By Helen & Brent Eccles
Eyes bulging, his jaw torn open in a vicious scream, the black clad maniac leaps across the stage, sending sweat flying in a shower onto the fans who are crushed in the front. They reach out with their hands and their voices.
There is a sun glassed guitarist driving a Les Paul Gold Top stroking out rhythm after rhythm. That's all he does.
Head down, hair flying, the bass player pumps out a thundering rhythm in killer time to the drummer who is attacking his kit like it's some old enemy he has finally tracked down and cornered. But then on the far side of the stage, the other guitarist, his eyes covered by ever present shades, stands dead still, only his hands move across the strings. He never looks down, only stares into the audience, and he never moves. Never.
And in front of The Angels, the audience is singing every word, fists pumping the air, their dance a leaping banging frenzy. It's Saturday night, and when The Angels are in town, there is nowhere else to be.
It's more than devotion, it's more than being a fan. Sometimes it's like a movement, a rally. The Angels can take you to the edge and keep you there.
And that's the way it has been on weekends for teenagers across Australia for more than a decade and a half.
When The Angels come to town, it ain't just another gig or a big night out. It's something more, and you will never know what that is until you've been there yourself, right in the thick of it. Some bands have had strange beginnings. But in Australian hard rock there would probably be none stranger than that of The Angels.
In 1973, vocalist Doc Neeson and guitarist Rick Brewster, and
a few friends, walked onto a university stage and picked up their
instruments - a washboard, empty liquor jugs, harmonicas, banjos........
Flash to 1976 and a fairly new band called The Angels had just finished a highly successful tour with AC/DC.
Australian pub rock was, in many ways, still in it's infancy,
but the ruthless, hard new sound of rhythm laden blues guitars
festooning with raw rock n' roll was finding it's feet, and powering
out of the amps of bands like AC/DC and The Angels.
Rose Tattoo were firing around town, scaring some punters shitless with smears of tattoos, and speakers cranked so loud it hurt to stand anywhere closer than the back wall.
One night The Angels were playing a gig in the inner suburbs of
Sydney and in the crowd stood Angus Young and Bon Scott with their
producers, the hit making team of Vanda and Young.
Pulled straight into the studio, The Angels emerged with a self titled album weeks later, and the first of what would prove to be an unmatchable string of classic Australian pub rock anthems was cut loose on the Australian public. The song was 'Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again'.
In 1978, The Angels released their second album 'Face To Face' and toured the country.
The mix of kick-in-the-gut hard rock, storming guitars, howling vocals and emotionally charged ballads made 'Face To Face' the party album of the year.
Songs like 'Marseilles', 'I Ain't The One', 'Be With You' and 'Comin' Down' were heard blasting out of bedroom windows and youth packed cars from the outer suburbs to the inner cities across the nation.
Some could make no sense of this loud hard rock band whose lead
singer dressed impeccably in tuxedos and three piece suits, and
who sang songs with sometimes intricate lyrics that made references
to philosophers, classic literature, holidays in France, drug
abuse and occasionally love.
Shows began to sell out soon after they were announced, and the lyrics of The Angels probably did more to expand their audiences' vocabulary than most of their school lessons.
In 1979, the 'No Exit' album was released and three more classics were introduced to Angels' fans - 'Mr. Damage', 'Shadow Boxer' and 'Save Me'.
The album contained a disturbing piece of Doc Neeson's poetry called 'Dawn Is Breaking'. After much harassment from students, a number of teachers in Australian high schools introduced the piece into poetry classes.
In 1979 Epic Records signed The Angels to an international recording contract and released a compilation of 'Face To Face' and 'No Exit' called 'Face To Face'. This took The Angels on two extensive American and European tours where they immediately picked a huge fan base in the American Northwest and Canada. The band was renamed Angel City to avoid confusion with glam band Angel.
Not long after the release of 'No Exit', The Angels unleashed it's first collection of greatest hits in Australia. It too rose in the album charts and stayed there for months. It also marked the departure of the band from the Alberts label in Australia.
The moody, sometimes disturbed and laid back 'Dark Room' album followed in 1980, and gave The Angels it's first nationwide number one single in 'No Secrets'.
A free live concert on the steps of the Sydney Opera House at the end of that year was marred by violence, and while beer bottles exploded on the stage around him, the mayor of Sydney strode on to announce that no more outdoor concerts would be held in the city.
It spelt the end of a decade of free weekend concerts under the hot Australian summer sun, and the boom time of Australian pub rock, The Angels lead the charge.
The American tour circuit was then hit with a vengeance. A tour with The Kinks abruptly ended when The Kinks dropped The Angels off the bill for upstaging the main act once too often.
'Dark Room' contained the track 'Face The Day', an Angels classic which was later covered by American rockers Great White in 1988. Later they covered 'Can't Shake It'.
