The first time Rose Tattoo played in Melbourne

Early in 1977, I remember reading a review in either RAM or Juke music magazine about a gig on New Years Eve, 1976 at a Sydney venue called Chequers. It was headed by former Buster Brown lead singer angry Anderson and included former Buffalo slide guitarist Peter Wells. It stated the band members were sporting dyed red burgundy Sharpie haircuts

This was the debut appearance of a new hard rock outfit called "Rose Tattoo".

Lobby Loyde and the Coloured Balls were no longer around, Buster Brown had broken up a year earlier and AC/DC had made the big move to the UK, so we were in limbo for a rock band playing our style of music. 

“the immediate impression one gets of Angry Anderson roaring up onstage is one of neo-moronic thug, swearing, spitting; the whole aura of menace complemented by a hostile looking shaven head, multi ringed ear lobes and tattoos circling down beefy arms.” 
“occasionally, he directs his toothy grins at his partners in crime, equally as menacing juvenile delinquents who’ve grasped the finer points of late seventies existence and organised chaos” 

About a month or so later, there was another article on Rose Tattoo in an interview which had the following: 

 “The guys were rehearsing at their home in Sydney and two cops burst in with guns drawn and threatened to blow their heads off if they moved. “No bullshit” says guitarist Wells. “It was just like a TV show – one cop said “Don’t move or I’ll waste you”. They were really freaked because they hadn’t expected to find guys like us. “and it wasn’t until they’d figured we were skinheads from Melbourne and that we played rock’n’roll that they calmed down a bit.” They decided we had a reason to look the way we do.” 

Word of their reputation had spread to the rest of the Melbourne Sharps and we were hooked, we HAD to see them live! 

It was to be winter before they finally made their first appearance in Melbourne and in July 1977 Rose Tattoo went on tour outside of Sydney for the first time via South Australia with appearances at the Largs Pier in Adelaide and the Sundowner in Whyalla and then finally, Melbourne! 

 Their first Melbourne gig was on 28th July 1977 and they were appearing at one of the better known rock venues the “Tiger Room” at the Royal Oak Hotel in Bridge Road in Richmond. The Pub was owned at the time by Richmond Tigers football legend Francis Bourke who was still playing for the club and we were to have a personal introduction later in the night. 

Being a Thursday night, our weekend had started early and we gathered around at Flinders Street station from about 6pm onwards waiting for the numbers to arrive. I was sporting my 6” black platforms, navy pin striped flared trousers in extended length, black/blue braces, my favorite blue and white skin tight sharpie cardigan and Sharpie T-Shirt, 2 sleepers in the right - 1 in the left and a lumber jacket to keep out the cold. Similarly, the rest of the crew were dressed to kill, most in platforms to look over 18 in their best sharpie gear. 

Stef on his way to a fancy dress party 1988

Around 15 or so turned up, a quick entry into the Young & Jacksons bottle shop for a traveller and a free train ride to Burney station. As we finished our tinnies walking up Burnley St, we did the usual drill to get into venues. With the average age being around 16/17 (drinking age is 18) and the reluctance of pubs letting in groups of Sharpies, we went off in groups of twos and threes, preferably paired up boy/girl to look less confronting. 

We all made it in, re-gathered and took over the tables at the front of the dance floor. While downing our beers waiting for the band to start, we met two Sharpie chicks who had followed them from Adelaide – Buffy and Vicky and then a man around 30 or so placed himself amongst us and introduced himself as Mick Christian, the Manager of Rose Tattoo. He thanked us for coming and gave us the low down on the band and swapped stories on what we had read and how we had been looking forward to seeing them live. Mick said if we had any hassles or if any trouble came our way, they and their roadies would back us and introduced us to the head roadie by the name of "Bear". 

We were really impressed by this but more so when Angry and the boys bounced on stage. Firstly, they were SO loud, but so clear. Most of their set was made up of rock covers, which was probably a good thing. The music was familiar but it was the way they played them that stood them apart! Many of the Sharps by this time took up the dance floor and we were blown away on how good they were, perhaps best summed up by the following comments from another gig review:

 “the tatts poured out raw energy from the word go, hard driving rock and roll that doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath. There would not be a band in Australia who can match the sheer dynamic energy of Rose Tattoo . With Angry, defiant, arrogant and totally in command, Peter on slide, Mick on rhythm, Ian on bass and Dallas pounding the skins. They played a version of “You Really Got Me” that would make Van Halen sound like Bay City Rollers.” 

Towards the end of the night, we saw the owner Francis Bourke arrive and he totally freaked ….so many under age punters ……yes, it was us! Francis came up to us one by one with a wad of notes and offered to give us our money back if we left straight away.

Rose Tattoo were about done and they were playing again at the London Tavern in Caulfield on Saturday night so was a better option than being thrown out. We gladly accepted. 

They say first impressions count and no more so than on this night. We would see Rose Tattoo every time they came down to Melbourne onwards which in the early years was about every second month or so and is still one of the best live pub acts out there. 



I last saw Rose Tattoo in October 2011 at the Williamstown RSL and although the band is made up of different members due to the sad departure of Ian, Dallas, Peter and Mick , Angry put in as much effort and enthusiasm there as he did when I saw him nearly 35 years earlier! 

Stef Egan

Stef and Dave's Scrapbook on Michael Massow's Rose Tattoo Fanclub site


Official Rose Tattoo Website

Rose Tattoo Fan Website