Australian rock legends The Angels bring their A-Z tour to the Charles Hotel on Friday-Saturday, May 15-16. SHANE PINNEGAR reports.
Playing one hit for each letter of the alphabet, Rick Brewster, lead guitarist of The Angels, expects the shows to last two-and-a-half to three hours each, and feature plenty of songs to thrill casual fans and die-hards alike, including their new tie-in single representing the A and Z of the show – a re-recording of their 1976 breakthrough classic, Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, and a cover of ZZ Top’s La Grange.
A founding member of the band, and the only constant member throughout their long history and many line-up changes, Brewster explains their motivation for revisiting the 40 year-old single, which will be available on CD and vinyl at the shows.
“When the idea came up to do the A-Z Tour,” he says, “John (Brewster, Rick’s brother and rhythm guitarist) then thought it would be a good idea to do the A song and the Z song, to record them and have it available at the gigs to sell. Then the idea went further. We recorded on analog tape like the old days, and we’re putting it out on 7″ vinyl, as well as CD. Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again obviously had to be the A song. The Z song – well, we didn’t have a Z, but we all like ZZ Top and decided to record La Grange with a blistering harmonica solo from John.
“We thought we would do Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again pretty much exactly as we did it when we first recorded it with George (Young) and Harry (Vanda – producers of The Angels’ early albums) in 1976. Then it was sort of a struggle to try and recapture those guitar sounds, but we came very close. If I put it on now, I could swear it’s the original single.”
The harmonica solo on their new version of La Grange is scorching indeed, but Rick said he had to talk his brother into letting loose.
“Yeah, I had to push John to do it. He’s very modest about his harmonica playing. He doesn’t hold his hand up usually to do it. I said from the start, ‘look if we’re going to do La Grange, I don’t want to play a guitar solo. If I want to hear La Grange with a guitar solo, I’ll listen to Billy Gibbons! But it’s a perfect song to play harmonica on’. And John said, ‘no, I couldn’t do that’, but he did it in one take. We’ve played it live and it goes down really well. It’s one of those songs that I’ve always wanted to play.”
The other letter the band couldn’t fill was Q – and they thought up an innovative answer to that omission – making it stand for ‘Question’.
“We’ll just throw that to the audience,” chuckles Rick, “that should be fun. You can request whatever you’d like – hopefully we’ll know how to play it. Some of them, we have two or three songs that we could do for a particular letter, so we might throw that at the audience as well – ‘here are the choices, what do you want to hear?’”
It sounds like a good way to keep it fun and mix things up for the band as well as the audience.
“Oh definitely,” agrees Rick, “mix it up and then play some songs we wouldn’t normally play, because we’ve got the time in a two-and-a-half to three-hour show.”
What prompted The Angels to go old school and press a vinyl single?
“The sound.” He says without hesitation. “Everyone knows vinyl sounds better. It’s weird these days to get an opportunity to hear it on vinyl. I was given one for Christmas, a turntable – I’ve cleaned up a few of the old vinyl records. They just sound brilliant. And there’s something about vinyl. Not just the sound, either. It’s the fact that you have to turn it over to play side-B.
The image of Rick Brewster, statue-like on stage even whilst playing fiery guitar solos and hard rocking tunes that virtually defined the Australian pub rock sound, seems a road less ordinary for the young lad who originally trained as a classical pianist and then formed a hillbilly jug band in his teens.
“Yeah, it was a bit weird to go from playing Beethoven to playing the washboard, then going from that to playing lead guitar – when I didn’t have a clue how to play lead guitar! It was a very, very steep learning curve, because we already had gigs booked. When John and Doc (Neeson) and I started the band, we went straight out on the road, and I just had to give myself a crash course in trying to learn how to play a Chuck Berry solo.”