The Day I Got Rose Tattoo to Play My High School Social

John Phillips – Words

It is believed that Lobby Loyde and The Coloured Balls, a legendary Australian rock band, played at the Alexandra Town Hall, north-east Victoria, in 1974.

The sound of the Lobby’s band and televisions blaring out made it clear that something was going on. Lobby consequently became the unofficial holder of the title, “Loudest Band to Play in Alexandra” – but only for a few years. Lobby lost his title on Tuesday 13th December 1977 when Rose Tattoo played at Alexandra High School Senior Social at a volume that was so terrible it sent teacups rattling in nearby kitchen cabinets.

The “Rosies” were returning from a successful run of gigs in New South Wales, and were enjoying the success of their recently released single Bad Boy For Love, which would reach No. 19 on the country charts. After having performed at the Sydney Showgrounds Music Expo on Friday and the Hordern Pavillion and Hurstville Civic Center in Sydney on Saturday, they were now en route to Melbourne. The Alexandra High School Social is the answer.

Sweet Jayne was an all-girl rock band that I booked as my perfect entertainment. At lunchtime on the day of the Social, I got a call from their agents, Premier Artists, saying the band couldn’t make it as their drummer had injured her hand in a truck door. After I nervously asked if they could organize a replacement – the Social was on that night! – the caller said he’d see what he could do. After a twenty-minute wait that was nerve-wracking, he returned to me to tell me Rose Tattoo would instead. “Will that be ok”? He asked.

And so it came to pass that one of the loudest – no, THE loudest – and most popular blues-rock bands in Australia, and later the world, came to play at our Social, in the middle of a major tour to help promote their first single. They had all the trappings that a full-on touring band would need: sound people, roadies, and trucks, as well as the gruff attitude one might expect from a hardworking band who has been given a rare night off.

Rose Tattoo was brilliant that night, and they were loud – so loud that they were heard across town and a fair way out of town as well. Cattle and sheep on outlying farms may well have nodded along to the Rosies’ pounding beat. To save their ears, most punters danced outside in a quadrangle. It was memorable.

Rose Tattoo was established in Sydney the previous year with Tony Lake singing, Leigh Johnston playing rhythm guitar (replaced soon after by Mike Cocks), Ian Rilen taking bass and Michael Vandersluys taking drums. The band also featured Peter Wells as a slide guitarist.  Later in 1976, former Buster Brown lead singer Gary ‘’Angry” Anderson replaced Lake and fellow Buster Brown member Dallas “Digger’’ Royall replaced Vandersluys.  They quickly gained a large following on Sydney’s busy live scene. On the recommendation of AC/DC members, they were signed to Albert Productions. Their first four albums were recorded by George Young and Harry Vanda of the Easybeats.

Rose Tattoo has experienced many splits and reorganizations over its long history. The band has had more than two dozen members including Bob Spencer (ex-Skyhooks lead guitarist) and Lobby Loyde (of Coloured Balls fame), who played bass between 1979 and 1980. Sadly, seven former members, including Lobby Loyde, have died since the band’s inception.  The current line-up includes Angry Anderson as lead vocalist, Mark Evans as bass, Mick Arnold on slide guitar, and Ronnie Simmons as a guitarist.

The band has always played loud and uncompromising heavy blues-rock featuring distinctive slide guitar riffs and licks over pulsating rhythm guitar and tight, pounding bass and drums, coupled with Angry’s powerful, roaring voice. They have enjoyed chart success in Australia and overseas with the singles Bad Boy For Love, Rock, And Roll Outlaw, We Can’t Be Beaten, Nice Boys, and Scarred For Life, and have had songs covered by numerous bands including Guns N’ Roses and LA Guns. They have toured extensively for decades, and have supported major international acts such as Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Guns N’ Roses, and Motorhead.

Rose Tattoo was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame along with Icehouse, Helen Reddy, Icehouse, and The Divinyls on 16 August 2006.

Rose Tattoo is currently on tour in the USA as part of their Assault And Battery 2023 tour. I recently saw them play a gig at the Sandbelt Hotel in Moorabbin– older readers may remember it as the South Side Six – and I can report that the “Rosies’’ are still as loud, tight, and head-bangingly brilliant as ever.

They will be performing at the Sooki Lounge, Belgrave, Victoria on Friday 14 April, and at Bundy Hall, Bundalaguah, near Sale on Saturday 15 April. Tickets are available at

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