He’s spent the last few months grieving the tragic death of his son Liam in private, but now Gary ‘Angry’ Anderson is returning to the limelight as he appears in a one-off TV show on Nine on Sunday evening ahead of his new tour with Rose Tattoo.
The 71-year-old rock star will appear alongside other Aussie musicians on Channel 9 show Icons: The Venues to discuss their memories performing in some of Australia’s top venues through history, including Cloudland, Festival Hall and The Playroom.
It comes just a week before he kicks off his new tour with Rose Tattoo – alongside punk band the Hard-Ons – and speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, the musician admitted filming the show gave him a chance to look back fondly on his early years with the band.
“We’ve not forgotten them [the venues] because they helped us build our fan base, they were the great venues to play in,” he said.
Anderson will perform with a new line-up of musicians on his upcoming tour, after almost all of the members from the original Rose Tattoo band tragically died from cancer in previous years.
“I’m very proud of the boys. They’ve stepped up and play the music in a way that would make the original members proud,” he said. “But [it’s done] differently. We’ve re-recorded the first album completely, but added tracks that were demo’d for the original album but didn’t make the cut – including a beautiful love song called Rosetta.”
Indeed, the deaths of his former bandmates have stayed with Anderson in the years since – particularly that of his close friend and guitarist Peter Wells, who passed in 2006.
Asked if performing the original songs brings back a lot of memories, Anderson said: “There’s a couple of times, especially with a track from the album Blood Brothers called ‘Once In A Lifetime’, which was written specifically about two real people and a real incident that happened. I’ve not written a song [like that], apart from ‘Scars For Life’ which is autobiographical, but I wrote ‘Once In A Lifetime’ for Peter – as a tribute to Peter.”
Anderson explained that he wrote the lyrics about “the spirituality aspect of Rose Tattoo as a band”, however they were inspired in particular by his final conversations with Peter before he passed away.
“When Pete was dying for weeks, months, he really got in touch with his spirituality,” the rocker explained. “He’s always been a very spiritual bloke anyway, which a lot of people didn’t know, but we really talked a lot about the afterlife, how we felt about it, what I believed it was, what he believed it was, and we talked a bit about spirituality.
“That inspired that song. While it’s difficult some nights to play, it’s also a joyous occasion. It’s about the acceptance of the inevitability. At some stage we’re all going to pass from this realm to the next, so I tried to capture that in the lyrics.”
He added: “Some nights it’s difficult to do it because it brings back all those memories but the great thing about the life experience, in a spiritual sense, is that nothing is wasted, everything is gathered, everything is worthwhile, everything is something. I take great comfort in that.”
While Anderson is perhaps best known for his hit song ‘Suddenly’, he also enjoyed huge success with Rose Tattoo’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw’ – and it was another, earlier, conversation with Peter that inspired those lyrics too.
“Pete asked me to write a lyric that personified the band, that captured who we were and what we were about – so I came up with that as our song, it defines Rose Tattoo,” he said.
“People say, ‘You can’t be an outlaw at 70’, but it’s a state of mind, it’s a spiritual thing – it doesn’t relate to my lifestyle. I mean I’m a father to grown children so I have responsibilities, but it relates to an attitude and who I identify [as] myself. Do I still identify myself as a rock ‘n roll outlaw? Yes I do.”
It comes just months after Anderson’s son Liam died in November last year after leaving a party in the early hours of the morning in the north Sydney suburb of Queenscliff.
Emergency services were called to the reserve just after 6am on November 4, following reports of an assault. Officers arrived to find a man, who was later confirmed as Liam, unconscious having suffered serious head injuries. He died shortly after being airlifted to hospital via emergency helicopter due to the extent of his injuries.
Speaking in a tearful video a few weeks after being told the devastating news, Anderson said in a YouTube video to fans: “G’day, recently my family and I went through our darkest hour so far in our lives and I was amazed by within a few days, and the weeks following, the hundreds, if not thousands of messages we received from my official page, Facebook, messenger.
“Of course people wrote, left cards and flowers. I tried to answer all of those personally, as many as I can and still am but so many messages came in from right around Australia and right around the world, offering their hearts to us in support while we struggle with our new life.”
Anderson went on to say how touched he was by the messages and how they helped pull him through the difficult times.
“I want you to know that each and every one of those messages, I read and my children read, each and every one of those messages, meant so much to us,” he explained.
Channel 9’s Icons: The Venues airs on Sunday, March 24 at 5.30pm on Nine. To see Rose Tattoo’s upcoming tour dates, starting from March 29 in Sydney, visit their official website here.