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BOOK REVIEW: DOC by Jon Bradshaw and Anne Souter

| 19 January 2022 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: DOC by Jon Bradshaw and Anne Souter
Allen & Unwin
October 2021
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Biography/ Rock and roll


It was difficult to not approach this biography of the mighty Doc Neeson with some scepticism. Written partly by Neeson’s childhood friend Jon Bradshaw, and partly by his last partner, Anne Souter, who was with him during his final years, this really is literally a book of two parts.

I use the words ‘written partly’ because this is not a strict collaboration, per se. Bradshaw takes care of Neeson’s early years adroitly, describing to the tiniest detail what life was like in the Adelaide satellite city of Elizabeth for migrants. The detail is so precise that it may as well be Bradshaw’s own story, adapted to Doc’s when opportunity presented itself. Nothing wrong with that, and he evokes a certain battler’s mindset which goes some way to illuminating the singer’s personality.

From there Bradshaw details The Angels career, again with an admirable amount of detail for the timeline, but it’s at this point that things because a little light on Doc’s personal motivations.

Bradshaw paints the band as an ongoing struggle, Neeson in one corner, Rick & John Brewster on the opposing side, which fits entirely with what we already know about the terse relationship within the band. There is much made of Doc’s womanising during these years as well, Bradshaw depicting him as a red-blooded rogue in the most affectionate way, if we can (or should) think of a “love rat” in that way.

The tensions in the band were often exacerbated by money problems – hundreds of thousands were squandered on foolish recording projects in The States, and attempts to ‘break’ the US market were constantly funded by sold out Australian pub tours.

There seems to have been no contact with other band members for facts and opinions: these are Bradshaw’s recollections, it appears, and the like of Jim Hilbun, Bob Spencer, Brent Eccles, James Morley were perhaps irrelevant to the tale he wanted to tell. A more traditional biographer would have at least talked to these people to fact check and glean more stories to explain the man behind the myth.

And then, Bradshaw abruptly bows out, allowing Anne Soulter to take over, and there seems to have been no collaboration, no checking of notes or comparing positions. It literally is two books in one.

Soulter’s story is very different: she met Doc years before they connected personally, and started living together. What follows is a more personal look at Doc’s final years, but also a far more subjective one.

Often Soulter’s tales seem like diary notes – snippets designed to jog her memory of deeper detail, but she chooses not to elucidate, perhaps wanting to preserve some privacy to their relationship. Admirable, sure, but not very helpful in a biography.

Let’s not be overly critical, though: DOC is a mostly interesting read, and provides a peek behind the curtain on Neeson’s early years, his family life and school friends and early excursions into musical entrepreneurship, and also into home life for him during the final years before his sad 2014 passing from a brain tumour.

Fans will find much to enjoy here, though without a doubt there remains a place on the bookshelf for the definitive Doc Neeson biography. Maybe one day.


Category: Book Reviews

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