A small tribute to Rowland S Howard

I never knew Rowland personally.  I have however, been a fan for more than 30 years.

Of all the bands playing during  Melbourne’s early punk explosion it was the Boys Next Door that I saw the most often (sadly I missed The Young Charlatans). Spending Tuesdays at the Tiger Lounge in Richmond to watch the Boys Next Door became a weekly pilgrimage.  I recall the night Rowland joined the band at the Tiger Lounge and him singing Shivers.  The next week however Nick sang it with calls of Rowland from the crowd.  I don’t ever recall it being sung by Rowland in the band again.  Luckily however there was Cracked Portrait to showcase his unique vocal style.  Girls in the front – myself included -would chant his name “Rowland Rowland your so cute and Rowland Rowland I love you” in place of the “roman roman” lyrics, when it was sung.  A little smile would creep across the corners of his mouth.

His influence was no more apparent than when looking at the two sides of Door Door; the second side showcasing his contribution to what was a unique sound.  Indeed it is hard to imagine the band would have morphed into The Birthday Party without Rowland’s contribution of guitar and style.

Later Rowland formed other bands – These Immortal Souls and Crime and the City Solution, as well as works with Lydia Lunch and Nikki Sudden.  But over the years life happens, kids come along, and the gig going becomes more sporadic, and only a few artists are able to drag you out. Rowland was one of those.

Teenage Snuff Film was a favourite on my playlist and I was thrilled when he finally put out Pop Crimes.

What did I love about Rowland?  His handsome elfin looks, his snappy dressing, his very distinctive guitar playing – could pick it anywhere.  You hear it and you stop – like it is calling, beckoning or dragging perhaps.  His zombie stance as he leaned into the amp.  His silhouette with cigarette hanging at the corner of his mouth, his smile and his humour.

I saw Rowland at his last gig. I knew he had been struggling for a while with illness.  You know he gave so much that night, and I appreciated it so much.  And of course his humour remained in tact, despite everything.  There also seemed to be a new generation of Rowland fans.  He said at that gig “it is nice to be loved”.  And loved he was.

I am saddened to realise the music has now ended with his premature passing and will miss the intensity he brought to lyrics and guitar. Very few artists are able to touch me to my very soul.  He was one who could.

I will miss him

– Debra

January 2010

something that made me smile recently. i listened to an old BND recording where nick says “ah, this is roman roman, not rowland rowland.”  do you reckon i burst out laughing????

To contact Deb, please use the following form. Tx.


12 thoughts on “A small tribute to Rowland S Howard

  1. Thanks for the lovely memories.

    It hurts me so much that I never got the chance to see Rowland live – I live in Finland after all. And I’m too young to have been able to experience The Birthday Party or These Immortal Souls for that matter. All of those my favourite music. If I only could go back in time.

    (P.S. I love that the ‘d’s in his signature are like little notes. Such a cute detail.)

  2. It’s wonderful to hear your story Deb. I was and still not a large fan of Rowland however after his passing I paid his work far more attention than I had before and began to love him more and more. Every now and then I remember Rowland feel the need to put on Teenage Snuff Film. I’m so glad you have these memories of him. Despite how much it hurts to have someone close pass (whether you know them personally or not), the memories are always source of happiness. From now on I’m sure I’ll think of Rowland when Roman Roman comes on. =]

    • thanks monica. 🙂 glad you liked it. it makes me smile to know you too will now be thinking of rowland when you hear Roman Roman. 🙂

  3. Deb, I know this was hard for you, so thank you for posting. Words do help us heal so I’m grateful that you shared your memories with us. When someone close to our own age passes on it is a reminder of our mortality. Also, Rowland was from your city – a fellow Melbournian. How could you not feel the loss?

    One of the hardest things for me was knowing that Rowland was on the verge of a comeback. Pop Crimes is superb and he would have been so happy to know it. (Perhaps he does…) Mick Harvey’s remark about Rowland not being ready to die, that really affected me. He didn’t have to say it, and for some it was a little hard to take. However, I really think his comment speaks to the tragedy of the Hep C epidemic, i.e. the inherent stigma associated with the disease and the lack of available donor organs. Rowland didn’t have to die. If he was rich, he probably would have survived. For example, Steve Jobs of Apple Computers flew his private jet down for a new liver. Good for Steve, may he live long and prosper, or whatever. It happens all the time around the world. Just look into human body parts trafficking. It’s all a damn shame. An outrage. That’s all I can say.

    • thanks morgan.

      yes, you are right. money talks in all things.

      i remember back in the 90’s when hep c started raising its ugly head that more money was being spent on AIDs awareness even tho’ there were more people diagnosed with Hep c. not saying that AIDs awareness isn’t worthy. it was sort of like – hey lets not think about it right now.
      i can see other / moral issues arising also re organ transplants. who is more deserving etc. the sick child or someone who has abused their body? anyway not a discussion for here i guess. thanks and i am glad you liked it. thankyou too for allowing me to post it. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your text made me cry. Its strange that the music and musicians that touch my heart become so important for me, i`m always so emotional when something changes forever. I will miss him without knowing him, hopefully he knows that many people loved him and his body of work and maybe he still can feel it in some kind of way.

    Great tribute, I love the story at the end with nick and “roman, roman” 😀

    • thanks anna. i have been in a strange state of “suspension” or something since rowland passed. It seems silly somehow as i never knew him personally. i remember feeling the same way when grant mclennan from the go-betweens passed away suddenly in 2006. the go-betweens were another band that formed part of my youth. it is like i have lost part of my “clan”.

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