Rose tattoo 9


Bad Boy for Love (I Rilen) 1977 and Rock and Roll Outlaw (Rose Tattoo) 1978 – Rose Tattoo


Rose Tattoo were one of the pre-eminent Sydney pub rock bands in the country throughout the 1970’s, the suburban beer barns and inner- city corner hotels provided the sweaty, working class, blue color environment in which the Tatts thrived.

Once Angry Anderson had been recruited from Melbourne’s sharpie/skinhead faves Buster Brown as the group’s front man, and the requisite additional body art applied, the lineup was Mick Cocks (guitar), Ian Rilen (bass) later replaced by Ian Wells, and Dallas Royall (drums). They were aggressive, loud, and confrontational, and debuted at the Bondi Lifesaver Hotel, in December 1976.

Angry Anderson was an unpredictable front-man, one moment wrapping the mic cord around his neck until he passed out, or headbutting the mic stand until he bled, and famously swapping saliva/chewing gum with guitarist Mick Cocks during a Countdown performance, for which the ABC banned them for life – Angry and the Rosie Tatts were morbidly intriguing.

They epitomized the rebel bad boy image of disaffected, tattooed, desperadoes from the wrong side of the tracks, and disarmingly described themselves as “a hearty group of urban survivors” (The Real Thing – Cresswell and Fabinyi 1999).

Bad Boy for Love, written by lead guitarist Ian Rilen, and produced by Vanda and Young, was typical working- class pub rock and roll with heaps of attitude, anti-social sentiment, murder, mayhem, an anthemic chorus and a killer slide guitar by Cocks, it was the band’s first top 20 hit. Ian Rilen claimed to have learned to play guitar in Melbourne’s Bluestone College, better known as Pentridge Prison.


A year later the band delivered another serve of strident, sneering, muscular, blue-collar R&R with the diminutive but demonic Angry Anderson’s gravelly menacing lead vocals taking Rock and Roll Outlaw  to a modest #68 nationally, but the song  fared strongly overseas – #2 France, #5 Germany, #60 UK, and they were also arousing interest in the USA where Guns and Roses had become early fans of their music.

The snarky slide guitar of Peter Wells and the hard -grinding riffs of Geordie Leach lead the listener to the band’s opening statement of intent ‘I don’t need lots of people, tellin’ me what to do/I don’t need a long-haired lady, to love me true as true/ All I need is a rock & roll band, somewhere new to play/And I’m on my way, I’m on my way.’


Rose Tattoo’s songs were so blokey and testosterone -fueled that at times it sounded like homoerotic hubris with a dash of machismo on steroids, but have no doubt, Rose Tattoo were the real deal, the group did live a R&R lifestyle right to the end and it took its toll on these outlaws – no less than six former members of the band have passed away – Lobby Lloyd, Ian Rilen, Mick Cocks, Dallas Royall, Peter Wells and Neil Smith – the titles of several of their early albums were also a pointer to the band’s credo – Scarred For Life and Assault and Battery.

Rose Tattoo were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006 along with Midnight Oil. Helen Reddy, Divinyls, Daddy Cool, Icehouse and Lobby Lloyd.

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