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Talking Heads -

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(generated from captions) in Melbourne's Northcote He had a working-class start King of Pop by the time he was 20. and was crowned Australia's to his stardom, Vietnam brought an abrupt end were still to come. but the worst of his personal battles He still draws the crowds,

the ARIA Hall of Fame. and last year was inducted into

is Normie Rowe. Tonight's Talking Head THEME MUSIC

Thank you very much indeed. Normie, it's great to have you here. It's a great show. Fantastic to be here. knows you as a pop star, Now, much of Australia but for you, who's Normie Rowe? Oh, God. really have to ask someone else. I think it's something you'd I could be objective about it. I don't know how

Well, what do you care about most? who are closest to me. My family, the people I care about Jenny. I care about my beautiful sister at the moment, who's dealing with cancer a great deal. and I care about my kids at those early days Well, Normie, let's look back in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Yeah. REFLECTIVE MUSIC the end of the Second World War. I was born in 1947, two years after I grew up in Northcote. to grow up. It was an interesting place It was a working-class suburb. of three children. I was the youngest and my mum, Connie, was - My dad, Albie, was a truck driver you know, of the family, well, she was the matriarch, on the straight and narrow. kept us all (Laughs) I remember Northcote in the 1950s. It was a real community. full of happy kids. All the schools were coming into the area. There were a lot of migrants that we weren't rich I never realised for one minute and didn't even know what rich was. and went, "Ta-da!", I think I dropped out the chute being maybe two years old because I can remember and Mum and Dad saying, Sing like Popeye." "Go on, Norm. Go on, Norman. # I'm Popeye the sailor man And I'd... (Sings like Popeye)

I fight for the... # and everybody laughed And I was this little kid, and I guess, sort of, like, it's... and I liked the laughter, you can't get rid of it, you know. You know, once you catch it, Well, moving, you find some stuff, the other day. and I found this in my storage (Chuckles) This is fantastic. Lou Toppano Music School, The best performance of the night,

Norman Rowe, 1959. I was 12 years old. Look at that. UP-BEAT '60s MUSIC for the Lou Toppano Music School I was doing a Moomba concert Stan Rofe from 3KZ. and I met Stan the Man - any aspirations of being a singer?" He said, "Do you have what an aspiration was. And I didn't know He explained it to me, of the bigger dances in Melbourne. invited me off to some I met some of my idols. working in these places, And then I started and it gave me the background. From the dances, people saw me like 'The Go Show' and 'Teen Scene'. and invited me to appear on shows # It ain't necessarily so... # (Normie Rowe sings) by the black music of America, I was always enthralled and I found a song and Ira Gershwin in about 1930 that had been written by George called 'It Ain't Necessarily So'. # Whoa # It ain't necessarily so... # to change it around And we had this idea and add some bits and pieces to it. Sunday night, the audience stopped! When we took it to the dance on the they burst into applause. And at the end of it, absolutely amazing response, So, to have this

So' that we had something. we knew with 'It Ain't Necessarily # So. # '60s POP MUSIC All the young performers were after and the Beatles had. the adulation that Elvis Presley (Girls scream) is the yardstick, MAN: If cold, hard cash most valuable teenager. then Normie Rowe is Australia's at Melbourne Airport This was his farewell

the bigger money of London. as he left for everything we could do in Australia, So, we'd just about done and we decided to go to the UK at the international market. and have a go BOPPY '60s MUSIC We were doing very well, and register for national service. and then I had to come back The moment I signed that paper outside of Australia again, I wasn't allowed and that was the end of international stardom. of my aspirations Normie, looking at that footage by teenage fans - of you being mobbed there cope with all of that? I mean, how does a working-class boy I had some great people around me. I was really lucky. I had good mentors. male role models around I had a number of mature in the right direction. who... (Stammers) ..they steered me about dealing with all of that? What were they saying to you Nothing in particular. in the wrong direction, I guess it was if I'd looked heading down the wrong road. I knew that I was sort of to go to England, When you went up onto the plane you were the King of Pop. You'd be named that in Australia. Yep. do you think you had How much potential to make an international splash? I didn't even want to go. Well, at first it was Ivan's, my manager. It wasn't my idea - And when I got there, I said, I've always lived life. "OK, well, this is the way Now I have to make the best of it." "Here is my task. I was absolutely... And looking back, in a 1-year period, the growth ..astounded at, in an international market gave me. that that experience of working grooming was spectacularly changed. When I came back to Australia, the to be another Fab Four. But your dream must have been must have thought that was possible. I mean, you and the Playboys it was possible Well, yeah, we thought I still believe it was probable. and, you know, I mean, the Easybeats made it. Bee Gees made it. Yeah, Bee Gees made it. Olivia Newton-John. So, what was the difference? I had to come back and sign up for national service. When I got back, I wasn't able to leave the country again. Normie, let's talk about your childhood, those days at Northcote, north of the city of Melbourne. What did your dad and mum want for you? Oh, they wanted a trade, they definitely wanted a trade.

