The Birthday Party/RIP Rowland S. Howard


Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard

Enough Bullshit! Let’s get to some real music.
I just found out Rowland S. Howard died of liver cancer on December 30, 2009, at age 50 (yikes).
He is best known for his work with The Birthday Party, one of the most powerful rock n roll bands to walk the earth.
Also present in the band was Nick Cave, whose long career tends to overshadow his not at all humble beginnings.

He had this to say about Rowland’s passing: “This is very sad news, Rowland was Australia’s most unique, gifted and uncompromising guitarist. He was also a good friend. He will be missed by many.”

Back in the mid ’80’s The Birthday Party was my favorite band. The sheer ferocity of their music made everything else sound like teddy bears.
The great part was that no matter how noisy and malevolent they sounded, the undercurrent of musicality and humor made it even worse. They wrote about darkness as if it were funny, and committing mayhem a joyous occasion, which made them even scarier.
Nick’s delivery was nearly Shakespearian, and the band muscular and impeccably tasteful for all the ungodly noise they created.

The Birthday Party hired famed “Rat Fink” originator, and hot rod artist, “Big Daddy” Roth to do the cover of their third album Junkyard (pictured).
Roth was a devout Christian at the time and knew nothing of the band when he created the artwork. Afterwards when he heard the album he regretted his contribution.

I'm glad "Big Daddy" didn't hear it first

Feel free to consult wikipedia for a Birthday Party bio:

Nick Cave’s albums post Birthday Party are okay. Some are excellent, his first, From Her To Eternity (1983/4), is brilliant.
His covers album, Kicking Against The Pricks (1986) contains a transcendent version of “Long Black Veil”, as well as a few decent others.
His appearance, wearing a tuxedo, was a little too reminiscent of Bryan Ferry, and a couple of his early ’90’s albums sound a little too much like wannabe crooner for my taste. The Murder Ballads (1996), on the other hand is one of his best, but nothing on it even comes close to the power of “Deep In The Woods”, from the Bad Seed (1982)Ep.
Nick’s albums post Birthday Party are better than any of Lou Reed’s, post Velvet Underground, at least.

Check out the tunes. First one, “Big Jesus Trashcan” kills me every time, even after a few thousand plays. Actually all of it does.

Big Jesus TrashCan
Deep In The Woods
King Ink
Nick The Stripper
Jennifer’s Veil
She’s Hit

7 thoughts on “The Birthday Party/RIP Rowland S. Howard

  1. Lest we not forget the eternal bass humping, cowboy hat wearin’ and mustache sportin’ Tracy Pew R.I.P….Spread the word to all these silly Hardcore and Goth kids. This is the shit by which all perfectly insane party-music to die to, is measured by in my book. I saw The Birthday Party at the Roxy in Hollywood (1983) on their second short swing through the U.S. The first time they never made it to L.A….here’s a bit of what happened when they played New York the first aborted tour in 1981. 23/09/1981 – New York City, The Underground (stopped after 3 songs). 24/09/1981 – New York City, Chase Park Lounge (Cancelled). 25/09/1981 – New York City, The Ritz (stopped after 35 minutes). At least I got to see a full show! Probably the most memorable rock & roll night of my life…I don’t even know if I can call it R&R. Transcendent of any genre…I think “Junkyard” is a great record but I must impart to any one who reads NTWICBS that the two best sounding records ever recorded are “The Bad Seed” and the fucking perfect “Mutiny In Heaven”. These are both EPs that play at 45rpm with the widest motherfucking grooves in the vinyl you will ever see. This shit will blow up any stereo, no problem. If you want to hear what it was like to see these guys live, put one of these EPs on the turntable and turn it up all the way…you won’t be sorry. Trust me, your neighbors will love you for it!
    This band just got better and better, and finally blew up in the face of being The Best Band On Earth…along with a pinch of dope. I can’t say enough about the power of this bullshit. What could possibly be as funny, smart and as self destructive as this band? They did it all. They scared the crap out of me and I love them to this day for doing it. I’d like to leave another bit of advice…check out The Ghosts Of The Civil Dead soundtrack and film. It’ll make y’all want to keep your little pink noses clean. Punishment…Reward! Strophe and Antistrophe!

  2. It’s no accident that 4 out of 8 songs I posted are from those Ep’s. I could have written so much more, but I really wanted to get the post up to drown out that poser weenie who I won’t even name here.
    I think I actually like “Prayers on Fire” better than Junkyard, but I love the “Big Daddy” Roth cover so much I had to include it.
    I also didn’t mean to leave out Mick Harvey, who is still going head to head with Nick The Stripper.
    See if you can find the video for that song on Youtube, in it Nick has written across his bare chest “Porca Dio”, which as I understand it is about the worst blasphemy utterable, meaning, “God is a Pig” or something like that.

  3. I have an old VHS tape with Nick having scrawled that same logo on his person…must be the same show. Right! Prayers on Fire has better songs but I was leaning toward the production aspect. Zoo-Music Girl kills rhythmically and everything else is great as well. The vinyl aspect of those records can kill the digital, any day of the century. I have a friend, who’s of a Slav family origin and would probably want to remain nameless, and I’m not even going to try to spell it correctly, but they have a saying that goes something like, “My God Fucks Your God”. Pretty sweet huh? Hands up! Who wants to die?

  4. I was pleased to find, when Circus Records lovingly re-issued Oz-godz The Go-Betweens’ catalog with bonus discs, that Send Me a Lullaby includes (as a bonus track) the Tuff Monks “After the Fireworks” from an obscure ’82 single (somewhere in my garage archives). Tuff Monks was a one-off collaboration between the Go-B’s and Nick, Mick & Roland. Mick produced & multi-serviced Robert Forster’s 1990 solo lp Danger in the Past, considered by many to be his best extra-Go-Between effort

  5. One of my earliest posts is dedicated to the original versionof “Some Velvet Morning”. It’s a personal favorite. I’ve never heard this Lydia/Rowland version. It’s amazing. Thanks.

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