In the category of ´cult bands` Rose Tattoo has been at the top of the pile for years. The raw style of blues rock that the Australians manage to create out of a hot mix of slide guitars, pounding hooks with sharp and tight rhythm along with the unmistakable voice of the front man Angry Anderson is what gives the fans a welcome feast.
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.
“There’s only ever really been three great hard rock n’ roll bands that this country has ever produced.” says Angry Anderson. “There’s been lots of great rock bands but the top of the heap are AC/DC, The Angels and Rose Tattoo”
....the loudest, meanest most lock up your entire extended family rock n’ roll band to ever stalk this earth.....
Rose Tattoo was a matter of destiny from the outset. In 1976 Peter Wells, former bassist with Sydney’s infamous Buffalo was playing slide guitar and putting together an aggressive new street band. Each member had to be tattooed, have cropped hair and dress for unity. Ian Rilen was the first recruit.
In Melbourne Angry Anderson who had sang for the notorious Buster Brown met with Wells and the chemistry was instantaneous. Mick Cocks a cohort of Angry joined on rhythm guitar with Dallas “Digger” Royall taking the drumming stool.
With a sound that proudly owed much to the blues, The Stones and The Faces, the Tatts played their first gig in New Year’s Eve 1976 at Chequers.
The band’s alien look coupled with the ferocity of their sound and brain busting volume inspired horror in many and plenty of attention from the boys in blue who had never seen anything like the Tatts. Where the Tatts really struck an artery was in the rock n’ roll crowd, the punters who were tired of the crap on the radio. They instinctually understood the Tatts and didn't require anything to be explained to them. The outlaws had their band.
The Tatts signed to AIberts the home of Australian hard rock n' roll who also had AC/DC and the Angels on their books. On top of that the house producers were the world famous duo Harry Vanda and George Young of Easybeats' fame.
Tattoo's first single, lan Rilen's Bad Boy For Love was an instant radio hit though Rilen departed before it was released. It was followed by the self titled album which featured Geordie Leech on bass. The next few years were spent tireless touring the country driving publicans crazy with their decibel hunger and fans nuts with their no bullshit, death before dishonour stance.
Assault and Battery came in 1981 and the Tatt’s went on a search and destroy mission across Europe. They were hailed as the new metal gurus and everyone from ZZ Top to Iron Maiden came to check out their live savagery. The band were front page material and critics were raving about both the first album which was retitled Rock n' Roll Outlaws and Assault and Battery. Mick Cocks left at this point and was replaced by guitar beast Rockin’ Robin Riley. Tattoo were now like some rock n' roll samurai with Angry regularly bloodied and passing out on stage. The third album Scarred For Life (1982) said It all.
The next stage of their world domination (or should that be world deafenation) was America where they toured extensively with Aerosmith and ZZ Top. One show was caught by a mesmerised kid called William BalIey who later went by the name of Axl Rose. In 1983 both Wells and Royall called time and left.
A decade later following an approach from Guns n' Roses who had recorded “Nice Boys” Rose Tattoo reunited with Paul Demarco on drums and opened for the Gunners Australian tour. The night before they played Calder Park Slash and Duff from Gunners 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.
"lt'll be good to get really rowdy with some sex, drugs and other people's amps to blow up" grinned Peter Wells, "It’ll be ugly and loud. Some of us more than others."
Angry curled a lip and exposes what were once literally chiselled teeth "It’s like waking up a dragon. Everybody knows that dragons always have fire."
“I think the world needs a band like Rose Tattoo again in 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, not only what they say but what they mean to realise that and those sentiments have as much flesh, blood and heart today as they ever did”
Murray Engleheart (edited)