Angry’s agony: Devoted dad beat addictions for his kids
VETERAN rocker Angry Anderson was hurting and "wanting answers" as he made the long, anguished flight home from Perth to prepare the funeral of his son yesterday.
The tragedy was all the more poignant given that Anderson had devoted so much of his own life to helping young people battle their demons after surviving his own addictions and a horrifying childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of a family friend.
The bald, inked-up frontman had credited the birth of the first of his four children for tempering his wild ways and ultimately saving his life.
Yesterday afternoon he returned from Western Australia, where he had been performing with Rose Tattoo on the rock band's 40th anniversary national tour.
His dash home was sparked by the death of his youngest son Liam Anderson, 26, who was brutally bashed in an altercation in a clifftop park on Sydney's northern beaches.
Chocolate Starfish frontman Adam Thompson, who has regularly toured with Anderson, said of his mate: "I'm sure he'd be wanting answers - how it escalated to the level it did."
He said his friend would be hurting as a "father way more now than Angry the performer".
"He's a pretty private kind of guy," he said.
"It'll be a completely different person that has to deal with this tragedy than any that you'd see onstage."
Anderson, 71, had a wild reputation as the frontman for Rose Tattoo smoking dope every day for 30 years and injecting heroin.
The singer was running from a haunted childhood, scarred by physical and emotional violence in his family and sexual abuse by a family friend from age five.
"In the early days we had the reputation of drinkin' the most, fightin' the most, f......' the most, and taking more drugs than anybody else," he once said.
"We let everything hang out in those days - the wild days, the good ol' days, the bad days - we did everything to extremes, because being in a rock band like Rose Tattoo was a licence to do whatever you wanted."
But he said the birth of his first child Roxanne "saved my life" and inspired the hit 1986 song Suddenly.
In his biography Angry - Scarred For Life, author Karen Dewey wrote of Anderson: "Sexually, physically and mentally abused he broke the brutal family pattern to become a besotted, devoted father of four."
In fact, by the time Liam was born he had stepped back from the band to concentrate on his family.
"I took two years off - the horror of my management and accountant - but I couldn't be a part-time father, part-time husband … part-time anything.
"So I eased out of rock'n'roll to be a husband, a father, a responsible person. I was getting rid of my addiction to alcohol, my participation in drug-taking - it destroys your life force, your self-respect."
Anderson became a passionate advocate for young people, did a regular slot on Channel 9 with Ray Martin and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his work championing youth.
At the time he described how he spoke to kids on the street. "I'm not going to say to the kids, 'Don't drink'. I'll say: 'If you want my opinion, you shouldn't be drinking heavily'."
And then he added: "If you do, I'll be there to pick you up when you fall over."
But it turned out that his own son was also one of those who needed help.
Three years ago Liam's mother Lindy, who divorced from Anderson in 2002, posted on Facebook how he was spending time with her after "almost four years".
"I am the happiest girl in the world right now," she wrote. "Liam Anderson, is sitting with me, right now … on my back veranda."
And she referred to the difficulty Liam had been having in Sydney. "He is here for a while, he has been doing it pretty rough in Sydney and needs some TLC," she wrote.
"It was funny watching him get excited about sleeping in a bed with clean sheets."
"He never told me how tough things were for him," she wrote. "I'm actually rather shocked the more he tells me."