Rose Tattoo: Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw - Album Of The Week Club review

Rose Tattoo's debut album is the sound of bogan bars in dusty Australian suburbs; places where only the toughest of cookies make it out unscratched

Rose Tattoo: Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw
(Image: © WEA)

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Rose Tattoo: Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw

Rose Tattoo: Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw

(Image credit: WEA)

Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw
Nice Boys
The Butcher And Fast Eddy
One Of The Boys
Bad Boy For Love
Stuck On You
Astra Wally

“I’m a rock 'n' roll outlaw,” sang pint-sized hard nut Angry Anderson in 1978, and he wasn’t lying. With their tattoos and street-level blues – not to mention the dirty slide guitar work of former Buffalo man Pete Wells – Rose Tattoo were the ultimate Aussie brawlers. 

At their best, Rose Tattoo’s sound crackles with an electricity redolent of dangerous bogan bars in dusty Australian suburbs; places where the threat of violence is never far from the surface and only the toughest of cookies make it out unscratched.

When the group mine this groove, as they do on their most famous song, Nice Boys, the second track on 1978's debut album Rose Tattoo/Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw – the title differed from territory to territory – it’s easy to appreciate the influence they had on bands such as Guns N’ Roses: Future rock stars Slash and Axl Rose were clearly taking notes.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in November 1978

  • Midnight Oil - Midnight Oil
  • Outlandos d'Amour - The Police
  • All Mod Cons - The Jam
  • Germfree Adolescents - X-Ray Spex
  • Give 'Em Enough Rope - The Clash
  • Jazz - Queen
  • Lionheart - Kate Bush
  • The Scream - Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Shakedown Street - Grateful Dead
  • Love Beach - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  • Blondes Have More Fun - Rod Stewart
  • Incantations - Mike Oldfield
  • Briefcase Full of Blues - The Blues Brothers
  • Backless - Eric Clapton
  • Crazy Moon - Crazy Horse
  • Dub Housing - Pere Ubu
  • From the Inside - Alice Cooper
  • Live: Take No Prisoners - Lou Reed
  • Move It On Over - George Thorogood & The Destroyers
  • Sanctuary - The J. Geils Band

What they said...

"The debut album by Rose Tattoo is an absolute classic. There is a mix of rock’n’roll, blues, punk and the beginnings of heavy metal sound. With their strong rhythm section, the atypical slide guitar for this kind of music and the powerful voice of Angry Anderson, this band is unique." (Metalheads Forever

"Time has been kind to Rose Tattoo’s 1978 debut album. Their brand of no frills hard rock, like that of fellow Australians AC/DC, was sufficiently rough-edged to hold its own during the punk era, but also had enough bluesy integrity to appeal to the rock traditionalist." (Record Collector)

"Released in 1978, their eponymous debut is a dangerous, unpredictable, monster of a record whose power has hardly diminished an ounce in the decades since. First song, Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw, draws the line in the sand, challenging all comers to cross at the peril of a split lip; then Nice Boys (Don't Play Rock 'N' Roll) (if you thought Guns N' Roses version was bad-ass, think again) delivers an uppercut to the jaw that'll set you reeling." (AllMusic)

What you said...

Greg Schwepe: Wow. Wow. Rose Tattoo, where have you been all my musical life?! 9 out of 10 for me!

Band that I knew of, but never heard any of their music. Probably became aware of them a long time ago in an article about Aussie Rock where they talked about all the other great bands from there besides AC/DC, INXS, Midnight Oil, and others.

Totally up my alley; high energy right out of the gate, and didn't let up. Raunchy, ratty slide guitar probably plugged into a Marshall. Lots of slide guitar. And straight ahead drum beat with no need for fills here. "Just give me 4/4 time and don't slow down mate." Lyrics of course are raunchy too but somehow don't come off as sophomoric and cheesy! Remember folks, we aren't saving the rainforest here, this is balls-out rock!"

I give these review albums the "Treadmill Test." If I can listen to the entire album during my daily time on the boring treadmill without skipping around or bailing on it entirely, it passes the first test (let's just say the Trapeze album we reviewed a while back didn't pass that test!). And then, can it keep me motivated to finish my run? In this case...a resounding yes! The groove kept going from track to track. And I kept saying to myself "Man, what have I been missing with this band!" Have already "favourited" other albums of theirs.

I liken this find to the unknown opening act at some show between '78 and '82 that I might have seen. You know, the kind of band that might have opened for Ted Nugent, BOC, Rainbow, or Foghat. The show that might have taken place at the many Midwest USA minor league hockey arenas! And the fictional conversation that might have taken place before the show:

Me: "Do you know who the opener is?

