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| 16 February 2018 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

After two albums of searing, raw rock n’ roll cooked up in the Alberts studio with Vanda & Young at the helm – the best production/songwriting team this country has known – Rose Tattoo had something to prove as they knuckled down to work on their third record, Scarred For Life.

Released in 1982 on the Alberts label, it would give them one of their biggest underground hits – a perennial power-to-the-people anthem called We Can’t Be Beaten which still, some 36 years later, serves as a rallying cry to those fed up with the injustices and hypocrisy dished up to us every day by The Man.

Amongst the other nine tracks on the record were more barbed wire riffed, street-smart rebel-outlaw gutter poetry anthems in the title track, Branded and Revenge, making the record one of the spikiest, least-likely-to-be-played-on-the-radio classics of its time.

And then, nestled away on side two, sat two tunes which almost got lost amongst all the fierce, slashing guitars and snarling vocals.

Sydney Girls and It’s Gonna Work Itself Out are almost overlooked in the grand scheme of all things Rose Tattoo – to some, throwaways when compared to tales of nice boys who play rock n’ roll, warring gang leaders, drug dealing ferals and outlaws on the run.

While the former is a simple little lust song to young ladies sporting, “cotton brown dresses, sun brown thighs” who, “seem so innocent but naughty all the while,” all set to a rock-reggae rhythm, It’s Gonna Work Itself Out is a very different beast indeed.

Guitarist Rob Riley’s propulsive riff, and Pete Wells’ slinky slide guitar provide a relentlessly positive soundtrack over the roll and bounce of Dallas ‘Digger’ Royall and Geordie Leach’s irresistible rhythm section, while Angry Anderson’s ragged vocals chant out the great, uplifting message: never give up – it will get better, fuelled by his then-burgeoning interest in developing a spiritual foundation through attending his local Bahá’í temple.

IT’S GONNA WORK ITSELF OUT – lyrics by Angry Anderson

Well I know that the world seems so full of trouble
There’s so much heartache and pain
And I know that there’s times that it seems so futile
To ever wanna try again

There are times I know when you’re feeling low
You think that you’ll never get a break
But if you let yourself be ruled by these downers
You’ll be making such a bad mistake

It’s gonna work itself out, it’s gonna work itself out
If you’re living in doubt, better start to believe
It’s gonna work itself out

Well I hear in the news nearly every day
That some new war has begun
And it’s so sad thinking that desperate men
Gotta make their way with a gun

And they spray the air with insecticides
Bending mind body and limb
And although it’s cruel, we’d all be fools
If we thought we’d have to give in

[Chorus: x2]

Well I know there’s no use sittin’ around
Cryin’ over what’s been done
Because there’s no solution, and givin’ up now
The race can still be won

And with a little hard work and determination
You know that you’re gonna pull through
So don’t ask for nothin’, don’t look to no one
The future’s all, up to you


It’s Gonna Work Itself Out is a heartfelt paean to believe in your path, to not surrender in the face of greed and apathy and injustice – on a personal, national or global level – and to the power of self-affirming hard work and self-belief. It’s also an embodiment of the larrikin Aussie underdog spirit: when life knocks you down, getup and dust yourself off and try again.

For this writer, it has been a go-to song for decades when heartbreak or doubt or depression has loomed dauntingly.

Angry Anderson tells us the story of its creation.

“I remember that we were trying to write some songs, [and] Robin Riley came up with some monster riffs, like We Can’t Be Beaten and Scarred [For Life], and then I said, ‘you got anything else?’ He said, ‘I’ve got some stuff,’ and he’s really into country music, he loves country music and doesn’t like the blues, go figure!

“Anyway, he gave me this tape and said, ‘there’s a whole lot of ideas on this tape, you might be able to pick some.’ So I’m listening to this tape, and if memory serves me well, I’m pretty sure that I just loved that [sings riff] ‘dun-dahdah-dun-dahdah-dun-dahdah,’ – it was so infectious, I thought, ‘fuck, this is full of energy.’

“And it’s not like Scarred. Like any great song Scarred, the music and the lyric were just so well married up, like they were written by the same person. So there’s this great little tune and I just thought, ‘fuck, I love that. It’s so infectious and it’s so bouncy.’

“And – it’s not like the rest of the album. He’s responsible for one of my favourite songs [on Scarred For Life], Revenge – that’s because it’s such a classic blues riff, but where it drops into the syncopation thing, those two parts, he brought the song to me that way.

“Anyway, It’s Gonna Work Itself Out – I had no idea for a lyric. I didn’t marry it to something which [I already had], which I often do with an idea. Like, I might have two lines, I might have four lines, I might only have a title, and when I hear a tune, I go, ‘yeah, that’s that song,’ and then I’ll write the words to it.

“[But] I had no idea. I just sat and listened to it over and over again, then one day I just sat down and started writing – [sings] ‘well I know that the world seems so full of trouble, there’s so much heartache and pain…’

“I usually start with the chorus – like a title and a chorus, which are usually one and same, like Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock and Roll, and then I’ll write the verses. It’s Gonna Work Itself Out, I wrote it around the other way. I wrote the verses, then where it went to where I heard the chorus, and the chorus is the last thing I wrote.

“I was trying to think of something clever, and then this phrase [came to me] – yeah, it’s okay, it’s going to work itself out. Because I was just discovering that philosophy, that there is purpose. There is wisdom. If you’ve got faith in life, it’ll show you that no matter what it throws at you – heartache and pain, like the lyric says – in the end it always resolves itself. It works itself out. If only people could hang onto that…”

Anderson is genuinely touched that the song meant so much to some of us.

“Thank you for that,” he says from the heart when I thank him for the support the song has given me. “Because obviously it’s saying something, and you felt something, a lot of people don’t. That’s such a great compliment. Thank you.”

Alberts released It’s Gonna Work Itself Out as the third single from the album, with Sydney Girls on the b-side, on 22 June, 1983, but it failed to make much impression on the charts, perhaps because the public couldn’t reconcile such an energetic, uplifting, positive message with the image of the rough-as-guts, heavily tattooed, outlaw band members. Needless to say, it wasn’t the first or last time Angry Anderson and Rose Tattoo were underestimated and misunderstood by the mainstream.

It’s parent album Scarred for Life eventually sold around 70,000 copies and peaked at #14 on the Australian National charts in 1982, and Rose Tattoo spent three gruelling months making little headway in the USA supporting Aerosmith and ZZ Top.

Whilst the tough schedule didn’t break them in The States, it did have a profound effect on those who were paying attention – notably the likes of Guns n’ Roses, who went on to cover Nice Boys and persuaded Angry to reform the band to support them on successive Australian tours.

It’s Gonna Work Itself Out is rarely played live (Setlist.FM notes only 2 performances of the song, both in 2011, out of a total 920 shows by the band), and most fans wouldn’t name it amongst the band’s ‘classics’ – but its legacy remains in its positive message and its ability to pull us up out of the doldrums when hard times threaten.

Life serves us all lemons from time to time, but as Anderson sings, with a little hard work and determination, you know that you’re gonna pull through – the future really is all up to you.

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