Thursday, July 5, 2012

Graham Gouldman and the Aussie Who Wasn't Afraid To Go To 'Nam

NORMIE ROWE-Going Home/I Don't Care (Just Take Me There) U.K. Polydor 56159 1967

There were lots of rock n' roll musicians who escaped going to Vietnam in the 60's and early 70's.  Usually they'd have some high paid doctor cook up some bullshit, or in the case of U.S. resident alien Davy Jones, get deferred because you were your father's sole support of income! Or famous right wing kook Ted Nugent who made it a point to get filthy and not bathe for weeks before being called down to the draft board or Scott Walker who at one point actually was considering becoming a British citizen to avoid being drafted and then after Prague '68 made asinine remarks in the press urging young Americans to "fight communism everywhere"!!  Over in Australia young men were being called up too and though I'm sure plenty of them wiggled through like their American counterparts a few didn't.  One of them was Normie Rowe, a huge sensation Downunder. 

Before the call-up, before England, 1966

Normie Rowe and his backing band The Playboys had quite a string of successful hits in Australia before taking a page from the book of the likes of The Bee Gees, The Easybeats and The Twilights who all left Australia for a crack at the U.K. Normie and Co. did the same in August of 1966.  Despite a large push by his U.K. label Polydor (with four singles released in a year) he had little impact.  His final U.K. release was today's subject, a previously unrecorded/unreleased composition by Graham Gouldman called "Going Home" recorded in the U.K., produced by Giorgio Gomelsky and arranged by David Whitaker. It was issued back home in Auz on Sunshine QIK 1731.

"Going Home" is a pop psych classic.  With it's sweeping strings that fade in and out and create a dream scape Rowe sings in an almost Gene Pitney type voice.  In the first verse he comes in early and re-repeats the first few words again, I'm not sure if this was a mistake or something intentional but he does it on each verse afterwards as well.  The flip is a track comprised by Gomelsky associate and Blossom Toes member Brian Godding titled ""I Don't Care (Just Take Me There)".  You'd expect some Blossom Toes type flower psych but the number is nothing of the sort.  It's a perky piece of well crafted/session man fodder akin to the likes of The Foundations or Love Affair. At first I did not care for it despite it's groovy "ba ba ba ba" backing vocals and raga guitar solo, but after a few listens it's infectious melody stuck in my head.  The record, like all of Normie's previous U.K. releases, failed so he headed off to tour North America with Roy Orbison (where oddly his cover of "Shakin' All Over" had garnered a release on the Jubilee label as 45-5518).  After the tour was over he then headed back home via the U.K. where most of the Playboys remained to cut a monstrously rare/in demand one off single for Immediate "Sad"/"Black Sheep R.I.P." (IM 054 June 1967, an Australian issue, a little less rare was on Festival's Sunshine offshoot label as QIK 1872). 

Rowe's career continued back home until September 1967 when he received his draft notice.  Unlike many other entertainers Rowe took a page from Elvis Presley's book and went willingly, being inducted in February 1968 and 11 months later was shipped off to Vietnam where he served with distinction in the Australian army as a crewman on an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier until honorably discharged a year later.  Sadly Rowe's career was never quite the same as it'd been in '65-'67 but he remains to this day a powerful advocate for Vietnam Veteran's and in 1979 contributed music for the soundtrack to the Bryan Brown film "The Odd Angry Shot" about Australian S.A.S. troopers in Vietnam in 1967/1968.

"Going Home" was reissued as part of Big Beat's amazing series of Australian 60's music on their pop psych volume "Peculiar Hole In the Sky: Pop-Psych From Down Under" CD.

Hear "Going Home":

Photographs above of Normie Rowe in Phuoc Tuy province, South Vietnam, in May 1969. All courtesy (with many thanks) of the Australian War Memorial website:

1 comment:

Bodgie Bob said...

I had the pleasure of seeing Normie Rowe about 20 years ago in a pub in western Australia. He had an amazingly powerful voice.