Random Concertgoer Next To Me: "Rose Tattoo. I think they're from Australia... hope they don't suck."

Me: "Yeah, me too."

Then "Me" speaking loudly to "Random Concertgoer Next To Me" because my ears are ringing 30 minutes later after the band totally blows me away during their opening slot:

Me: "Man, I am totally going to buy their album tomorrow. These guys can rock!"

And I use the above analogy only because I didn't grow up in Australia and have the same event unfold in a sweaty Aussie pub. Oh how I wish...

So, that's 9 out of 10 for me. A good find that will be cranked during my runs or heard out the sunroof in my car when the weather warms up here soon. I'll be the "Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw."

Philip Qvist: Another album that I hadn't much of until now. Yes I hadn't heard of Rose Tattoo and Angry Anderson but it wasn't a band I really bothered to explore.

So my verdict of their self titled debut? A more than decent debut album - hard, fast songs that don't mess around; with great guitar work from Peter Wells and Mick Cocks with singer Angry Anderson running the show.

Not sure where the AC/DC comparison comes from, they sound totally different to each other, but a very good album nonetheless.

Highlights? Remedy, The Butcher And Fast Eddy and Nice Boys (famously covered by GN'R). All in all, a solid album. 7/10.

Mike Canoe: The rambunctious slide guitar of Peter Wells saves Rose Tattoo from being off-brand AC/DC, but, ultimately, I would rather listen to Bon and the boys. Nice Boys, Remedy, and Bad Boy For Love, are fun anthems but I'd still describe them as AC/DC with slide guitar.

The exception that proves the rule is The Butcher And Fast Eddy, which a) replaces Branded as my favourite Rose Tattoo song and b) is the best street-level lyric writing this side of Bon Scott. But, again, a big part of the charm is how closely singer Angry Anderson's phrasing matches that of the still lamented late AC/DC front man. Exhibit A: The line, "'I can't lose' said Eddy," is quickly appended with the braggadocio, "'cause I'm the best." Bon would clap Anderson on the back for that one.

Another couplet worthy of Bon Scott is "There's one thing I've learned and I know it's so true, bad girls love bad boys but good girls love 'em too" from One Of The Boys.

I did a quick web search to see if Angry Anderson was ever considered as AC/DC's lead singer. Apparently yes, but Axl Rose got the job. What? No... back when Bon Scott died! Inconclusive, but apparently Scott Ian of Anthrax and I agree he would have done a great job.

John Edgar: I was at the record store, wanting something new, and Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw is what caught my eye that week. I knew nothing about the band and had never heard one note of their music. There had been times when I made a purchase based upon a gut feeling and ended up getting burned. I was not wrong this time. I got together with some friends that night and we played the album all the way through. We were all in agreement that it was pretty good stuff... but then we got to the last track. Astra Wally. Freakin' Astra Wally. I bet we replayed that tune a good half dozen times. We were sold. Fans for life.

Uli Hassinger: I bought this in the late 70s and was immediately thrilled by its power and aggression, and that hasn't changed until today. It's one of my most influential albums and it would certainly will be included in a list of the ten albums I have to pick to take them with me on an island.

The aggression the songs transmit gave them a punky attitude even though the music isn't punk. Astra Wally, Remedy or T.V. would also make you pogo dance like every other punk song out of this time.

The appearance of the group was fascinating as well. Back in the days such massive tattooed guys were something special even in the hard rock scene. The weird, tattooed all-over frontman alone was a show. When I saw him a few years later in Mad Max III I thought he was just playing his very self.

The similarities I see to AC/DC are that they are both from Australia and both use some kind of street poet lyrics. In case of Rose Tattoo it's music from the gutter kicking asses of posers and bourgeois. The first two songs say it all : "I'm a Rock'n'Roll outlaw, I'm on the run, I'm a Rock'n'roll outlaw, I never needed anyone" and "Nice boys don't play Rock'n'Roll". That's what it's all about. And for sure they weren't nice boys.

The songs are a mix of straight forward rock'n'rollers and blues rock songs. The bluesy part plays Stuck On You, the brilliant Bad boy For Love and the outstanding The Butcher And Fast Eddy, the best blues rock song ever recorded, even toping The Jack by AC/DC. The faster songs, especially Nice Boys, Remedy, TV and Astra Wally may make you kick in your speakers if you don't mind.

As if that weren't enough, the album contains the sickest slide guitar ever recorded. It was probably it was the first time a slide guitar was used in every song. It's just a filthy little rock bastard.

10/10. No need to argue.

