Needless to say it’s been a pretty heart wrenching time for The Angels in the last few weeks. We lost Chris Bailey, “the original and best bassplayer the Angels ever had” as John has referred to him so often. The Angels always showed an outward affection for Beatle Bailey.
I was lucky enough to be on the other end of what I consider the best kind of rhythm section with Chris, be it in Rock or any musical idiom. Heavy grooves, deep pocket, tight as a rope. Chris kept me absolutely on my toes as a drummer, because he expected the best. He grinned cheekily show after show when we really hit a groove. Chris’ bass playing was effortlessly musical and created a perfect grid that John and Rick’s guitars swam over and my drums could easily marry to. He had feel for days, great time and was a walking text book of the hippest bass lines, licks and runs.
I am blessed to have had one full tour with Chris and a handful of other dates to receive his musical schooling. It is strange how quickly things change, but one suddenly treasures the invaluable short time allotted, to sit in with the best.
Thankfully, he put down every note on Take it to the Streets and is the bottom-end on half the material on our forthcoming album. As ill as he was, he came in to Alberts and laid it down like a champ late last year.
We played three theatre dates in WA the weekend Chris passed away. It was a poignant few days with many song dedications, emotional chats with the audience and raised glasses backstage. Thoughts were with him the following weekend in Sydney at Bankstown and then Taren Point (which felt Chris’ rumble less than a year ago).
The culmination of all of this came with a proper chance to honour Chris’ memory with the enormous “Adelaide Salutes Chris Bailey” concert. John took charge of putting together this event and had months of endeavour seeing it through. 1800 friends and fans turned out at Adelaide’s Thebarton Theatre. The Angels, Jimi Barnes, Ian Moss, Diesel, Gangajang, Don Walker, Phil Small, James Reyne, Tracy Kingman, Swanee and Peter Head were just some of the performers who’s decades of personal connection with Chris brought them to the fore. Countless musicians, crew, photographers and drivers gave their efforts. Countless Adelaide businesses, big and small gave their resources. All of it, importantly, will make a contribution to the life of Chris’ little 3 year old boy, Ollie, looked after by Chris’ wife, Josie.
As Chris said “it was a hell of an excuse for a party” with his typical dry humour. A party it was. Still though, the pathos of it hit me as I exited the stage at the end of the night’s final set. I didn’t expect to feel that sudden bittersweet sadness after what was a great celebration with a group of talented musicians and a roaring audience. It’s the moment where all the weeks of commitment to the cause are suddenly over and you think only of the guy who isn’t there to see what all the fuss over him was about.
At least we got our chance to say goodbye to Chris.