You’ve known Chris Bailey for more than 20 years, but how did you actually meet?
It’s a funny story really as it’s only recently that it’s all come back to me. I met Chris when I was a schoolboy at cadet camp back in 1966 at a place called El Alamein, a World War II famous area that had battles in it etc.
I was in the St Peters College Cadets, and Chris was in the Prince Alfred College Cadets. Someone came into our tent and said “there’s this guy in the PA tent that has a guitar”. My ears pricked up and I said I had to go meet this guy, so there Chris Bailey was and the two of us ended up singing Beatles songs together. So I don’t know if I started calling him Beatle Bailey then, but that’s what I always called him – Beatle Bailey.
So it was fate then that many years down the track you would be playing in the Angels together?
We started the Angels back in ’74. Chris had nothing to do with that, but I used to bump into him all the time. He was playing in Red Angel Panic and later on in Headband, and he was a bit of a fan of Moonshine Jug and String Band (what we were doing at the time). In ’74 we became the Angels and Chris joined in ’76. So 10 years after I met him, he joined a band with me.
Were you both friends in that 10 years before being in a band together?
We’d bump into each other and say Hi or see each other at a party and probably get drunk together and then say “Oh, good to see you, see you later”, you know? Nothing much would happen after that. We weren’t close friends but we were close friends. Then he joined the band and it was fantastic! Once Chris had joined the band, we had a band!
His passing is very sad and had affected many people, but the benefit show is a brilliant idea. How did that come about?
I live in Victor Harbour, and my wife Sue and I were at the Victor Harbour Markets – they have these fantastic Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings, and we had just left the market and I was outside the shopping centre when I got a phone call from Chris, and it was a hard call. So…(long pause)… I’m just gathering myself.
He just said “John, I’m fucked”. That’s what he said.
I just said “I’m so sorry”.
I told him I was going to organize a benefit concert and he said “No, don’t organize a concert for me, I’ve got assets. Doc hasn’t got any assets.” I said I’m sorry, I don’t look at it that way. You’ve got a 3 year old”, and he said “Yeah, do it for Ollie and Josie”.
So I started calling people. My first call was Don Walker. When I told him he said “I’d be there”. I don’t know what the sequence was but I got on to Jimmy (Barnes) and told him the story. He was shocked and said he was 100% there as well.
A little side issue to that is that Jane Barnes met Jimmy through chris coz Jane was actually Chris’s girlfriend. It was way way back, and Jimmy actually said to me “You know I wouldn’t be married to Jane if it wasn’t for Chris Bailey!”
His relationship went deeper than that too because Chris left the Angels in ’83 and did various things including starting GANGajang, and he also played with Jimmy Barnes, they did one or two tours together. Chris has played with a hell of a lot of people over the years, he was a brilliant, brilliant musician – wonderful bass player!
So anyway, I just kept calling people and no one even hesitated. They just said “Yeah, Chris is a great guy, I really wanna be there!” And then I suddenly realized that what we’re really talking about is a celebration about Chris, and Chris was blown away, he really wanted to be there.
Only 3 weeks ago we thought it was all looking great, Chris was gonna be there at this benefit concert, he was talking about getting up and playing a song with us. Then things just went… badly… quickly.
I see this gig as a celebration of Chris Bailey, his family and also of Adelaide.
Adelaide I can tell you – its just unbelievable! Chris was aware of it too, he kept saying “I don’t believe it, all these people wanna do this for little old me! How did you get all these people together John?!” I told him “I just made some phone calls, but actually I didn’t get them together, you did!”
It says a lot about Chris Bailey. He was a great guy! He was the sort of guy that, when there was an argument going on in the band, and there often was, Chris could mediate easily. Probably not if it was me and Rick actually, haha. No one can mediate against brothers arguing! It’s funny, we never argue any more but we used to all the time in the old days. It was usually over how a song should go – “put a C sharp in there Rick” – “Nah bullshit, it should be an F Sharp” or something like that (laughs). Then it would turn in to something personal, you know as brothers it was gonna happen. Angus and Malcolm could tell you the same story, you know? But funny enough as brothers we never argue any more and it’s lovely I much it that way!
