Rose Tattoo is an Australian rock and roll band, now led by Angry Anderson, that was formed in Sydney in 1976. Their sound is hard rock mixed with blues rock influences, with songs including "Bad Boy for Love", "Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw", "Nice Boys", "We Can't Be Beaten" and "Scarred for Life". Their first four albums were produced by Harry Vanda and George Young who also worked with AC/DC. They disbanded in 1987, subsequently reforming briefly in 1993 to support Guns N' Roses on an Australian tour. They reassembled again from 1998 and have since released two more studio albums.
According to Australian rock music historian Ian McFarlane, Rose Tattoo are "one of the most revered bands of all time. The Tatts played peerless, street-level heavy blues with the emphasis on slide guitar and strident lyric statements". Guns N' Roses, L.A. Guns, Keel, Nashville Pussy, Motosierra, Pud Spuke and Helen Schneider have covered Rose Tattoo songs. On 16 August 2006, they were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. Six former members have died in recent years including four of the original recording line-up, Dallas Royall (1991), Peter Wells (2006), Ian Rilen (2006) and Mick Cocks (2009), and Lobby Loyde (2007), who was a member between October 1979 and September 1980, and Neil Smith (2013), who played bass temporarily prior to Loyde.
Early years (1976–1977)
Rose Tattoo was formed in Sydney in 1976 with Leigh Johnston on rhythm guitar, Tony Lake on lead vocals and were led by slide guitarist Peter Wells—who had just departed as bass guitarist of heavy metal band Buffalo. Drummer Michael Vandersluys completed the line-up. Ian Rilen from Band of Light joined on bass guitar. He had taught himself to play while in prison and gave Wells' band the street-cred he was looking for. Rhythm guitarist Mick Cocks soon replaced Johnston; Lake and Vandersluys were substituted by former Buster Brown members Angry Anderson and Dallas "Digger" Royall respectively. Melbourne-based Buster Brown had enjoyed local notoriety, playing at the 1974 Sunbury Festival and had included future AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd. Rose Tattoo made their public debut on New Year's Eve at the rock club Chequers.
Chiefly inspired by The Rolling Stones, Faces and Billy Thorpe and his 1970s Aztecs, Rose Tattoo's hard-rocking sound quickly earned a devoted following in the Sydney area. Members of AC/DC were fans and recommended them to their label, Albert Productions. The band's debut single "Bad Boy for Love" was written by Rilen, who left to form punk rock group, X,(not the L.A. band) prior to its release in October 1977. "Bad Boy for Love" was produced by Vanda & Young (ex-The Easybeats, AC/DC's producers) and peaked at No. 19 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart. Initially Cocks switched to bass guitar to cover Rilen's departure, then Chris Turner (ex-Buffalo) was brought in. The band toured nationally on the pub rock circuit competing with The Angels, Cold Chisel, Dragon and Kevin Borich Express.
Self titled debut, success and follow-up albums (1978-1982)
One-time Buster Brown bass guitarist Geordie Leach was recruited to record their self-titled debut LP, Rose Tattoo, which reached the top 40 on the Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart in November 1978. The album, produced by Vanda & Young, was released in some markets as Rock N' Roll Outlaw after their second single, "Rock N' Roll Outlaw" which did not reach the top 50. Leach left the band in May 1979 to be replaced in October by guitarist Lobby Loyde filling in on bass (Coloured Balls, Purple Hearts, Wild Cherries). During his brief tenure, they recorded "Legalise Realise" which was released as an independent single in March 1980, backed with the track "Bong on Aussie" by country singer Colin Paterson, to publicise a campaign to legalise marijuana.
Later in 1980, they toured the United States and then toured Europe (including UK), but by September Loyde had left and Leach had returned.
Early in 1981, "Rock N' Roll Outlaw" started to chart in Europe, peaking at No. 2 in France, No. 5 in Germany and No. 60 in UK. The line up of Anderson, Cocks, Leach, Royall and Wells toured Europe from April. Three years after their debut the band issued the follow-up album, Assault and Battery in September, which reached the top 30 in Australia. Both Rock N' Roll Outlaw and Assault and Battery peaked at No. 1 on the UK heavy metal albums chart.
