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Sunday Old School: Australian Rock Legends Rose Tattoo

When thinking about Australia's contribution to hard rock and heavy metal, 99% of people will instantly think of AC/DC, which is fair enough, but many of these same people tend to overlook another of the country's best exports, Rose Tattoo. Rose Tattoo were undeniably one of the hardest rocking bands to ever plug into an amp and they proved it by not just writing some fantastic songs, but by taking the stage with a ferocious attitude that bands like Guns 'N Roses would later be known for. The band was formed in 1976 in the city of Sydney by guitarist Peter Wells, who was formerly a member of the heavy metal band Buffalo. The original lineup also featured vocalist Tony Lake, guitarist Leigh Johnston, drummer Michael Vandersluys and bass player Ian Rilen, who taught himself the instrument while he was in prison. Johnston was soon to be replaced by Mick Cocks however, and shortly afterwards, more lineup changes occured, most notably the new addition of notorious frontman Gary "Angry" Anderson. The band released a single on Albert Productions named "Bad Boy For Love" after being recommended to the label by AC/DC. This would mark the only recording with Gilen, who left soon afterwards to form the punk rock band X.

Rose Tattoo followed the single by releasing a self-titled album in 1978, which entered the Australian Top 40 and began to become involved in social issues when they released a single supporting the legalisation of marijuana entitled, "Legalise Realise." A short while later, the band began to achieve success in foreign markets when their debut album, (re-released under the name Rock And Roll Outlaw) entered the British charts at number 60, the German charts at number five and the French charts at number two. They released a second album in 1981 named, "Assault And Battery" which entered the Australian Top 30 and topped the British heavy metal charts, just like the band's previous release. After gaining a following in Europe and the United Kingdom, the band recorded a third album, "Scarred For Life" and set their sights on the United States, supporting the likes of ZZ Top and Aerosmith. While the tours didn't prove to be the groundbreaking introduction they needed, they left a resounding impression on some audiences, particularly in Los Angeles, with many bands from the area later citing Rose Tattoo as an influence. Several lineup changes occured soon after they got back from the States and Anderson recorded what was intended to be a solo album named, "Beats From A Single Drum," however due to contractual issues, it was released under the Rose Tattoo moniker. The band split soon after and Anderson earned himself a hit single with the song "Suddenly" after it was used in the popular soap opera, "Neighbours."

A brief reunion happened in 1993 when Guns 'N Roses asked them to support the group on their Australian tour. Although the reformation didn't last as long as fans hoped, a second reunion occured in 1998, eventually resulting with the album, "Pain" in 2002, their first studio album in sixteen years, along with a live album entitled, "25 To Life." Although the band would suffer a set back when guitarist Peter Wells passed away in 2006, they soldiered on and released a new album, "Blood Brothers" in 2007. Sadly the band has been mainly inactive in recent months, owing to the death of guitarist Mick Cocks in December 2009. Though not as largely known by fans of heavy metal and hard rock audiences of today as they arguably should be, Rose Tattoo have undoubtedly carved a place in music history as one of the most aggressive, though simultaniously fun bands to ever emerge from Australia.

Rose Tattoo - Nice Boys

Rose Tattoo - Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw

Rose Tattoo - We Can't Be Beaten

Rose Tattoo - Bad Boy For Love

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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10 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Rose Tattoo"

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buickmckane's avatar

Writer / Reviewer

1. buickmckane writes:

No doubt one of the best bands ever. Saw their vid for "Scarred for Life" when I was fifteen and have been in love ever since. Check out "Juice on the Loose" and "Nice Boys" that Guns N' Roses covered.

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 5:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
deathbringer's avatar

Founder, owner & programmer

2. deathbringer writes:

I knew I recognized Nice Boys, but couldn't place it for the life of me.

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 6:01 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
wilco's avatar


3. wilco writes:

brings me back to the good old times did see them in 1980 in paradiso amsterdam
shame the dude died of cancer
a other fallen hero

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 6:49 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Trendkill91's avatar


4. Trendkill91 writes:

Lucky enough to see them in 2007 with the reformed Guns N Roses.

Angry Anderson has still got it.
Alot of agression in the blokes voice.

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 7:02 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar


5. hellrat writes:

goddamn, that was fvcking AWESOME

i was completely ignorant of these dudes except having heard the name once or twice....better late than never, eh!

that dude anderson kicks fvckin A$S!! hey 'kill, did he also look the same too? did they also kick the crap out of axl & co??

i'm super jolly for this sh!t....thanks oz man, what a great surprise :)

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 9:05 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
TheIronMan's avatar


6. TheIronMan writes:

Good read.

I have never heard of them until now. I'll check them out.

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 10:11 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Trendkill91's avatar


7. Trendkill91 writes:

What's happening Hellrat?
haven't seen ya round in a while!!

Yeah his bald head as shiny and amazing haha.
Really good performers!

He wasn't to angry tho.

He was in this b grade australian movie once as an angry bikie.
The pizza man stole their mushrooms soo he went after them with a shot gun.

It was pretty good haha.

# Jun 6, 2010 @ 11:24 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

8. Diamond Oz writes:

I got to see them at Graspop 2008 and they blew me away. They were the first band on the main stage on sunday and Angry Anderson opened the set by saying, "Gene Simmons stood on this spot last night, so I'm not f***ing moving!" Great band.

# Jun 7, 2010 @ 4:04 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Metal_Angel216's avatar


9. Metal_Angel216 writes:

effing eh! I haven't listened to Rose Tattoo in forever....Thanks for the reminder.....(goes look for the ablum she lost maybe like a zillion years ago!) =D I hope I find em.....shiitz!

# Jun 7, 2010 @ 6:45 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
goatlady's avatar


10. goatlady writes:

In my mind, Rose Tattoo are Australia's greatest musical export ever - even above AC/DC who are all English guys anyway and haven't lived here since they first started getting successful.

I saw Rose Tattoo supporting Motley Crue in 2006, then Motorhead, then on the last Gunner's tour, and again headlining a fund-raising concert to commission the statue of Bon Scott that now stands in Fremantle fishing boat harbour. No matter who's in the line-up they are always amazing.

Angry Anderson had a hard upbringing and has spoken out and campaigned against sexual abuse and related issues. He's a real Aussie hero through and through.

# Jun 27, 2010 @ 6:02 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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