I actually saw Rose Tattoo live in Leeds on either July 13 or July 14, 1981. They were supporting Ritchie Blackmore, who was already a legend then. Ritchie is still performing and recording, for the past quarter of a century with Candice Night, if you can believe that. He is still a legend, and Rose Tattoo frontman Angry Anderson is still, er, well, angry.
Rose Tattoo was formed in 1976. Gary Stephen Anderson was not quite a founder member, but he has been with the band virtually from the off, and has been its only lead vocalist since.
Now 72, Anderson has long been a controversial figure as well as an angry one. In 1993, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his youth advocacy work, but in 2007, he came under fire for his comments on Islamic immigration into Australia. He has been involved in politics in a small way and has somewhat eclectic views saying at one point that so-called asylum seekers should be kicked out, but endorsing same-sex marriage.
Anderson has a daughter and three sons by Lindy Michael, or rather he had three sons. The couple divorced after nearly twenty years of marriage, and their youngest son Liam was killed in November 2018. Anderson was understandably devastated. Liam was said to have been punched and stamped to death by Michael Flame in a drug-induced frenzy. The two were apparently close friends; Flame was back in court last November, but has not yet stood trial.
Like many long-lived rock bands, Rose Tattoo has had a heavy turnover: bass player Ian Rilen died of cancer in 2006, and another bass player, Lobby Loyde, died the following year.
Although well past pension age, Anderson is still playing live. The oldest member of the band, but not massively so. Drummer Jackie Barnes – son of rocker Jimmy Barnes – may be less than half his age, but bass player Mark Evans, who had a short tenure with AC/DC, is 63.
Rose Tattoo will be undertaking a US tour in May; details can be found on their official website, but for those who can’t make it, on March 6, they are releasing Outlaws. The title comes from their best known – but far from best – track Rock ’N’ Roll Outlaw, an early group composition which was produced originally by the legendary team of Vanda & Young. Available as a CD and limited edition vinyl as well as a download, the album kicks off with One Of The Boys, an autobiographical 1970s track not to be confused with the earlier Ian Hunter/Mick Ralphs composition from All The Young Dudes.
Along with Anderson’s distinctive vocal, the most noticeable feature of Rose Tattoo is their slide guitar, which comes over well here. Rock ’N’ Roll Outlaw is included of course, a proper album version, running to more than twice the length of the radio edit.
Of the 13 tracks on the album, Astra Wally has to be the one with the weirdest name, the only one with a weird name in fact. Apparently Astra Wally is a real dude, or larrikin as they say in Australia. The rest of the album is fairly typical of Rose Tattoo’s output, who although never as big as AC/DC are sure to go down in history as one of Australia’s top bands.
It remains to be seen where that leaves Angry Anderson, but barring exceptional circumstances later this year he will attend the trial of his son’s killer and alleged murderer. Rock ’N’ Roll can be a tough game, but next to that, it is a walk in the park.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.