Rose Tattoo's 1981 tour of Europe included an appearance at the Reading Festival, where Anderson repeatedly head butted the amp stacks until his scalp started bleeding. They were hailed as the loudest band to play London's Marquee Club since Led Zeppelin. Returning to Australia, the band began work on their third album; with new guitarist Robin Riley replacing Cocks, who went on to join Heaven, they issued Scarred for Life in 1982, subsequently touring the US in support of Aerosmith and ZZ Top. The band's US visit was not a major success but proved to be influential on the underground sleaze metal scene in Los Angeles, with bands such as Guns N' Roses which later cited Rose Tattoo as a favourite and recorded a cover of "Nice Boys" on Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide in 1986.
Southern Stars and Beats From A Single Drum (1983-1986)
In 1983, after the US tour, Riley, Royall and Wells all left. The remaining duo of Anderson and Leach recruited guitarists Greg Jordan and John Meyer from Perth progressive metal band Saracen. With drummer Scott Johnston, the band recorded 1984's Southern Stars, their last album for Albert Productions and Vanda & Young as producers. Leach then exited to join Cocks, Rilen, Royall and Wells in Illustrated Men, which toured during 1984–1985. Anderson took time out to play the character 'Ironbar' Bassey in the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. That year Rose Tattoo, as Anderson, Johnston, Meyer, Andy Cichon (bass) and Tim Gaze (slide guitar), released a cover of Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild", their first release for Mushroom Records. Meyer left and the group recorded 1986's Beats from a Single Drum as a four-piece for Mushroom. Soon after Anderson started his solo career and the band separated by the end of 1987. The album was subsequently re-released as Angry Anderson's first solo album, with the ballad "Suddenly" becoming a surprise hit in Australia and England when it was used in the hit Australian soap opera Neighbours in a highly rated wedding episode. However, Anderson has admitted regret in recording the pop / ballad-oriented album.
Side projects and temporary reformations (1987-1997)
Anderson mounted his solo career from mid-1987. He released the ballad, "Suddenly" as a single. It was taken from Beats from a Single Drum, which was then re-released as his debut solo album in 1988. "Suddenly" had little chart success until it was used on television soap opera, Neighbours for the wedding of characters Scott Robinson (Jason Donovan) and Charlene Mitchell (Kylie Minogue). "Suddenly" peaked at No. 2 in September 1987 and was kept out of top spot by Minogue's debut single, "Locomotion". In the early 90s, Anderson tried to reunite Rose Tattoo, but the death of Royall, who died in 1991 of cancer while trying to overcome substance abuse in the form of a heroin addiction and alcoholism, stalled the reformation.
In an interview with Australian journalist Nick Milligan on 25 March 2011, Anderson explained, "I was in Los Angeles in 1989 recording an album which the 'Bound For Glory' single came off and I was hanging around with the Gunners and a whole lot of other LA bad boy rock bands that we supposedly influenced. I realised then that apart from the fact that I was there to establish myself as a singer songwriter, there was still this great following for the band. I rang up the other members and said 'Let's reform. We've been apart for three years or more.' It was long enough for us to settle our differences and let all the wounds heal. I rang up each of the original members that were still interested and they all said, 'Yeah, let's get together.' So I said we should negotiate a deal where the band can come over and record in Los Angeles. But, of course, that was the year that our original drummer "Digger" Royall kicked his heroin habit. While he was recovering on methadone, cancer exploded through his body, quite sadly. That was the irony of it, because the cancer had been suppressed by the heroin addiction. Within months he was dead. That shook the band so badly on a personal level, because we had been so enthusiastic to reform. We didn't reform until '92. In '93, the word got around, because we had reformed with our existing drummer Paul DeMarco. The Gunners heard we were out playing again and said, 'We want you to do our support gigs throughout Australia.' We did those two [Guns N' Roses] raceways gigs - Eastern Creek in Sydney and the raceway down in Melbourne."
Rose Tattoo supported Guns N' Roses on the Australian leg of their Use Your Illusion Tour. Anderson, Wells, Cocks, Leach and new drummer Paul DeMarco from Wells' solo band reunited for the 1993 tour. The reunion was brief and each returned to solo projects.
Around this time, ex-members of Rose Tattoo formed a short lived band with ex-Candy Harlots vocalist Aiz Lynch. This band had numerous rehearsals, but only recorded one demo before disbanding.
Second reformation and recent events (1998-present)
Rose Tattoo, with original bassist Ian Rilen replacing Leach, reformed yet again in 1998 for the "All Hell Breaks Loose!!" tour, however Rilen remained with the band only for the duration of this tour. By the following year, Leach had returned to the fold once more, although his place was taken by Steve King in 2000. Rock music historian Ian McFarlane wrote that they are "one of the most revered bands of all time. The Tatts played peerless, street-level heavy blues with the emphasis on slide guitar and strident lyric statements" in his Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop.
