You knew they’d play it – it was a given. In forty teaching years – for at least two decades of that it was a given at any school social I attended. Along with ‘Nutbush’ and ‘The Time Warp’, it was a given. This tune, though, had a sting in its tail. – something that’d get the ‘too cool to dance’ set out on the floor – and even those too scared to normally would also join in. They knew, we knew, they’d soon be bellowing out the words that were forbidden in any school situation. And bellow they did – gleefully, with passion. For those few seconds, after each chorus, every kid was a rebel; snubbing their noses at the mainstream. They’d shed their cool, they’d shed inhibition. Up would go their fists, pumping in time with those beloved expletives – and there wasn’t a bloody thing we, as supervisors, could do about it. They were taunting us – daring us. But nor did we want to ruin the moment if the truth be known – for this was an Aussie anthem. It was almost sacred. Given half the chance we’d be bellowing it out with them. We all knew those words – it would be un-Australian not to. Where did it all start? Well the man himself knows. He’d have loved a dollar for the number of times he repeated the tale over the years – of that first time, when he looked down from on high, heard it – half amazed, half bemused. In part that refrain – those words, have made him a legend. And now he’ll rock it out no more in this life.
Australia has produced a pantheon of great front men; guys who could walk on stage to hushed anticipation and in minutes have a crowd in an ecstatic frenzy – be they playing to beer barns or stadiums. He was one of those. These are guys, who with their swagger and ‘mercurial’ struts, gave the punters more than value for their dollar. Most of all they possessed those great rock voices. You know the names – they’re etched into our lives. They had that special something – Stevie Wright, Bon Scott, Michael Hutchence, Dazza in his pomp, Barnesy of course. JO’K had it in the beginning – and for me Gerry Humphries was an under-rated master. But the Doc almost took it to Freddie levels. Dancing onto the stage, arms raised with that scarf between them – with the Doc it was as much about his show-stopping presence – dangerous, threatening – as it was the music. With the Angels behind him thumping out that pub rock beat, he was up there, spittle and sweat flying. The Doc, well, he just simply imposed himself.
When I saw him last year as part of the RocKwiz juggernaut, wending its way around the country, he really struggled up there on stage in his ‘Who Can It Be?’ role. He was ill – that was plain for all to see. Still he had to sing that song. And the crowd, packed into the showroom, responded with gusto, pounding back that inevitable response to him. It wasn’t long before word filtered through, later to be confirmed by his ‘Australian Story’ profile, that his remaining time with us would be short, unless a miracle occurred. The miracle never came.
After the show Julia, Brian, Jo Jo Zep and the Doc lined up to greet the fans. When I made it to him I asked if he’d have his photo taken with me me and he complied. I had a brief conversation – he was patently ‘spaced out’. Still he placed his arm across my shoulders and I responded. Sadly the photo didn’t come out. But all wasn’t lost. Doc had a signing pen in his hand and he inadvertently scrawled it across my jacket in indelible purple texta. Every time I wear that coat I think of Doc Neeson – and ever will. Tonight he’ll be up there, beyond the silver lining in the sky, belting out ‘Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again’ to the angels.
Doc rocks it out one more time = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z87GJiNA7dE