EXPIRED: 12/30/09 – Rowland Howard, 50, won’t be having any more birthday parties, even though he was an integral member of the influential Australian based band, The Birthday Party.
The guitarist passed away after losing his battle with liver cancer. He’d been waiting for a crucial liver transplant and had been forced to cancel recent shows due to his illness.
Howard first came to prominence as guitarist with Melbourne punk band the Boys Next Door who then mutated into the Birthday Party. He penned ‘Shivers’, for the band, which became their first big hit. Led by singer Nick Cave, the Birthday Party left their native Australia for the U.K. in 1980 where the band established their fearsome reputation thanks to a series of gigs that often saw as much violence on stage as off.
Howard’s guitar playing — an incredible collision of blues, feedback and six-string brutality — marked him down as a true original and proved to be a huge influence on subsequent generations of guitarists.
After the Birthday Party’s split in 1983, Howard lent his guitar skills to Crime and the City Solution and These Immortal Souls. He appeared onstage in London with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 1991 for a partial Birthday Party reunion when the band played ‘Wild World’, ‘Dead Joe’ and ‘Nick the Stripper.’
In 1999, Howard released his debut solo album, Teenage Snuff Film, which quickly became a cult classic. Its long-awaited follow-up Pop Crimes was released just two months ago, in October 2009, sparking a run of well-received shows and garnering widespread critical acclaim.
Unfortunately, his illness forced the cancellation of several shows. He played his last gig at the same venue where it all started on October 29th.
In his final interview Howard said he was enjoying the renewed interest in his career. “It’s very gratifying,” he told a Melbourne newspaper. “When I play live, nobody calls out for ‘Shivers’ any more, because they are too young… and it’s great, because no longer do I look out from the stage and just see a bunch of ageing ex-junkies.”