James Cain: On their debut album, Rose Tattoo wear their influences on their rolled-up sleeves; The Faces, Slade, AC/DC, etc., but what separates them from millions of venerable bar bands is that they play harder than most, and with a certain elan. The album was produced by George Young and Harry Vanda, which you can tell from the brutal, needle in the red guitar sound that they were masters of (as well as AC/DC, see Sorry by the Easybeats and Black Eyed Bruiser by Stevie Wright for further examples), and of course guitarist Pete Wells was in the awesome, grunge-influencing, heavier than granite band, Buffalo.

Rose Tattoo has a really strong first side, featuring all the best songs; the sound of Wells’ distinctive slide guitar over the taut riffs of Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw just leaps out of the speakers, and their most well known song, Nice Boys, takes that momentum and runs with it ‘til the pulverising side closer, Remedy. Not only were Rose Tattoo well at home with the high energy propulsion of punk, but it’s clear they also inspired Guns N' Roses, and a whole cadre of grit-minded rock bands in the 80s. The second side can’t quite keep up, although Bad Boy For Love and the last track Astra Wally are equally as strong. It’s not perfect, or inventive in any way, it’s just a killer of a rock'n'roll record, with a capital ‘R’.

Bill Griffin: I ignored Rose Tattoo when they first hit the stage because I figured they were just another Guns N' Roses rip off hair metal band and never heard any of their music to dispel that notion. I really like this though; it's great rock and roll. Anderson's voice reminded me of someone but I couldn't place it until Stuck On You; it's Rod Stewart! Sure, most of the music isn't particularly Stewartish (and there are shades of many different bands in the music) but that's who he reminds me of. This goes in my collection for sure. Looking forward to listening to more of their catalog.

Gary Claydon: The sort of straight-down-the-line, hard'n'heavy, bluesy rock'n'roll that Aussie bands do so well. Rose Tattoo were another from a veritable production line which also gave us the likes of DC, Cold Chisel, The Angels etc. They don't veer far from the tried and trusted formulae, however the excellent slide guitar gives them an extra dimension. Highlights - Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw, The Butcher And Fast Eddie, Astra Wally and Bad Boy For Love which, to this day, remains a great driving song. 

Brilliant live when they first came to the UK in '81, including Angry Anderson head-butting the speaker stacks at Reading. Think he was getting into character for his later role as Ironbar in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Never really recaptured the energy of the debut in future releases. 7/10

Roland Bearne: For reasons unknown, I never bought a Rose Tattoo album. No idea why because they are self evidently great! Friends had them and we spun them together over a few underage beers! With deceptively finely honed riffs and song craft wrapped up in rough hewn slabs of graffiti daubed concrete and fronted not by a long haired bell bottom type but a pint sized bruiser coming off like an unholy trinity of Buster Bloodvessel, Lemmy and Bon Scott, although unlike Lem or Bon, Angry would absolutely break a bar stool over your head if you looked askance at his pint! 

It's just terrific stuff, Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw and Bad Boy For Love are defining slabs of bar brawl rocking. The Butcher And Fast Eddie (and c'mon we all know Angry's The Butcher, right!?) Is the grimiest, grittiest piece of blues narrative ever committed to vinyl, its like a filthy urban version of a Sergio Leone slow build shoot out. Bloody marvellous. The songs in these grooves must surely have seeped via osmosis into the pores of anyone who calls themselves a rock fan (note to self: must make sure my lad listens to these guys!). In all, deceptively fine playing and song craft with a headbutt to the face delivery!

Kevin Miller: Now this is my kind of 70s hard rock. Really enjoying it after just one listen. I’m surprised I’ve never heard it before. The first track has a strong Zeppelin feel. The rest is heavily influenced by AC/DC with Bon (one of my favourite rock bands ever). Occasionally, I hear Rod Stewart’s voice too. I knew Nice Boys immediately from the GN'R cover, and it hit me just how much GN'R took from this band. I’m going to take a point away from them though for directly stealing the riff from She’s Got Balls for their song Bad Boy For Love.

Oliver Mueller: The Butcher And Fast Eddy is probably the best fusion of rock and blues ever created.

Richard Keeling: Not heard or heard of this band before. Good songs, played with conviction and some witty lyrics. Apart from the AC/DC influence, I heard pleasing shades of Status Quo and even the Faces in the vocals. Nice find, glad I heard it.

Alex Hayes: For the second week in a row, the Classic Rock Album Of The Week Club has offered up something that I'm unfamiliar with. I don't think that's happened before.

So, what do I know about Rose Tattoo? Not much really. To be honest, they aren't a band that I'd go out of my way for. The second track here, Nice Boys, was later covered by Guns N' Roses of course. Although initially released on that group's early EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide, it was first heard by the overwhelming majority of rock fans around the world on the later G N' R Lies 'album'.

