Bernard "Doc" Neeson, the frontman of hitmaking Australian rock group the Angels (also known as Angel City and The Angels from Angel City), has died after a battle with brain cancer. He was 67.
At its peak, the Angels was the quintessential Aussie pub-rock band; a group blessed with an arsenal of explosive songs and -- with Neeson at the mic -- one of the most charismatic singers in the rock business.
Born Jan. 4, 1949 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Neeson emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia when he was 13. He went on to play with Moonshine Jug and String Band, a group that morphed into the Keystone Angels. And later the Angels. His intense gaze and livewire antics at front and center of stage helped established his band as legends in their homeland.
The 1978 album “Face To Face” ignited the Angels’ career, and yielded the hits "Take a Long Line" and "Marseilles". The album was reissued on vinyl earlier this year, with Neeson remarking at the time, "I don’t think it was accidental that 'Face to Face' was on the charts for 71 weeks while we toured every part of Australia." He added, "people checked us out live then heard that same, roaring dynamic captured on top quality analog vinyl. On great vinyl the fans could hear the full quality of sound they had experienced at an Angels concert and that excited them."
The band's 1976 song "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" is part of Australia’s rock 'n' roll DNA, and is a favorite at any party where beer is served (for reasons no-one can explain, Australians tend to shout-back an expletive-filled lyric which doesn’t actually exist in its chorus).
The Angels were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1998. A year later, Neeson suffered a severe spinal injury.
Neeson went on to perform with various acts including Doc Neeson's Angels and Red Phoenix, and there were legal battles with his former bandmates who continued to tour as the Angels. Neeson and his former bandmates reunited and toured, but he would again leave to pursue a solo career.
In March of this year, Neeson released the single “Walking in the Rain,” originally recorded by Flash and The Pan. It was his first studio recording in nearly seven years. The song, written by the legendary Vanda & Young team, was recorded late last year at Albert Studios in Sydney by ARIA Award winning producer Brendan Gallagher prior to Doc touring the country last November with the RocKwiz Salutes Vanda And Young shows.
Neeson was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor in 2012 and reportedly spent the Christmas and New Year period of that year in hospital undergoing intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
He is said to have passed away peacefully Wednesday morning.
“He has battled with a brain tumour for the last 17 months and sadly lost his fight this morning,” a note posted on his official Facebook page reads. “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.”
The “loving father, family member and friend to so many” is said to have died in his sleep at 7.15am on June 4. "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,” continues the message, signed by his family members Dzintra, Daniel, Aidan and Kieran.