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50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #45: The Angels

Nathan Cavaleri looks back at one of Adelaide’s most iconic and influential rock exports, The Angels.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time - The Angels

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In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.

In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.

50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #45: The Angels (by Nathan Cavaleri)

My first experience with The Angels was not hearing them, but performing a charity gig with Doc Neeson. I’d been introduced to Doc as the lead singer of The Angels, and that was my cue to investigate who they were. I didn’t even know that Graham “Buzz” Bidstrup and the late Chris Bailey my first drummer and bass player – were the first Angels guys either. I didn’t come about their work until after I’d met half of them. That’s the story of my life: working with people like that from a young age.

They came about at a time when I was just getting into rock music, having grown up only really listening to traditional blues, and Dire Straits. As a touring blues musician, my first experience with rock was Jimmy Barnes, and then playing in front of Buzz, who encouraged me to bring a sense of rock to my blues playing, which stemmed from The Angels.

So I remember the first song I had heard of The Angels, and I was really drawn to it because I identified with the blues undertones that they had. Much like Rose Tattoo, who I think of as a really loud, rocking blues band, really. To me, The Angels brought punk rock and blues together, particularly in their early days.

“I crank The Angels before I go onstage.”

I don’t really recall many punk rock bands back then that moved the general population. It seemed like The Angels brought that punk sensibility into the general, almost commercial population. Before that, it was a real cult thing, but at the same time, I don’t feel as though they ever sold out; they stayed true. My old manager often used to refer to the early days of The Angels as them being “purposeful tourers”. A little later in their career, they toured massively, but I was told that in the early days, they were all about not touring too much, but purposefully.

They weren’t a band that were just doing the rounds over and over again. People would clear their schedules and make sure they could get to see them that one time of the year. Ever since I was told that, I feel that it heavily influenced my own strategy in how I approach touring myself. There’s a fine line, but it’s the power of rarity. 

Like any of my favourite bands, they make me feel something, and take me out of the moment that I’m in. Most of the time, for me, it inspires me to let go and just not give a fuck. That’s why I crank The Angels before I go onstage – it’s to let go of any anxieties and worries, and to just be myself. I feel like bands like that almost gave people permission to just let go.