He became best known as the charismatic lead singer for the Australian hard rock band The Angels. His father, Bernard James Neeson, was a British Army soldier, and his mother was Kathleen née Corrigan. Doc was the eldest of six children. They were raised as Catholics although the family lived in a Protestant area of Belfast. He attended boarding school at Terenure College in Dublin.
Neeson emigrated with his family to Adelaide on April 14, 1960 aboard SS Strathnaver when he was 13 years old. In the late 60’s, he was conscripted into the Australian army, serving as an education corps sergeant in Papua New Guinea for 18 months. Returning to Adelaide, he attended Flinders University and completed degrees in film and drama and intended to become a film director.
While he was a student, in 1971 he joined an acoustic blues group, Moonshine Jug and String Band, on vocals and guitar. The band evolved into The Keystone Angels in 1974, switching to electric instruments and began playing 1950s rock and roll on the pub circuit. In 1975, the band supported AC/DC during a South Australian tour. On the recommendation of Bon Scott and Malcolm Young from AC/DC, the band was offered a recording deal with the Albert label. Another slight name change* and the iconic Australian act The Angels, fronted by Neeson was born. It was Neesons memorable and theatrical stage presence that became one of the Angels defining characteristics. Since releasing their debut single Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face.
- Record producer George Young suggested the new band he was working with, the Keystone Angels, rename themselves simply as ‘‘the Angels’’ and that the band choose a lead vocalist instead of sharing the singing. The choice came down to John Brewster’s clear tones or Doc Neeson’s gruff shout.”Our drummer, Buzz Bidstrup, said, ‘Let’s go with Doc. He’s got the worst voice in the band’,” Neeson said. ”While I was looking daggers at him, he changed that to ‘distinctive’ and the penny dropped with everyone. We’d sacrifice sweetness for distinctiveness. That’s how I became the Angels’ lead singer.” And that’s how Australian music was changed.
Again in 1976, and following up with hits like No Secrets, Take A Long Line, and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, The Angels did go on to enjoy an extraordinary career remaining one of the most enduring bands in Australian music history. Neesons energetic stage performances came to an abrupt end on December 1, 1999 when he was in a near fatal car accident. A truck rear-ended his car while waiting in line at a tollbooth. He sustained serious neck and back injuries. Neeson was scheduled to perform in Dili, a gig he had organised to support the Australian troops stationed in East Timor. He still performed in Dili but upon his return to Australia, his specialist warned him that if he continued to perform, he would end up in a wheelchair and was told to retire.
In 2008, he reunited with the original Angels band and went on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Face to Face album. In 2010 Neeson launched his solo career. The Angels 100% Tour was announced in November, 2012 for early 2013.
Neeson was at a family Christmas dinner in 2012 when he began feeling unwell and was taken by ambulance to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. After having a seizure at the hospital, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. The tumor was surgically removed and he began an intensive program of radio and chemotherapy. Due to his health problems, The Angels 100% tour was cancelled.
News quickly spread about his condition and the music community organised a benefit concert Rock For Doc to help raise funds to assist him with the funds needed for his medical treatment and day-to-day living expenses. The concert raised $200,000 AU. In February 2014, Neeson had a follow up MRI scan that revealed the tumor had returned. On June 4, 2014 Bernard “Doc” Neeson passed away peacefully in his sleep, aged 67.