Doc: The life and times of Aussie rock legend Doc Neeson, Anne Souter & Jon Bradshaw
I was one of those girls, right up the back of the venue, watching The Angels. The band mostly keeping to the shadows, statues in the dark, playing hard driving, LOUD, guitar based rock and roll. In the spotlights, at the front, more often than not, hanging from the scaffolding, dressed in all sorts of costumery / theatrical and impossibly gorgeous, was Doc Neeson. Teasing (antagonising) the audience, throwing himself around with (what turned out to be) no regard for his personal health at all. In those days, ridiculously tall, utterly mesmerising with his wild hair, wild / driven eyes, and wild wild wild singing, you never came away from an Angels gig disappointed. Mildly deaf, utterly exhausted, totally exhilarated and feeling reckless, excited, possessed, they were heady days back then. Rock and roll was in the pubs and big venues, it was loud, it was sweaty, it was vaguely pissed and it was my young years. Loved it. Loved the Angels, loved every single gig of theirs I was lucky enough to see - have left strict instructions for no funeral but the pub will be playing Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face again - NOT the ballad version.
This book was my Christmas present to me, bought as soon as I could get my hands on it, dragged to the top of the reading pile on purpose. It starts out with Jon Bradshaw's recollections of Doc's early childhood and in particular his arrival in Elizabeth South Australia, the eldest of a large Catholic tribe of kids, the boy whose education was interrupted by the need to help out with the family, the kid who came to love music, and showed quite the propensity for the business side of the industry from an early age.
Doc went on to spend time in the military, and in (of all things) a jug band, before working his way into the rock world. And you have to give all the Angels points for their work ethic which was unbelievable, as was their propensity to in fight, bitch at each other, tear themselves apart and shoot themselves in the feet on regular occasions. Followers of the Australian rock scene will know the story of the Angels, Angel City, Doc Neeson's Angels, The Angels 100% and all the other incarnations, they'll probably also know the story of the legendary break up of friendships, the chaos of broken personal relationships and the general mess that seemed to straighten itself out, only to disintegrate again.
The second part of the book is the more personal recollections of Anne Souter, Doc's partner at the end, although Doc's concept of relationships and other people's might vary a little - he was a tricky man to tie down it seems, and bloody impossible to be around if he was corralled in any way. He was also a very unwell man, a car accident left him with life-long injuries, numerous concussions and head bumps created complications, and a number of serious illnesses limited him severely - most of which weren't necessarily known about widely at the time. He was such a driven, success orientated person that these set backs badly affected him, created a world that he really struggled to navigate in at times.
Despite all of those setbacks he was always known as a hard man of rock, dangerous and daring on the stage, Doc was also the sort of man that cared for an injured lizard, befriended a possum, loved a lot of women and fathered multiple sons (one he didn't know about for years). He was loved by many, annoyed a lot (often the same people) and he was most definitely his own man. Tricky, maybe. Original, definitely. We were lucky to be young in those days, in the pub rock, mad days of dancing until silly o'clock, and then dancing in the streets afterwards. Dodging fights, and a heap of bad things that went on as well (no rose coloured glasses), we saw the beginnings of a music industry that feels like it's uniquely Australian. Loud, mad, bad, crazy and so much fun. So very very much fun and it was people like Doc that made it that way for the rest of us.
He was a legend of Australian rock, the front man who lived as hard and as wildly as he performed . . . this is his story.
Often compared to David Bowie and Mick Jagger, Doc Neeson was hailed as a 'messianic rock god'.
He was thumping, pumping, sweaty hard rock. He commanded the stage. He was unstoppable. He was terrifying. He was wild. He was a legend. And as their front man, Doc propelled the Angels to become the highest paid band in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s. With massive album sales in Australia and a US record deal, global superstardom seemed assured . . . but then everything started to fall apart.
This is Doc's story with the highs, the lows, the girls, the booze, the drugs, the tours, the good deeds, the crazy antics, the dark days and the great split that shattered the Angels. When he died in 2014 from a brain tumour, a black veil came down over a generation of Australian rock fans.