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04 June 2014 @ 11:04 pm
Vale Doc  
If you're not an Aussie or Kiwi, you may not know of Doc Neeson, lead singer of The Angels.  You've probably heard one of his songs, several of them have featured on famous soundtracks over the years.

He died today, as a result of brain cancer, at the age of 67. In interviews, he had said that he sometimes did appalling things, especially when drunk. But everyone who met him had positive stories about him, and I have two.

Years ago, one of my first Sydney jobs involved working in cultural heritage. One of our buildings was down at The Rocks, and had a little garden at the back, with a popular walkway going through it.

One day, Sophie, one of my coworkers, came running in to tell me there was a fire in the garden. I looked around quickly for the fire extinguisher: it wasn't where it was meant to be. So I grabbed a bucket and a mobile phone instead (in those days, they were precious enough that we shared one between three) and ran out after her. Sure enough, there was a little fire in the dry summer mulch that covered the garden, with a lot of smoke but only a medium set of flames leaping up so far. I ran back a few steps, to the tap on the side of the building, filled the bucket, then came back and threw it over the flames. It was enough to deal with most, but not all, so I gave Sophie the bucket and told her to refill it.

While she was off managing that, I walked in with my big, heavy size 4 work boots and started stomping out little flames, muttering about bloody smokers who threw away butts in droughts. A deep voice rumbled nearby, 'Want a hand?'

'Sure,' I replied, without looking up.

A size 12 boot started stomping with me. I looked up and saw a good-looking dark-haired man, grinning a little. I grinned back and we stomped out the fire together. Sophie re-appeared with the full bucket, and stood still, gaping.

'Tall, dark-haired stranger to the rescue!' I told her. 'Thanks, stranger. Excellent stomping!'

'Not a problem,' he said.

'You're, you're, you're …' Sophie said.

The man grinned, and the attractive woman who was walking with him rolled her eyes with affection.

'That's Doc Neeson!' Sophie told me.

'He's awesome!' I said and turned to him. 'Even if I have no idea who you are aside from being a fabulous helpful kind person. But I'm foreign.'

'So was I,' he said, laughing. 'And I will totally take fabulous.'

He stayed and chatted with Sophie and me for some minutes, and was a general delight. For all the rest of the time I knew her, Sophie never stopped telling me what an ignoramus I was about the important things.

Years later, a young journo friend of mine was off on an armed forces tour of Afghanistan covering the musicians. Doc had organised much of the tour, and had been incredibly helpful to Joey before they left. While on the tour, Joey found himself suffering from the triple stresses of first time in the desert, first time in a war zone, and having to really stretch himself as a writer. But when he came back, he was enthused and calm.

'How did you deal with it all so coolly?' we asked him.

'Doc,' he replied. 'Whenever I started to have a minor freakout, he was just so generally together and cool that I decided it would be embarrassing to not try and follow suit.'

There is a brilliant programme here called Australian Story, and Doc was its subject recently. One of the people interviewed was Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, former Head of Army. I'm simply going to C&P the relevant section from the transcript below, where he talks about Doc singing in East Timor after the Australian troops had been involved in significant peacekeeping actions there in the late 1990s, because it is another fave story relating to Doc.

VOICEOVER: Whenever Doc Neeson sang the words to the The Angels classic love song 'Am I ever gonna see your face again', back came the ingenious response: 'No way, get fucked, fuck off.'
DOC NEESON: The Australian audiences in their inimitable fashion added their own part to it which is what I call the chant or sometimes the response. And it suddenly became international in its own way. It now gets sung in pubs in England. I took a band to the Middle East, they were singing it there.
SIR PETER COSGROVE, COMMANDER INTERFET 1999: Bishop Belo lent forward and looked around Jose Ramos-Horta and said to me, he used to call me ‘Mr General,’ and he said ‘Mr General, what are they singing?’ and I said my Lord Bishop, I really can’t quite make it out. And then Ramos-Horta looked at me, and I could tell that he could make it out.

Sometimes famous people also make the world a better place in small or large ways. Doc was one of those, and I am sad that he is gone, while glad he is free from pain now. He put on an unforgetable show.
winstonmom: Readingwinstonmom on June 4th, 2014 02:25 pm (UTC)
I love when your write. I had never heard of him, but through your words he sounded like a decent dude :)
chamekke: cha_hazels_rosechamekke on June 4th, 2014 02:45 pm (UTC)
I don't know Doc Neeson at all, but I was absolutely touched by these wonderful stories. What a lovely man. Your personal experience with him is one to treasure.

(On a side note, I used to work on East Timor and the Belo/Ramos-Horta story tickled me like crazy ;-)
bk7brokemybrainbk7brokemybrain on June 4th, 2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
I never knew of him before, but he seems like a lovely man, overall. Thank you for the anecdotes.
I had to look him up, and the first pic I saw of him was from when he was young, and, damn, if he didn't look like Jeremy Brett! Wow. Tall, dark and handsome is right!
Nennenenne on June 4th, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC)
That is a great memory to have, famous or not really. It is probably as nice for someone famous to be recognised for being fabulous in his own right as it is for the rest of us. Thanks for sharing.
Shivshiv5468 on June 4th, 2014 08:13 pm (UTC)
He sounds a cool guy.
jack_ryderjack_ryder on June 4th, 2014 10:38 pm (UTC)
Wonderful tribute to one of our great rock icons.

Thank you.
Jaeenchanted_jae on June 5th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC)
That's awesome. I really love stories of celebs to the rescue, in any capacity. It makes them more REAL.
boodiedharawal on June 5th, 2014 06:10 am (UTC)
The Angels were the soundtrack to my teenage years, I still have all my old vinyls of their albums, they helped me through some pretty rough stuff and Doc Neeson was always a hero of mine.

I cried buckets when I watched Australian Story when he said that the cancer was back and in more places, but always somewhere in me I hoped that Doc would be the one to prove them wrong, beat the damn fucking cancer through sheer force of magnetic will power.

Yesterday knocked me for a six, today I am still prone to bursting into tears, I'm listening to all their songs singing along and mourning the loss of one of my personal Icons.

And hoping that the rest of the Angels managed to act like the grown arsed adults they are and got in touch with him before he died.

Adrian Chesteradrianchester on June 6th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I was too young to really understand his significance to the Australian music scene, but I mourned his passing none the less. Also excellent story, thank you.
kaedhlinkaedhlin on June 7th, 2014 09:08 am (UTC)
Between losing Doc and the also fabulous Chrissie Amphlett, I am totally shattered. The two biggest forces of my now almost gone teenage youth.

Now if someone could just do a mash-up of Am I ever gonna see your face again and I touch myself.....