In 1981, The Angels released 'Night Attack', a blasting, aural blitz of rock and headed to the United States, with new drummer Brent Eccles. The tour highlights included four sellouts at the Roxy In Los Angeles and then a sellout tour from Fresno to Portland in 3-5,000 seat venues. The dates continued through Canada where the band filled even larger halls. The Angels' bassist Chris Bailey missed the first leg of this tour and was temporarily replaced by American Jim Hilbun. A few months later he became a permanent replacement.
Release and promotional problems with the record company (problems that would arise again and again over the next decade) stagnated the impact of 'Night Attack' in the United States.
Returning home The Angels released the now highly collectible EP 'Never So Live' and went back on tour around the country.
After a number of months in the studio, The Angels put out an experimental, and sometimes downright weird self produced album called 'Watch The Red' in 1983 (one song saw Doc Neeson ranting about life in a zoo, and then screaming the names of politicians, poets, actors and authors in a continuous stream).
Relocating to Los Angeles in mid 1984, with the assurances "that everything would be alright this time", The Angels spent three months shifting from studio to studio, and producer to producer, to eventually complete the 'Two Minute Warning' album now with an international release on MCA.
A rich collection of sometimes politically and socially vicious songs 'Two Minute Warning' told the tale of nuclear annihilation and the events leading up to the last dark days. Once again the downfall of an American record company lead to a poor commercial result, though a tour at the time saw critics praising the live shows and a number of the songs off 'Two Minute Warning' received generous air play across the country. The album has recently been re-released on Metal Blade.
Back in Australia, one of the founding members, guitarist John Brewster departed the band. Bob Spencer joined.
In 1986, The Angels released 'Howling'. Twelve songs that shifted from pop-rock to haunting ballad to all out guitar driven assaults. The album was produced by Englishman Steve Brown and mixed by Bill Price.
On the back of the hit singles 'Don't Waste My Time', 'Nature
of The Beast' and the remake of the 1960's classic 'We Gotta Get
Outta This Place', 'Howling' soared into the Top 10 nationally.
During the 'Howling' tour, fans in Perth queued outside venues
for two days to get tickets, and at one show Doc Neeson shattered
a kneecap when he was pulled into the crowd.
The 'Howling' tour took The Angels on a 16 month jaunt around the country, playing to more than 320,000 fans.
'Howling' never saw international release.
In 1988, what would prove to be the ultimate Angels' fans dream
come true was released.
"People are going to shit themselves when they hear these
new songs", drummer Brent Eccles and guitarist Bob Spencer
told their Australian fans, via the media, from Memphis where
they were recording the 'Beyond Salvation' album in 1990.
The recording process did take it's toll though with the departures
of bassist Jim Hilbun. Three days before they left for Memphis,
The Angels auditioned a 21 year old bass player from Perth called
Like many USA releases for The Angels, the tracks on the American version were different to that released in Australia. In fact on this one only three tracks were in common - 'Dogs Are Talking', 'Let The Night Roll On' and 'Rhythm Rude Girl'. During the recording sessions The Angels played one showcase at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. The show turned into a riot when, from the audience to the stage came three
members of Guns 'N Roses, Axl, Duff and Slash who joined the band for an extended encore of immense power.
Chrysalis Records signed the band and things looked in good shape when the first track to American radio 'Dogs Are Talking' picked up solid air play. The air play was not consolidated and 'Beyond Salvation' was unfortunately just that.
In late May 1991, The Angels entered a studio in the suburbs of Sydney to begin work on a new album. Most of the material was composed during extensive slabs of touring that went with 'Beyond Salvation'. The album, 'Redback Fever' was released in Australia in November 1991 and attained gold status upon shipping.
The Angels and the Drug Offensive then made a special announcement. The Angels would spearhead a 12 month Alcohol Related Violence campaign. A track off 'Redback Fever', 'Tear Me Apart' became the campaign's theme. The critics lined up but The Angels hit back with a massive 8 week tour that played just about every town in Australia including many all ages shows
In late 1992 and with little fuss both Bob Spencer and James Morley left to pursue solo careers.
Doc Neeson, Rick Brewster & Brent Eccles were philosophical. They spent three months working in a small recording studio in Sydney's Mascot. The flame was still burning. On his regular run to the studio Brent Eccles' mobile rang...The Hells Angels - New Zealand wanted the band for a gig. After a quick discussion the trio began a new chapter in The Angels' history. They invited John Brewster and Jim Hilbun back into the band.
Even though this lineup had not played together since 1985 the
fans came out in droves.
This success spurred the band on. They purchased enough recording equipment to make their own recordings and in the months that followed and under the guidance of guitarist Rick Brewster the band crafted, trimmed, scrapped, rebuilt, pushed and pulled together a shit hot collection of fresh new Angels songs.
On August 13th 1997 they signed a new recording deal with Shock Records.
The Angels are:
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