Anger burns inside of me
Give me a war to fight
I’m feelin’ cold, feelin’ restless
Out on the streets tonight

Like an animal being hunted
I got nothin’ more to lose
This life that I was given
Sure as hell ain’t the one I choose

Stick those words in the mouth of, say Nelson or Poison, and you’ve got a very laughable prospect, stick them down the gullet of today’s little bunch of boy scouts and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.  Rose Tattoo are probably (and very sadly) more famous for providing Guns N’ Roses with ‘Nice Boys’ to cover, than as a band in their own right.  Which is a damn shame, because in their prime they were just a fearsome machine; hell they knew what they were singing about when they sang, ‘Nice boys don’t play rock and roll’.

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Take a look at them on the cover of Assault and Battery, sprawled all over each other tattoos to the fore in a manner which I’d normally poke fun at for being a bit camp – not here I’m not!  Look at, lead singer, Angry Anderson’s skinhead attire – he looks like a particularly vicious extra from Romper Stomper*, he’s got that aggressive short-man thing going on to the max.  This is not a band trying to look like a mean gang, this is a gang who just happen to have made a record.

And what a record it is.  Assault and Battery was recorded at Albert studios in 1981 and produced by Vanda and Young, the formula did not catapult them to fame the same way as their compatriots, AC/DC** – it was never on the cards, Rose Tattoo may have played as hard, but they lacked the Young brothers simple virtuosity and Bon’s humourous touch.  When Bon Scott sings about sex, he comes over as a bit of a rueful tomcat – when Angry Anderson does, it’s still damn menacing.  That’s not to say Rose Tattoo couldn’t play, on the contrary they had a brilliant rock slide guitarist in Pete Wells and Mick Cocks and Ian Rillen were very good rhythm guitarist and bassist respectively.

If you’re looking for sweeping variations of theme and instrumentation then look elsewhere, what Assault and Battery delivers, in spades, is diamond-hard chugging white blues-based rock.  The song titles give you most of what you need to know here, ‘Out of This Place’, ‘Let it go’, ‘Assault and Battery’ and ‘Suicide City’.  We run the gamut of emotions here from anger, through rage, hurt, aggression all the way to incensed.

My personal favourite is the title track, with its tale of a man being sent down for 3 years for stopping a gang assaulting a girl.  It’s just brilliant, the way that the lines are delivered sends a shiver of righteous weapons-grade indignation up my spine,

 The charge was assault & battery
The judge said there’d be no bail
The charge was assault & battery
And they dragged me off to  jail

They turned on me mad, crazy and mean
I stole ’em the cake,  they were gonna cream
They leapt on me like a pack of dogs
Pullin’ me  down, they wanted me flogged

Punchin’ and fightin’ I got to my feet
Determined to leave their  blood on the street
If I went down now they’d kick me to death
That  sweet little girl would be left a wreck

Hey, I’m a card-carrying pinko vegetarian pacifist and this makes me wanna fight someone, anyone (for a good cause, obviously!).  It’s just energizing stuff.  Grr! See, I’m in touch with my inner man!

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But this is no one-trick pony of an LP, it’s all pretty fine stuff – ‘Chinese Dunkirk’ a sinister satanic (Satanic?) tale of evil incest ‘Black cats and priests won’t cross my path / Where I spit, no grass will grow’ does it for me, as does the opening one-two of ‘Out of This Place’ and ‘All The lessons’, which is just an incendiary track, I know I’m a bit lyric heavy tonight, but hey –

Don’t turn the other cheek

Unless you want it beaten in

Fight violence with violence

It’s the only way to win

This was 1981, an awful lot of hardcore and second generation punk outfits were winning big critical plaudits for their proclamations of street-level anger and violence, I guess Rose Tattoo’s brand of rock just wasn’t trendy enough at the time to score the same points; in the anger stakes I’d put it up there with Discharge’s mighty, mighty Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing from the following year^.

If I was being critical I’d say that it is a bit one-paced and there are the odd bits of filler, ‘Magnum Maid’ and ‘Sidewalk Sally’, but I’ve listened to this LP so many times I barely notice them anymore and just concentrate on the good/great stuff elsewhere on the platter.

Rather confusingly the copy I bought in January 1991, had the inner sleeve of ZZ Top’s First Album inside it, I remember looking at it and puzzling how these long-haired, rustic-looking degenerates became the mean, lean rockers on the cover.  What gave it a bit of credibility is the photo on the bottom left where the middle figure (Dusty Hill?) looks like a fuzzy-haired Angry Anderson.  It’s the sort of thing I spent my free time puzzling over.  I only found out my misconception when i got the ZZ Top LP a couple of years ago.

Him in the middle
Him in the middle

Sadly Rillen, Cocks and Wells have all passed away from various cancers, but I think all their LPs together and especially Assault and Battery stand as a pretty mean testament.

201 Down.

*I’ve met a number of perfectly pleasant anti-nazi, ska-fan, skinheads but the classic skinhead look frightens me like nothing else; possibly inherited memories of my hippy parents being chased through tube stations by them in late 1960’s London.  I’m afraid my normal setting on meeting people who affect that look is ‘Auto-Despise’, not very open-minded I know.

**who were fans, reportedly recommending them to Atlantic.

^source of the Metallica cover, ‘Free Speech For the Dumb’ – which is only 1/9 as angry as the original.

5 thoughts on “Anger Burns

  1. It’s odd when a r’n’r singer becomes something of a celebrity as Angry later did. He instigated and supported some worthwhile children’s programs but more recently turned this card-carrying pinko pacifist right off by lending loud support for the shameful misogamist attacks on the first female Aussie PM. Picture placards saying ‘Ditch the Bitch’ and you get the level of debate. Anyway, it didn’t need Angry to do any ditching, the ALP did it themselves. Sorry for the rant, but it’s been a sad time in Australian politics. AND England’s going to cream us in the Ashes. It’s only rock and roll. Nice post, by the way.

    1. I know what you mean, I didn’t know about any involvement in the Julia Gillard saga (which I agree, to an outsider like me, does look like something to be ashamed of), but he has expressed some feelings about immigration and the Vietnamese boat people in the past that have grated with me – but I’ve tried to ignore both that and his shameful Neighbours song for the sake of pseudo-journalistic attachment.

      I tell you now – I’d swap the next 5 Ashes series for a Lions win on Saturday!

      Still I had fun building Angry Anderson out of Lego, which is the most important thing.

      1. The Lego is terrific. And please don’t infer any criticism from my late night rave. There’s an interesting theme here about how we separate our appreciation of an artist from their personal attributes. Let’s face it, most rock persons would fail the ‘I’d have a beer with’ test.

      2. I couldn’t agree more, if I only bought LPs by people who I’d want to spend time with, then my blog would probably be called 32 and I’d be doing something more productive with my leisure time!

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