Angels lament the passing of Doc
AUSTRALIA lost a great man this week. When Doc Neeson lost his battle with a brain tumour early Wednesday, the news shook not only those who'd shared the stage with him over the years, but a vast majority of Australians who were lucky enough to feel some connection with the music of one of the country's finest rock and roll bands.
While Doc parted ways with fellow Angels founders John and Rick Brewster in 2010, the camaraderie that was built over more than 35 years of living the rock life together was always going to be hard to break.
Guitarist John Brewster, who is part-way through a national tour with The Angels featuring Dave Gleeson on lead vocals, said Doc's loss was devastating.
"I spent most of my life with Doc - a greater proportion was spent with him than anyone else," Brewster said.
"Rick and I founded this band with Doc in 1974, after Doc joined The Moonshine Jug and String Band in '71.
"There was a camaraderie that nothing could break. Being in a band was like a rollercoaster - particularly in the early days when we were burning the candle from both ends."
Brewster dismissed the rumours that have floated around since Neeson left to form his own Angels group just over three years ago.
"People were saying we were at war - it was all rubbish," he said.
"All I can do now is reflect on the good times we had."
There was no shortage of good times for The Angels in their prime.
Brewster paid tribute to Doc's role in the massive appeal of the band - starting in the late 1970s and carrying through to the present day.
"My best memories of Doc are just of how good a stage performer he was and how he pushed the envelope," he said.
"I remember him climbing a PA stack at a festival in 1983 - it was just one of those ridiculously dangerous things he used to do.
"It was as wobbly as hell and an absolute death drop but he got away with it and, when he got up the top, he was encouraging everyone to hold up their cigarette lighters.
"I think that just showed his dedication as a performer.
"He was a great front man."
As part of their current national tour, The Angels will perform with Dave Gleeson on lead vocals at Queensland Lions, Richlands on August 8.
Fans can expect a dedication to Doc during the performance.
"We will raise a collective glass to Doc and his memory," Brewster said.
"Rick and I love Doc."
The Angels also lost long-time bass player Chris Bailey to cancer in April last year.
John Brewster's 31-year-old son Sam has taken over on bass.
New frontman Dave Gleeson has also become an integral part of the band, which is topped off by drummer Nick Norton.
"People come to see the big hits, and that is an important part of what The Angels are about.
"Having said that, we've done two new albums with Dave since he joined the band," Brewster said.
"Dave has a sound in his voice that suits our songs. He is not trying to be Doc but he is in the same ball park - he is a brilliant front man."
The Angels are releasing two commemorative albums to celebrate their 40th year - Volume 1 features 40 greatest studio hits, while Volume 2 features 40 live tracks.
Brewster said every Angels band member featured somewhere on the recordings.
"The records are a celebration of everyone who was ever part of The Angels," he said.
Fans can expect to hear plenty of The Angels' timeless classics during the tour, with the odd new song thrown in for good measure.
New material has been well received, with the band favouring the title track from the latest studio album, Talk the Talk, as a set opener.
It is still timeless classics like Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again and Take a Long Line that have ensured the lasting popularity of the band for 40 years.
"Some songs don't age," Brewster said.
"I'm a lucky guy - I'm in a band that can still pull a full house.
"It's a wonderful thing to be able to do.
"When we formed the band we thought we might last five years or so."