It was a decade ago that seminal Australian rock band The Angels decided to call it a day. Their charismatic frontman, Doc Neeson, was involved in a horrific car accident that prevented him from performing for several years but after rehabilitation he went on to form Doc Neeson’s Angels. The rest of the band continued to perform as The Angels Band. In August 2007 tensions boiled over between the two parties and the The Angels court case was splashed across newspapers throughout Australia.
But after months of mediation, the former band mates finally decided to reunite, and to the delight of music lovers everywhere, reform as the original line-up of Doc Neeson (Lead Vocals), John Brewster (Rhythm Guitar), Rick Brewster (Lead guitar), Chris Bailey (Bass,) and Graham “Buzz” Bidstrup (Drums).
To back track a bit… around the turn of the 1980s, the band signed an international record deal with CBS Records. In March of 1980, Face to Face, a compilation comprised of tracks from the Australian albums, Face to Face and No Exit, was released on the Epic label. For American audiences, and for legal reasons, the band also billed itself as Angel City.
The next American release, Dark Room, which was produced by the Brewster brothers, saw release in June 1980. The album included the now bona fide Angels’ classic No Secrets. American band Great White would later cover Face The Day, from Dark Room too, as well as, Can't Shake It from Face to Face. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the band, via some changing line-ups, continued recording and releasing acclaimed albums as well as tour heavily behind all their releases both in Australia and in the United States where they toured with the likes of The Kinks, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, The Pretenders and many, many others.
One of the band’s most electrifying performances occurred at the Whiskey in Los Angeles, where for their roaring mighty Marseilles encore, Angel City found themselves joined onstage by none other than Guns 'N Roses’ Axl Rose and Slash. Both Rose and Slash were huge Angel City fans and paid homage to their Aussie heroes by including Marseilles in many of the Guns & Roses live sets. Angel City proved to also be hugely influential on many leading American rock and hard rock acts, particularly those that arose from the Seattle area in the later part of the '80s to early '90s.
The newly reunited 2008 lineup of Neeson/Brewster/Brewster/Bailey and Bidstrup recently embarked on a very successful Australian tour with many of the shows selling out in advance. On one of the tour’s stopovers in Melbourne, Ultimate-Guitar’s Joe Matera was given exclusive access to a special lesson with long time Angels lead guitarist Rick Brewster. Rick was kind enough to sit down and run through three of the group’s signature tunes before show time; the riff to the band’s anthemic Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?, the solo to Take A Long Line and the solo to No Secrets.Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? (main riff) [from the Australian album The Angels 1977]
Rick: It is in the key of E. The riff starts on the 12th fret and all the notes are on the top B and E strings. So it goes; 12th fret - 14th fret on the B string, 12th fret to 14th fret on the E string then to the 16th fret, back to the 12th fret on E string and then to the 12th fret on the B string. And for the last note, you bend up a semi-tone from the 14th fret (D#) to the 15th fret (E) on the B string.
Listen to Rick playing the riff to Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? with backing track here.
Listen and play along to the backing track to Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? here.Take A Long Line [from the Australian album Face To Face, 1978]
Rick: The chord progression for the solo is C - Cm - G - Bm - Esus4 - E twice through. The first note is a tone bend from the 13th fret (D) to the 15th fret (E) on the B string. You are bending to the major 3rd (E) first and then to the minor 3rd (Eb) for the next bend.No Secrets [from the album Dark Room, 1980]
Rick: The chord progression for the solo goes Em - G - C - C and is repeated four times through. The solo came about from me spending a few hours with the backing track that we had just recorded while the rest of the band went to lunch while we were at Paradise Studios, Sydney recording the album. So I needed to come up with a solo and so I sat with it and designed a melody for it. I’ve always had that attitude to solos that they have a melody. That comes from having come from a classical background, and in particularly a classical piano training background. And I combined that with not being a lead guitarist when I first joined the band, as all I could play was acoustic open guitar chords. And so the only way I could get around it, and because I didn’t have any lessons, was to hear a melody in my head and work out how to play it. If I couldn’t play it, I would adjust the melody and for many years that was how I approached any soloing. I would write many solos in my head first and then pick up the guitar and try and work out how to play it on the guitar.
Hear Rick explain exclusively to UG how to play No Secrets here.
Listen to Rick playing the solo to No Secrets with backing track here.
Listen and play along to the backing track to No Secrets here.
Rick discusses his current guitar set-up and style:
As for guitars, I’m playing two Craig Upfold custom model guitars. When it comes to my tone, almost always, I will use the Humbucker unless it goes to a breakdown in a song where then I will switch to the guitar’s neck pickup. Also a couple years ago, I went from using a very heavy pick to using a really light pick. And what I’m using is now is a .50mm made by Steve Clayton in the States, who is the only person as far as I know, who makes these picks. The material the pick is made from is acetal polymer. And I really like it as one of the benefits of it, is that you break less strings. The material is almost unbreakable and it has a lot of sensitivity. If I use a hard pick, I tend to find it very difficult to get and kind of softness. One of my particular playing traits is my bending of strings at the start of a guitar solo. Whenever I start a solo I will tend to always go for a bend. It is because I loved the blues and as soon as I learned how to bend, I just went for it.
Interview by Joe Matera
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