Just noticed an e-mail from fellow Vancouver rock writer “Big Al” MacInnis relaying the sad news that Doc Neeson, the singer from Angel City–or the Angels, as they were called in their native Australia–passed away today at the age of 67.
Man, I used to love Angel City tunes like “Marseilles”, “Shadow Boxer”, and especially “Take a Long Line.”
News of Neeson’s passing had me digging around downstairs in my boxes of old Georgia Straight newspapers, ’cause I knew I’d interviewed him back when the band put out its Two Minute Warning album.
Lo and behold, here’s my copy of the March 22, 1985 issue, with the story I was lookin’ for. And right underneath my Angel City piece is one I did on Coney Hatch–who are still around in some form, and are actually playing the upcoming Sturgis Canada Festival!
So even though it’s after midnight and I gotta get up in six hours and go to work, I’m gonna freakin’ retype that story, ’cause I just know there’s some hardcore Angel City fans out there who’d love to read it.
Or one, anyway. Right Big Al?
“We were driving around L.A. yesterday,” relates Angel City vocalist Doc Neeson, “and we passed this fantastic crowd of about 20 or 30 black guys–a conga band. So I stopped. Then one of them grabbed a hold of our lead guitarist! And to us, culturally, you’re just never quite sure–when you’re around a bunch of guys like that–whether it’s cool to be in their space.
“So when this guy grabbed Rick we thought, ‘Uh oh, here’s trouble’. Then he said ‘I know you man…You was on MTV!”
Doc Neeson and the rest of Angel City are well aware of the saving graces of visual exposure. Along with the video of their latest single, “Underground”–which was shot by the same production company that made The Road Warrior–they have three other clips to come from their new album, Two Minute Warning. Videos of “Sticky Little Bitch”, “Look the Other Way”, and “Between the Eyes”–all filmed in the band’s native Australia–are already in the can.
And to get their message of gritty rock across to the live masses the band have undertaken a whirlwind North American tour, of which last week’s Vancouver appearance with Triumph was their first Canadian date.
Angel City was formed in the mid-seventies when Irish-born Neeson, who had migrated from Northern Ireland to South Australia with his parents, met up with the guitar-playing Brewster brothers, Rick (lead) and John (rhythm). The group had international success with the singles “Marseilles”, “Take a Long Line”, and “(She Keeps) No Secrets”, and toured with the likes of Cheap Trick, Meat Loaf, and even David Bowie.
WIth their gritty, basic sound, Doc’s devious vocals, and the brotherly guitar unit, Angel City couldn’t help but be compared to another famous band from Down Under called AC/DC. But the similarity to Bon Scott never bothered Neeson.
“As far as I was concerned it was a bonus,” he says. In actual fact, it was AC/DC that got Angel City their first record deal, taking them along on tour and introducing them to their record company. And while AC/DC have faltered in their album work in recent years, Angel City have only progressed, to the point where Two Minute Warning is jam-packed with great on-the-brink-of-mayhem rock and roll.
Over the sturdy rhythm section of bassist Jim Hilbun, from California, and drummer Brent Eccles from New Zealand, Doc and the Brewster brothers burn through songs like “Underground” and “Walking to Babylon”. The latter tune contains excerpts from a poem by Bertolt Brecht, of whom Neeson–a university drama student before turning rocker–is especially fond. “I just think he’s a fantastic writer. And I really liked his ideas about people.”
Two Minute Warning is one of the strongest and most consistent hard rock albums released so far this year. A lot of credit for the LP’s winning sound must to to producer Ashley Howe, whom Angel City searched out for his ability to get the best out of a guitar-dominated group.
“A lot of producers,” explains Doc, “get very scared by guitars. They always try and push them down in the mix and have a weak tone on them or something like that. And Ashley had worked with groups like Uriah Heep, Queen, and Ted Nugent. In fact he’s also engineered John Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ track. So we had a good sort of rock and roll connection right from the start.”