Vale Doc Neeson

Doc Neeson by Kathleen O'Brien
Doc Neeson by Kathleen O’Brien


The rock world was saddened this week to hear of the death of The Angels frontman, Doc Neeson, aged 67. If you never saw Doc Neeson perform live, you missed out on something pretty special. His band mates said it best.

‘Doc became one of the great frontmen of all time, a dynamic, demonic, artistic and imposing performer who would give it his all night afer night, totally spent at the end of each show.’ (John Brewster)

“He would dress up in that morning suit in the late 1970s, looking like someone going to Ascot races and during the show, he would lose the jacket and the tie and end up this sweaty, gritty rock guy.” (Buzz Bidstrup)

The Performing Arts Collection has recently digitised a series of 100 rare live performances shots of Neeson in action during the late 1970s which capture some of the passion, theatricality and raw energy Neeson put into his performances. The photographs were taken by Kathleen O’Brien, a freelance photographer for the Australian rock journals, RAM, JUKE and Rolling Stone.  The Kathleen O’Brien Collection takes us deep into the dark, sweaty, smoky clubs of Melbourne and Sydney during the late 1970s and early 1980s where Australian performers The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Dragon, The Sports, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, AC/DC, Skyhooks and international acts such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Ferry, Lou Reed and Blondie worked their magic.

This week seems like a perfect time to revisit some of those old haunts and to see one of the best showmen in rock ‘n’ roll strut his stuff.

An Angel Drops By…

Bob Spencer visits the Performing Arts Collection store, 2013. Photograph by Alex Green.
Bob Spencer visits the Performing Arts Collection store, 2013. Photograph by Alex Green.

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Spencer, guitarist with seminal Australian rock bands Skyhooks (1977-1985) and The Angels (1985-1992 & 2008 – present). During Bob’s visit to the Performing Arts Collection with colleagues Simon Rashleigh and Alex Green, we talked rock’n’roll and pored over amazing photographs of Skyhooks and The Angels in the JUKE Magazine Collection. We also discussed the important role played by the Collection in ensuring that Australia’s rock music heritage is documented and celebrated.

Of course, performers like Bob make that job much easier when they generously donate material reflecting their own careers and we were thrilled when he offered us his custom-made leather jacket made for The Angels 1990 ‘Beyond Salvation’ tour; a beaded belt he’d made using beads he used to thread into his hair before performances, a pair of signature ‘rock ‘n’ roll sunglasses and a selection of studded leather belts and boot chains.

As one of Australia’s longest-surviving and hardest-rocking bands, The Angels hold a unique place in Australian music. Known and loved for their high energy live shows fronted by lead singer Doc Neeson, the band has released over 20 albums since their formation in Adelaide in 1974 and scored 17 Top 40 hits with songs including ‘Take A Long Line’, ‘Shadow Boxer’, ‘No Secrets’, ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’, ‘Dogs Are Talking’ and the Australian rock anthem, ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again’.

Bob’s contribution as guitarist, songwriter and vocalist with The Angels was officially recognised in 1998 when the band was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. He now spends much of his time mentoring musicians of all ages through the Weekend Warriors Program and his Greater Groove Music Program which supports and guides young musicians.

Bob Spencer’s gifts to the Performing Arts Collection are currently on display at:
Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall, Velik Foyer, Level 5