Tattoo again in a very real physical sense and in a romantic sense. We never walked away from or were ever embarrassed by or uncomfortable with championing the underdog. You’ve just got to read our lyrics and not only what they say but what they mean to realize that and those sentiments have as much flesh, blood and heart today as they ever did. And so does the band itself.”

Rose Tattoo was a matter of destiny from the outset. In 1976 Peter Wells, former bassist with Sydney’s Infamous Buffalo who by that point was playing slide guitar was looking around for players for an aggressive new street punk band he was putting together. Each member had to be tattooed, have their hair cropped and dress for unity. Ian Rilen from Band Of Light was Well’s first recruit.

In Melbourne a singer by the name of Angry Anderson who at times sounded like a young Rod Stewart was looking to get his old band, the notorious Buster Brown back together or at least recapture some sense of it. he met up with Wells and the chemistry was instantaneous. Mick Cocks, a Melbourne cohort of Angry’s joined on rhythm guitar soon after. Dallas ‘Digger’ Royal, another buddy of Angry’s took the drumming stool.

With a sound that proudly owed much to the blues, The Stones and The Faces, the Tatts played their first gig on New Year’s Eve 1976 at Chequers, the same site AC/DC debuted a few years earlier. The band’s alien look coupled with the ferocity of their sound and brain busting volume inspired drop dead horror in many and plenty of attention from the boys in blue who had never seen anything like the Tatts on any beat, anytime, anywhere. But that reaction was never the main game. Where the Tatts really struck an artery was in the souls of the real rock’n’roll crowd, the punters who were also tired of the crap on the radio and having to alt through a disco for hours to hear just one song that spoke to their gut. These folks instinctually understood the Tatts and didn’t require anything to be explained to them. The outlaws had their band. Finally.

The Tatts were signed up by Albert Productions, the home of Australian hard rock’n’roll who also had AC/DC and The Angels on their books. On top of that the organization’s house producers were the world famous legendary duo Harry Vanda and George Young of Easybeats’ fame. Tattoo’s first single, Ian Rilen’s ‘Bad Boy For Love’ was an instant radio hit though Rilen departed before it was released. It was followed by the Tatt’s debut self titled album in 1978 which featured Anderson associate from his Buster Brown days, Geordie Leach on bass. The next few years were spent tirelessly touring the country driving publicana crazy with their decibel hunger and fans nuts with their no bullshit death before dishonor stance. Their second album, Assault and Battery came in 1981 at which time the Tatts went on a search and destroy mission across Europe. They were rightly hailed as the new metal gurus and everyone from ZZ Top to Iron Maiden came to check out their live savagery and to steal a line from The Who’s Pete Townshend “get their ears raped”. The band were front page material in the highly influential English music weekly circuit and critics were raving about the first album which was re-titled Rock’n’Roll Outlaws and the Assaults and Battery effort. They even had the distinction of being the loudest band since Led Zeppelin to play London’s famed Marquee Club. Mick Cocks left at this point and was replaced by former Dallimore guitar beast, ‘Rockin’ Robin Riley. Rose Tattoo were now like some rock’n’roll samurai. Angry regularly passed out on stage and bloodied himself from the emotion of it all. The third album, 1982’s Scarred For Life said it all. The next stage of their world domination (or should that be world destination) was America where they toured extensively with Aerosmith and ZZ Top. One show in Indiana was caught by a mesmerized kid called William Bailey who later went by the name of Axl Rose. Wells called time and left in 1983 as did Royal.

A decade later following an approach from arch fans, Guns’n’Roses who had recorded the Tatts’ ‘Nice Boys’ the band reunited with Paul DeMarco on drums and opened for the Gunners on their 1993 Australian tour. The night before they played Calder Park in Melbourne Slash and Duff from Guns’n’Roses joined the Tatts on stage at the Palace. It was a meeting of two rock’n’roll generations but it was the Gunners who were awestruck. Now the Tatts are spreading their unique rock’n’roll fever and fervor again. In 1999 Rose Tattoo showed up in Europe again, playing a number of spectacular gigs under the heading ‘Lieder wie Orkane 3’ (‘Songs Like Hurricanes 3’) alongside bands like Böhse Onkelz, Saxon & Danzig. As Rock Hard magazine commented so aptly on the show at the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund: “Five full-blooded musicians were at work, who, despite the fact that they are all on the other side of 50, worked the shit out of the audience, spreading the true spirit of rock’n’roll.” Pretty much the same happened one year later, when the band impressively demonstrated to their audience, some of them mere whippersnappers, what real rock’n’roll means. The musicians used the brilliant atmosphere created by the 23,000 punters to record the tracks for 25 To Life. A wise decision, as the completed album proves. The fact that the Wacken performance will not remain their last visit to Germany has already been decided. As early as next summer Angry & Co. are set to knock about German stages again. And – what can you say? – of course they’re already looking forward to the tour. “It’ll be good to get really rowdy with some sex, drugs and other people’s amps to blow up” grins Tatt’s founder, Peter Wells. “It’ll be ugly and loud. Some of us more than others.”

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