By Pauline Stewart
John Brewster Jones, leader of The Angels, a hugely popular Australian rock band will be one of the four fantastic international acts featuring at the coming Whitianga Summer Concert, Sunday 5 February, Waitangi Weekend. John and Rick Brewster’s legacy is carved in the stone tablets of Australian rock history. These two have led the rock music scene for over 40 years. Their current Angels band is widely popular and New Zealand is just very lucky to have the Angels on our shores - in Taupo, Whitianga and Queenstown early February. Whitianga will be a
blast - their second performance in the Summer concert series. The brothers, Rick and John Brewster, John’s son Sam, Dave Gleeson and drummer Nick Norton, capture the chemistry and freshness of this band.
The Informer interviewed John Brewster Jones from his home in Adelaide Where and how did music start for you?
I grew up in a musical family, my grandfather was a pianist and founder of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and my Dad became the lead cellist in the Adelaide symphony as well as directing music for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). My grandmother was an opera singer. That’s the kind of family we grew up in. My brother Rick won the under 21 section of the South Australian Piano Eisteddfod when he was 16 years of age. I was the black sheep of the family and picked up a guitar when I was about 12. I taught myself to play and got into Rock N Roll. Eventually, I won Rick over to my side of the fence. We became part of the Rock N Roll scene.
What about the connection wth your family’s musical tradition and your Symphony of Angels shows?
“There is a very strong connection. We have done seven shows with an orchestra and choirs and yet, it’s It’s our rock music. We can see how the classical upbringing and environment came to bear in the way we were putting the arrangements together. When you play like that with an orchestra, it’s an amazing experience. The songs are bigger than we are, for sure. That’s why we keep going. Whenever we play, we don’t feel like we are turning the clock back or that it’s dated music - it’s more cutting edge. A lot of young people come along to our shows, always have.
How has your music evolved?
First, we have been 49 years in the business (Rick and I), it feels fantastic and that’s quite an evolution. Second, who would have thought a rock band would be performing with an orchestra and choir nationally and internationally? Third, my son Sam plays in the band with Dave Gleeson. So there are three generations in the one band. That’s just evolved and it’s a much happier camp than it ever was; maybe the reason is that it is three generations.” Blame Bob Dylan: “This all began when I was 13. I started playing the guitar so I could sing Bob Dylan songs. He had, and still has, a profound eff ect on me. The Beatles were an exciting infl uence and so were The Rolling Stones. I was lucky to grow up in the sixties. It was a time of social revolution led by the music of the time.”
How did performing start for you?
“I grew up in Adelaide - a pretty conservative place. We started as a jug band. A friend of mine who used to go surfing, played the tea chest bass and I played the banjo. We were very successful, would you believe - the Moonshine Jug and String Band. I wrote a song, “Keep you on the move.” It was a hit! (maybe Mum brought most of the records). Our thinking became, ‘we need to form a proper band.’ That happened in 1974. We became the Keystone Angels - Rick and me and two others. We dropped the Keystone and became The Angels. The crowds were flocking in and rocking out - and they still are.” “We learned and developed by playing Iive. The live music scene was fantastic and so many great bands emerged. You built your audience from your shows well before radio got on to you. We reap the rewards of that now. Playing live is still the most important thing we do. Some people thought we were crazy when we started the band. We were young and just lived and breathed the band probably to the detriment of some relationships. We did the hard yards. You could get in your old EH Holden and load up and go and play. I’m not one to say it was much better in my days. Young people have a different approach, their life is more insular despite social media. I’m pleased to see quite a few
re-discovering rock music. Fortunately, we have masses of fans who love us. It’s all about the song and we deliver.”
What was your best concert?
“When we played at the Myer Music Bowl with ACDC, something magic happened. Malcolm Young who was the rhythm guitarist and song writer for AC-DC ( has passed away) congratulated us with, “You’re the only band that has blown us off the stage.” We loved the 1978 tour with David Bowie. He chose us to tour with him. We became friends. He loved our band, and even came to one of our own shows with his band to watch. He was a super star.”
New Zealand in a few days?
“We are looking forward to doing the shows with ZZ Top, Pat Benatar & Neil Geraldo, and Stone Temple Pilots.” Summer Concert Tickets: Go to Greenstone Entertainment website to book your tickets or they are available locally at Whitianga iSITE, Tairua Info Centre and Pauanui Info Centre.
CLOSING ADVICE FROM JOHN BREWSTER JONES: “If you want a great experience, go into You tube. Find Bob Dylan’s, “Murder Most Foul” and read the lyrics as you listen to it. It’s more or less abut the death of John F kennedy. But it’s all about the 20th century. It goes for 17 minutes but it is an absolute masterpiece.
The Angels - Sam Brewster, John Brewster Jones, Dave Gleeson, Nick Norton and Rick Brewster