“A band that changed Australian music forever” – Jimmy Barnes
This is it, folks, over the top!
Is there a more Australian experience than seeing The Angels perform their debut single, ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again’, with the crowd chanting in unison:
No way, get fucked, fuck off!
The irony is The Angels have never gone away. As the book The 100 Best Australian Albums points out, “The Angels can lay claim to being Australia’s longest-lasting band.”
The Angels have a storied history. And it’s a story that’s still being written by founding members John and Rick Brewster, and singer Dave Gleeson, drummer Nick Norton, and John’s son, Sam, on bass.
“The band is re-energised to the extent that I feel like it’s a young band again,” Rick says. “I feel like I felt when we started out.”
“We’ve survived all these years and gone on to make new music,” John adds. “Something we can be proud of.”
Thirteen studio albums, eight Top 10 albums, 17 Top 40 singles … but that tells only part of The Angels story. It’s the relationship with the audience that means everything to the band, built via thousands of gigs. An exhilarating exchange of energy. As Rick notes, “The hour-and-a-half onstage is what makes it all worthwhile.”
“A guaranteed great time anywhere” – David Fricke, US Rolling Stone
“The Angels had a profound effect on live music in Australia. Their shows raised the standard expected of live music” – Toby Creswell, former Rolling Stone Australia editor
Producer Mark Opitz knew The Angels had found their sound when he heard John Brewster playing the distinctive nic-nics guitar for ‘I Ain’t The One’. Opitz dubbed it sophisticated punk – sophisto-punk.
“The revolution was here,” Opitz later reflected. “Pub rock would now sound good on record. Just as Nirvana would kill the hair rock bands, Face To Face spelled the demise of glam pop in Australia. Rock had arrived, and The Angels were the new kings.”
“I’ll never forget the first time I heard Face To Face. That was a breakthrough album in the evolution of Australian music” – Ross Wilson
“The Angels helped re-define the Australian pub rock tradition” – Ian McFarlane, The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop
Following the success of Face To Face and No Exit, The Angels signed an international record deal and toured the US and Europe, influencing young bands around the world.
“One of the main reasons this band [Guns N’ Roses] got together was a song called ‘Take A Long Line’” – Axl Rose
“I grew up on No Exit and Night Attack. That is the Australian music that meant so much to me” – Mike McCready, Pearl Jam
Growing up in Newcastle, Dave Gleeson – who later formed The Screaming Jets – also loved The Angels. “Their songs from the late ’70s and early ’80s are more ingrained in me than even Jets songs, because they’ve been with me since I was 12 or 13 years old.”
When Dave rocked up to a Brewster Brothers gig in the Adelaide Hills in 2011, they asked him what Angels songs he knew. “All of them,” he replied. After Dave joined them on stage, John and Rick knew they had found their new lead singer. Dave was initially reluctant, due to his reverence for Doc, but he couldn’t resist joining his favourite band.
“I’m definitely respectful of the fact that I’m not the creator of the Angels’ sound,” Dave says. “And I’m mindful of bringing that energy that Doc brought to the band. But it’s a real treat for me to be up there blasting out songs that I’ve loved since I was a kid.”
The Angels’ long-time booking agent, Tony Grace, says adding Dave to the band was a masterstroke. “You couldn’t write a better script. I held in high regard what Doc did in his generation … but Dave Gleeson was the best of the best in the current crop. He is what rock ’n’ roll and Australian pub rock stands for.”
More than four decades into their remarkable journey, The Angels remain fierce and uncompromising. They have always done things their own way. As rock historian Ian McFarlane notes, “The Angels were often seen as a punk/new wave outfit, yet the high-energy sound, powerful guitar riffing and muscular yet supple rhythm section took the band beyond such easy categorisations.”
This is it, folks, over the top! remains an irresistible rallying cry to rock ’n’ roll.
Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes calls The Angels’ sound “powerful, aggressive and joyous”, adding, “I hope they do it for many more years to come.”
That’s the plan.