So anyway, after Doc decided not to play back in 2000, Rick and I said to each other “This is our band too, we wrote the songs as well so what are we doing? The Angels should continue too”. So we started playing as the original Angels band with no front singer, I did all the singing and Chris and Buzz joined us so we had that band back again. Eventually we reunited with Doc, but it ran out of steam after two years. I don’t know what happened. Doc decided to go off on his own. It was probably a crazy decision and maybe afftected somewhat by whats going on now, its very sad! Docs unwell too. We do care about Doc; some people probably thik we don’t, but we do! People think we were fighting with him and we weren’t, he just went off on his own. But Chris stayed with us all along and for the last 9 months he has been absolutely a member of the band as always, but he hasn’t actually been on stage with us, my son Sam has been taking his place and done an unbelievable job. Of course now for sad reasons he has now officially joined the band. I see him on stage and think “Jeez I miss Chris but this really isn’t a bad second option!”
Sam will be playing tomorrow night, and my son Tom might even play a song on the drums, I’m not sure yet. I think it’s gonna be great! I shouldn’t say that as it might all turn out to be a let down, but I really don’t think it will. You think of all these people that are playing in it and we’ve all got some loose ideas for it, but theyre all really good lose ideas.
It’s going to be a historic moment, Jimmy Barnes is gonna sing two Angels songs... The whole night is gonna be historic!
I cant confirm or deny that, haha.
I said “Im asking you guys as individuals to come”, I put no pressure on them what so ever. I can tell you that Mossy and Don are gonna play with Rick and I as The Brewster Brothers, we have two songs we’re gonna be playing with them and Wilbur (Wilde) will join in as well for Brewster Brothers and then Mossy… I don’t know if I should tell you or not…
Yes you should…
Well Mossy and Don are gonna play Face The Day with us on Organ and guitar, I guess Rick and Mossy will trade off a bit. Maybe Diesel is gonna play Cant Shake It with us, and Jimmy is gonna sing a couple of songs. Also Wilbur is gonna do his incredible Sax solo in Take a Long Line where he does a harmony to ricks Solo which is just incredible!
I think its gonna be great, im feeling really excited about it! And having gone through the funeral last week which was a beautiful, beautiful funeral, it really was. But I just feel like tomorrow is gonna be some kind of big release and its gonna be wonderful!
Just on the support side of the benefit show itself, I know a lot of people and companies are donating their time among other things toward this. Can you tell me who?
Can I list some off?
Yes, please do!!
Paul and Mick coming over from Melbourne – all these people are Gratis, by the way. Mick does the lighting and Paul does mixing, he is one of the guys that mixes the Angels when we’re on tour and do the big shows.
Sergio Margio is flying over from Perth as a stage and guitar tech.
Peter Darwin, who is like a superstar I reckon, is totally involved.
Greg Clifford will be another one that will be involved, he mixed The Angels and the Brewster Brothers, he will be there doing his thing as well.
Athol Maxwell-Davis is a great guy, he is coming.
Brian Gleeson has been helping me with this whole thing and he is incredible!
Robbie and Carol Robertson have donated Thebarton Theatre, and all the staff there have donated their time too.
Weslo security guards have donated their time.
Poster George has arranged Avis vehicles to pick people up and ferry them around.
The Hilton Hotel have donated at least 20 rooms absolutely free of charge.
Novatech have donated as well…
Grum from Action Audio Logic has donated all of the amps and all the backline stuff.
Fowlers Live with all their hospitality.
Triple M who haven’t just talked about it, they are absolutely 100% behind this show!
Venuetix are donating $1.40 per ticket back to the fund and I think that is just great!
Its all donated. Its just amazing!
I should also tell you that Monica from Prince Alfred told me they are building a recording studio at the college and they are going to call it the Chris Bailey Recording Studio. They are also doing something in the main hall, he will be in there. So not only is he in the Aria hall of fame with all of us, he will now be in the Princes hall of fame as well which I think is fantastic!
This is incredible and overwhelming to be talking about all of this…
Yeah I am overwhelmed, and I don’t want to take any credit for it either, I just simply made a few phone calls, yeah there is a bit of stuff to organize and do but its minor and I just think that with all of the other people that have swung on board with it is amazing.
I called Brian Gleeson for advice! I said “Brian Ive sort of got a few things together here, Ive got the theatre and this, that and the other, but I think I need some kind of tour manager on this” and he said “It would be an honor, ill handle it all!”
I was in a meeting the other day with all these people that I regard as superstars, and we’re all sitting around this board room table ticking off all the little bits and pieces that you’ve gotta get right to put on a show like this, and it was so exciting!
I am really looking forward to tomorrow night, as I said, its not only a celebration of Chris and his family, but of Adelaide too!
You can buy tickets to this amazing event by clicking here