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
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????
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