Pete Wells, slide guitarist and one of the founders of Australian power blues band Rose Tattoo, died in a Sydney hospital early yesterday morning (March 27). He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002 and had spent the last five weeks in the hospital. According to friends, he was due to turn 60 this year.
Wells emerged in 1966 playing bass in the Brisbane blues band Head. He moved to Sydney and joined heavy metal band Buffalo. The band’s “Volcanic Rock” was the first Australian metal album to go gold; the act also scored an overseas deal with Vertigo.
In 1976 he switched to slide guitar, formed the seminal Rose Tattoo and went on to hire lead singer Angry Anderson. They became one of Australian’s main street outlaw bands and found a loyal following in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Wells’ original concept for the band was for all the members to sport bright orange hair, tattoos, shaved eyebrows and black T-shirts and jeans.
Rose Tattoo’s influence later became apparent on U.S. rock combos like Guns N’ Roses, who covered its track “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock’n’Roll),” Motley Crue and L.A. Guns.
Rose Tattoo’s self-titled debut album was released in November 1978 on Albert Records. It became an instant classic, thanks to tracks like “Rock’n’Roll Outlaw” and “Bad Boy for Love.” Wells left Rose Tattoo in 1983. But he rejoined in 2000 for tours in Europe and for a 2002 album, “Pain.”
In between running a tattoo parlor, House of Pain, Wells later played in a series of bands such as Illustrated Men, Scattered Aces and Romeo’s Dog. He also made music with his partner, Lucy De Soto. His five solo albums, including 1991’s “Everything You Like Tries To Kill You,” showed his love for country blues and his whisky-soaked drawl.
Australian acts such as the Beasts of Bourbon, Paul Kelly and Tim Rogers staged benefit concerts for Wells in Sydney and Melbourne last September. A memorial service will be held Friday (March 31) in Sydney.