Biography - June 1998

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. And the reunited Tatts are hitting the road for a joint national tour with The Angels in July.

But this is not just any lineup of the Tatts, we're talking the original band with Angry Anderson, Peter Wells, Mick Cocks and for the first time in two decades Ian Rilen who left in 1977 to join what was to become X. Rilen last played with the Tatts on the closing night of Sydney's hallowed Bondi Lifesaver in 1980 but doesn't remember a thing about it. The truly missed piece will be original drummer, Dallas "Digger" Royal who passed away in 1989. Big Paul DeMarco is admirably handling the swing in his absence.

"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 Tattoo and you'll never see the three of them together on the same bill. The next best thing is to see two of them on a bill together. That makes this tour a really historic event. It hasn't happened since the early eighties and who knows if it'll ever happen again? And this is virtually the original Rosie Tatts' brotherhood."

"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 realise that and those sentiments have as much flesh, blood and heart today as they ever did. And so does the band itself. We got together recently for a photo shoot for his tour and it was scary. The bond and the affection was clearly still there after nearly twenty years."

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 Wells' 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 on 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 sit 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 organisation'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 Leech on bass. The next few years were spent tirelessly touring the country driving publicans crazy with their decibel hunger and fans nuts with their no bullshit, death before dishonour 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 retitled Rock n' Roll Outlaws and the Assault 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. 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 deafenation) was America where they toured extensively with Aerosmith and ZZ Top. One show in Indiana was caught by a mesmerised 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 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. Now the Tatts are spreading their unique rock n' roll fever and fervour again.

"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."

Ray Martin and charity challenges? Nah, forget it. Angry curls a lip and exposes what were once literally chiselled teeth.

"It's like waking up a dragon" he smiles knowingly. "Everybody knows that dragons always have fire."

And all hell will break loose. Fact.


1997-2007 by Peter Gormley

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