Rowland S. Howard ~ Autoluminescent


Autoluminescent, documentary of the late Rowland S. Howard (1959 – 2009) is available for viewing on the Youtubes, enjoy it while that lasts. (I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to finally see it.) Released in 2011, the film is stark and sad, intimate and feral, and so brilliantly matches the music of one of rock’s most distinctive guitarists, one with flick-knives for fingers, who always left blood on the frets.

Film-makers Lynn-Maree Milburn and Richard Lowenstein are to be commended for the balance of their narrative, which gives equal weight to all stages in Howard’s career, and so rescues the biography of the man from the mythology of the Birthday Party, and which neither revels in nor skirts the issue of heroin.

The interview materials contain many gems, but one particularly telling moment occurs early on when Nick Cave concedes that perhaps Howard, and not he, should have sung Shivers (which Howard had written when he was only 16).

I used to dread Shivers coming up in the set, because it required a certain amount of proficiency…a certain amount of talent to sing. It had a kind of melody and stuff… …I was never able to do that song justice, especially back then. Rowland must have been kind of squirming every time I sang it. I really wish he would have sung that actually, when we recorded it. It was his, it was his song.

Cave walks right up to the edge of admitting that he’d been in the wrong, and stops just shy, with a dark grimace and glare.

Autoluminescent (entire film)

Rowland took London personally, like someone had built it to make him unhappy… and he may well have taken the world in that way.
– Nick Cave

The Birthday Party ~ She’s Hit

This certainly was a way of releasing anger and emotion that I had no other way of releasing.
– Roland S. Howard

Rowland S. Howard ~ Nothin’ (Townes van Zandt)

Sometimes people are ready to go because they have been sick for a long time, but Rowland really wanted to live. Things were going well for him outside his health and he wanted to take advantage of that, and he was very disappointed that he wasn’t well enough to do so.
– Mick Harvey

Rowland S. Howard ~ Shut Me Down

The Young Charlatans ~ Shivers

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2 Responses to “Rowland S. Howard ~ Autoluminescent”

  • Caro Says:

    I’m a huge fan of Rowland S. Howard. I think he’s one of the best guitar players ever, and almost no one knows of him. Loved that you played Shivers today, and wrote this article on this documentary. It made my day!

  • nickglossop Says:

    Thanks for listening and commenting. Howard is certainly one of the most dramatically impressive guitarists I can think of. One point I particularly enjoyed in the film was that the Birthday Party, a band soaking in affected testosterone, only got its balls once Rowland, the ‘well-read dandy’ joined. Even in its silliest most absurd moments, the Birthday Party had a focus and seriousness of purpose, that also thanks, it would seem, to Rowland S. Howard.

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