The only other time that Rose Tattoo, or more specifically their lead vocalist Angry Anderson, ever ventured onto my personal radar was in November 1988, when he scored an enormous UK hit with the soppy ballad Suddenly. I was 14 years old and Scott and Charlene's wedding on the TV soap Neighbours was almost impossible to get away from, such was our collective national obsession with it at the time. Angry Anderson and Suddenly soundtracked that fictional wedding and it became his signature song for many people.

Listening to the debut Rose Tattoo album many, many, years later, I cannot help but wonder what the 1978 Angry Anderson would have made of all that.

He's impressive on this album. A pint-sized human whirlwind of aggression and volatility. Angry? You bet. In fact, this is a pretty damn good racket overall. I like the band's liberal use of the slide guitar here. I'm not a huge punk fan by any means, but this album somewhat belies that label. A pleasant surprise and a 7/10 from me.

John Davidson: Rose Tattoo serve up a straightforward slab of muscular, blues-based heavy rock. Sounding like the bastard sons of Motorhead and AC/DC, with a sliver of southern rock slide guitar on top, they sound pretty tight for a band that were probably used to dodging beer bottles and fighting with the crowd between songs.

First track Rock 'N' Roll Outlaw is their manifesto. Despite the hints of Jimmy Page in the riff, and the throaty squeal of a Bon Scott on the vocals they manage to carve out their own identity through the overlay of some nifty slide guitar.

If you ever wondered what early Motorhead would sound like with a high register raspy Australian singing vocals, then your answer is Nice Boys. A heads-down rocker with a decent shout-a-long chorus. Remedy and T.V are from the same mould - fast-paced rockers full of good natured aggression. This is the kind of music that punches you in the face and then slaps you on the back when you get up.

The band ease into old school bump'n'grind blues with The Butcher and Fast Eddy. This tells the story of the eponymous ne’er-do-wells and their rival gang and is my favourite song on the album with a great feel and a cracking guitar solo.

One Of The Boys has more than a touch of glam-stomp greats Slade in its DNA, it has a half-decent guitar solo in the middle but otherwise it never really gets out of second gear.

Bad Boy For Love is a slide guitar led blues number with another good chorus line. Stuck On You is a slowed down bar room blues lament about unhappy love. It isn't exactly a clunker, but it veers towards the shambolic. I’ll just gloss over the lines about inviting over a schoolgirl (which when I was 16 didn’t cause me to bat an eyelid, but at 57 take on a different tone).

Tramp has a decent tune, but it doesn't have the glorious charms of Whole Lotta Rosie, even if it stomps the same lyrical ground. Astra Wally closes out the 36 minutes that the whole album occupies with another steady rocker. Compared to the better songs on the album it lacks a decent chorus but it's a competent headbanger.

There’s nothing brand new on display here, but this is solid heavy blues based rock, played with feeling… and they mostly feel like drinkin’, shaggin’ and getting in a fight.

That’s rock the Angry Anderson way.

Brian Carr: I thought I had heard a Rose Tattoo song some time ago that I really disliked, but can’t find it, so it may have been a different band. At any rate, preconceived notions made me approach this week’s choice with something less than enthusiasm. Ditch those notions because Rose Tattoo’s debut is not a dud.

Nice Boys reminded me of Buckcherry twenty years removed, but once One Of The Boys hit, the Rod Stewart comp clicked into place and I couldn’t unhear it. Good thing for me I like Rod Stewart. So Rose Tattoo is like Faces with a harder edge. There’s a load of slide guitar throughout, which is fine but not typically my thing. 

Some have called the album punk influenced, which I can hear on songs like Remedy and T.V., but to me the musicianship and voice is much better than that style that generally turns my stomach. Overall, I started at 6/10 for my rating, but damned if I don’t feel that score increasing my second time through. After all, I did love the third ever Club selection, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink...

Did anyone else hear volume levels change from song to song? I found myself riding the volume up and down while listening, but it could be due to less than optimal sonics of Apple Music.

Billy Master: What a fantastic debut. Full of no-nonsense boogie, rock'n'roll, with a menace that you couldn't ignore. Saw them at the Marquee in London around this time. A real sweaty tattoo convention.

I never really understood the AC/DC comparison, other than them being Aussies and using the same production team.

Matt Jenks: I am four songs in and absolutely love this album. So far all songs have been total bangers. To me it's a mix if Motorhead's rock'n'roll theme and early Aerosmith blues sound and for some reason not the reference to Fast Eddy they reminded me of early Fastway, just straight forward rock'n'roll with plenty of guitar throughout.

Final Score: 7.57⁄10 (111 votes cast, with a total score of 841)

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