Since that time Rose Tattoo has toured regularly around Australia and throughout Europe. In 2000, the band appeared at the Wacken Open Air festival as part of their tour. These shows formed the basis of the 25 to Life live album. 2002 saw the release of Pain, the band's first studio album in 16 years. Cocks rejoined the group and they prepared material for a future album.
Plans for their next album, Blood Brothers were disrupted when Wells died on 27 March 2006, four years after his diagnosis of prostate cancer. On 16 August, Rose Tattoo were inducted by musician, Sarah McLeod, into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame alongside former member Lobby Loyde and Daddy Cool, Divinyls, Icehouse and Helen Reddy. Founding member Ian Rilen died on 30 October from bladder cancer. One of his last public appearances was at the Hall of Fame induction.
Also in October, a number of Rose Tattoo songs were voted upon and ranked in the Triple M Essential 2006 Countdown of songs, including "Bad Boy for Love" (voted No. 1060 out of 2006) and "We Can't Be Beaten" (voted No. 397 out of 2006). That month they were one of 55 acts voted and played in Triple J's Impossible Music Festival of 2006, with their live recording of a gig performed on New Year's Day 1980 at Mount Druitt, New South Wales being selected out of over 1000 Live at the Wireless recordings produced over the radio station's 31-year history.
On 21 April 2007, Lobby Loyde died, aged 65, in Melbourne, two years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. In June, Rose Tattoo supported Guns N' Roses with Sebastian Bach on their Chinese Democracy Tour's Australian leg. In October they supported Motörhead on their Australian tour dates. In an interview with Australian rock magazine Unbelievably Bad, Anderson announced his intention to retire the band after one more album.
In 2008 they played the Super Bock Super Rock festival in Lisbon, Portugal, and the Download Festival in England. In April 2009 it was announced that guitarist Mick Cocks had liver cancer—he died on 22 December. Five former members have died, all of cancer—Dallas Royall (cancer, 1991), Peter Wells (prostate cancer, 2006), Ian Rilen (bladder cancer, 2006), Lobby Loyde (lung cancer, 2007) and Mick Cocks (liver cancer, 2009).
Rose Tattoo are currently preparing to celebrate their 35th anniversary in 2011. They are demoing songs for a new album in 2012. In an interview with Australian rock journalist Nick Milligan on Friday, 25 March 2011, Anderson confirmed that the new record would be the group's "final statement".
- Angry Anderson – lead vocals (1976–1987, 1992–1993, 1998–present)
- Geordie Leach – bass guitar (1977–1979, 1980–1984, 1992–1993, 1999, 2007–present)
- Robin Riley – guitar (1981–1983, 2000–present)
- Paul DeMarco – drums (1992–1993, 1998–present)
- Dai Pritchard – slide guitar (2007–present)
- Peter Wells – slide guitar, bass guitar (1976–1983, 1992–1993, 1998–2006; died 2006)
- Tony Lake – lead vocals (1976)
- Michael "Stork" Vandersluys – drums (1976)
- Leigh Johnston – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1976)
- Ian Rilen – bass guitar, vocals (1976–1977, 1998; died 2006)
- Mick Cocks – guitar, bass guitar, backing vocals (1976–1981, 1992–1993, 1998, 1999, 2003–2009; died 2009)
- Dallas "Digger" Royall – drums (1976–1983; died 1991)
- Chris Turner – guitar (1977)
- Neil Smith – bass guitar (1979; died 2013)
- Lobby Loyde – bass guitar (1979–1980; died 2007)
- John Meyer – guitar (1983–1985)
- Greg Jordan – slide guitar (1983–1985)
- Scott Johnston – drums (1983–1984, 1985–1986)
- Steve Balbi – bass guitar (1984–1985)
- Robert Bowron – drums (1984)
- Tim Gaze – slide guitar (1985–1987)
- Andy Cichon – bass guitar, piano, keyboards, backing vocals (1985–1986)
- Jake Landt – bass guitar (1987)
- Rick Melick – keyboards (1987)
- Steve King – bass guitar (2000–2007)
- Rose Tattoo – (1978, Albert Productions)
- Assault & Battery – (1981, Albert)
- Scarred for Life – (1982, Albert)
- Southern Stars – (1984, Albert)
- Beats from a Single Drum – (1986, Mushroom Records)
- Pain – (2002, SPV)
- Blood Brothers – (2007)
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Image from Discogs