Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Vale Doc Neeson

Image source: The Music

We knew it was coming. We just didn't know when, and we all wished like nothing else that it wouldn't.

And now it has.

Fellow teacher, fellow musician, and leader of one of the greatest ever Australian rock bands, Bernard "Doc" Neeson, has passed away, of a brain tumour. He died in his sleep this morning.

Hot on the heels that another Aussie music legend, Jim Keays, is in hospital battling cancer, this is indeed a sad occasion, even if it was impending. But it still hurts. This was a musician in a band, whose music I grew up with, whose talents I had the utmost respect for.

You can't underestimate Doc and The Angels' impact on Australian music. Doc was one of the great idiosyncratic frontmen of Australian music. Sadly, they're a dying breed. Aside from Tim Rogers, I'm struggling to think of too many lead singers in Australia that are as identifiable in the same was as Doc was.

The Angels' music was consistently solid. They were reliable - you can almost always buy an Angels album back in the day with the assurance you were getting quality - great songs masterfully written, powerfully played, with Doc enunciating the lyrics in such a way that was both unique, unsettling and wholly reassuring - you wouldn't expect anything but.

By all accounts, despite playing the Mad Irishman onstage, Doc was a perfect gentleman offstage. It's a shame that he leaves the planet still in conflict with the Brewster brothers, with whom he shared the band with for over 30 years. At one point there were no less than three different touring lineups doing the rounds of the nation, all using variations on the name "The Angels". I'm not too sure of the reasons why, but it has unfortunately done more damage to the legacy of the band than anything else.



Right now the Brewsters are touring the band under the original moniker with Dave Gleeson as the frontman. But, in the opinion of this writer, Dave doesn't hold a candle to a mad genius of Doc.

Doc's was a voice that always lifted the band's music to greatness. The band's music was always around as I was growing up, and I have a great affinity with the band's music as they released it between 1986 and 1991. During which time they issued the studio albums "Howling" and the essential "Beyond Salvation", as well as the killer double live LP "Liveline". This was a period in which their music was at their very best, easily on par, if not better than their highly regarded first 3 albums for Albert Productions (the same label as Rose Tattoo and AC/DC).



The Late 1970s and the 1980s saw Australian rock music enter a golden period, and it wouldn't be the same without the Angels. Thankfully, Doc left us with a veritable textbook in the art of leading a rock band, which can be found on the recorded legacy of the Angels, and in the many surviving live performances, including the incendiary set under a full moon at the Narara '83 festival, and the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake relief show, where he thrilled punters by climbing the stage scaffolding, among other things (sadly I cannot find this on YouTube...).



Vale Doc. Thanks for the music. Thanks for the memories and for the contribution you made to popular culture in Australia. As Brian Mannix, of the Uncanny X-Men wrote earlier today, you really are with the Angels now. Rest In Peace.

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