Vale Doc Neeson: now with the other Angels

Legendary Aussie singer Doc Neeson has died of a brain tumour at the age of 67.

Neeson fronted one of the great ‘pub rock’ bands of the 1970s, The Angels, and was part of an era of music that coincided with the birth of rock-heavy Australian FM radio stations such as Triple M.

Announcing the news on air today, Ron E Sparks, who began his radio career in that era and now hosts the WSFM morning show, played a promo recorded by Doc Neeson and used for many years on WS.

WSFM’s Charlie Fox has told radioinfo that there are 6 Angels tracks on the station’s playlist (in no particular order):

Am I ever gonna see your face again, Take a long line, No secrets, We gotta get out of this place, Shadow Boxer, Dogs are talking. Occasionally listeners will also hear Marseilles and Out of the blue.

Fox says The Angels were “simply one of the great Aussie rock bands of my era. I missed the early years of The Easybeats and all those awesome 60s bands. These were my guys, they were (and still are) unique.

“I remember seeing them play in San Francisco and just being so proud they were Australian. Tightest rock band in the world and Doc just scary & mesmerising at the same time. They started back in the 70s and progressed into the 80s.

“Commercial AM radio was a bunch of scaredy cats back in those days & frightened of anything loud & fast. Radio didn’t really come to grips with it until FM started. Anyway it was the famous Aussie pub circuit that made these guys stars and sold records. I don’t really want to say they paved the way for others because really our big bands like Chisel, Oils & INXS all started out a lot like that. I’m sure however ALL those bands and their front men would pay homage to Doc who showed that you could break the mold of what a traditional front man could be.

“Doc was incredibly charismatic and us radio people loved his voice. I actually had him doing shifts at MMM Sydney at one stage and he was quite a successful voice over guy doing ads for Audi and other blue chip clients. RIP Doc we all loved you, a gentlemen until the end.”

As one of the WSFM listeners said on the station’s Facebook page:
Heaven now has the biggest and best Angel. RIP Sir Doc Neeson.
You were loved by many and will be sorely missed.
Rock on in Heaven xx.

Elsewhere on the dial, newly launched ABC digital station Double J has paid tribute to Neeson using archival material from the Double J and Triple J vaults. Triple M has also paid tribute to Doc with a range of tracks played and memories of Doc discussed on air. Listen here.

Neeson was born in Belfast and when he was 13 his family moved to Australia. He joined an Adelaide band called the Moonshine Jug and String Band, which later transformed into The Angels. Read more about Doc’s career here.

In 1976 The Angels and released their debut single Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, and followed that with a string of hits which included: Coming Down (1978), Take A Long Line (1978), After The Rain’ (1978), ‘Shadow Boxer’ (1979), No Secrets (1980), No Secrets (1980), Fashion and Fame (1980), Stand Up (1982), Eat City (1983), Live Lady Live (1984), Nature of the Beast (1986), Don’t Waste My Time (1986), We Gotta Get Outta This Place (1987), Finger On The Trigger (1988), Let The Night Roll On (1990), Dogs Are Talking (1990), Back Street Pickup’ (1990), Tear Me Apart (1992).

Earlier this year, Neeson released his first studio recording in 7 years.  When he was diagnosed with brain cancer he wrote about it in Fairfax newspapers and also discussed his benefit concert:

“My benefit concert was one of the best rock’n’roll shows in Australia ever. Everyone was from that era when Australian rock music was at its peak – in the 1970s and 1980s. It was kind of a celebration of that era. I felt that I really needed to get on stage to be part of it. My doctors said I shouldn’t do it. It was a nice rock’n’roll sense of rebellion [to say] I’ll do it anyway…”

The Angels are still performing, and are currently in the middle of the 40th anniversary tour.

Publicist Catherine Swinton announced the news of Doc’s passing today:

“It is with deep sadness and regret that the family of Angels’ singer/songwriter Bernard ‘Doc’ Neeson – loving father, family member and friend to so many – announce he has passed away in his sleep at 7.15am today.

“He has battled with a brain tumour for the last 17 months and sadly lost his fight this morning. He will be deeply missed by his family and partner Annie Souter who would all like to thank everyone for their support through this dark time.”

In a supplementary statement, his children said:

“We love you Dad. You couldn’t have made any of your sons more proud of you if you tried. May your beautiful soul rest in peace sweet angel, fly high. Dzintra, Daniel, Aidan and Kieran”

In 2012, The Angels performed for Triple M Melbourne, causing some nervousness for the producers, as we reported at the time.


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