And I believe to this day

that the luckiest thing I ever had was nothing to fall back on, because I always had to fall back on show business for my living. It seems to me that it's something that you got from your mother that actually was really a bedrock for you later on. She seemed to have a great sense of faith - or trust, maybe - in you. Oh, she trusted me, and that was a real knockout. That was... I came home late from a dance one night. My dad said... (Sternly) .."Where have you been?"

I said, "Oh, I missed the train, Dad." "Well, you know what time it is?!" And Mum said, "Albie, he's chosen..."

I was 12. "He's chosen an industry to work in "where people are going to be late at night. "We have to trust him." (Laughs) Fancy doing that to a 12-year-old! I mean, from then on I think it really sort of channelled me into staying on the straight and narrow, pretty much. Well, that's an interesting expression, too - you've "chosen" that field. You were 12 years of age. I mean, was there a moment when you felt you'd chosen? I think I chose it when I was two or three years old. Back as Popeye? Yeah. I mean, I had this... You know, I don't think talent is the most important thing. I think the most important thing is desire. Put us back into your shoes when you go to register for conscription, because you're the pop hero of Australia. You're just getting going in the UK.

You think you've got big potential there, and you come home to do this. I mean, what did you feel about it? I was depressed. It was the first time I ever... I mean, I had...I had suffered depression in the UK, and that was born out of loneliness. But this time, this was born out of... ..despair that my life as I'd known it up until that stage and all of my desires had come to an end

and in fact, the likelihood of my physical life coming to an end was a possibility and even... a maybe not so remote probability. Let's see what happened, then, when you got an army haircut. 'SHAKIN' ALL OVER' PLAYS In 1964, November 1964, the Federal Government introduced a ballot to bolster the armed forces via national service, and by 1967 it was my turn. And I turned 20 and I had to register. (Normie Rowe sings) # Shakin' all over... # I felt that if it was good enough for a bank jockey, a motor mechanic or something like that to go into the army and perhaps go to Vietnam, then it was good enough for a pop singer. MAN: Just in case you didn't recognise him, the soldier is singer, Normie Rowe. SONG: # Smiley # You're off to the Asian war... # my time at Puckapunyal, I actually quite enjoyed and then on to corps training, recruit training I always said that if I had a chance and I guess it was because on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day, to get a medal for my kids to wear I would do that, because I remember feeling left out didn't have anything like that. because my dad a young man, an honourable decision. I think even now it was quite, for and I got the call to go to Vietnam. I put my hand up for a fighting unit SOMBRE MUSIC became a strange thing. Living in Vietnam because that became normal. It was a surreal thing to me, in Australia and being here faded The difference between being doing what we had to do in Vietnam. because we were so busy # Going home... # (Normie Rowe sings) When I came home... the car and I had to say to him, ..my brother-in-law was driving "Mate, please slow down." than the speed limit He was doing 10mph less and I asked him to slow down, I'd really changed. and I think that's when I realised for the very first time, When I went on stage that Australia had changed. that's when I realised And it was like... getting off at your station, ..it was like being on a train, and realising that thought you were gonna get off at. that wasn't the station you (Protesters chant) SOMBRE MUSIC It's true Vietnam killed my career. and wish things were different, I can look at it with bitterness the fact that or I can take out of it any man ever had, I've got the best friends and they are all Vietnam veterans. the ex-service community at large... The Vietnam veteran community, ..is a brother and sisterhood. It's a fraternity. And we all know something been to a war don't know, that people who haven't

not to know it. and most of us would prefer But now that we DO know it, that no-one else gets to know it. we would love to know SOMBRE MUSIC CONTINUES that going on stage Normie, you said there that Australia had changed. made you realise How had it changed? no...the adulation wasn't there. When I walked on stage, there was new groups that were coming along, In fact, it was being saved for the of other young groups. Zoot and a number

had changed too Obviously, something else in the nature of the way Australians thought about Vietnam. the flotsam and jetsam, The problem was that the... or the wreckage left behind, you know, the soldiers, were the messengers, to go and fight in this war the people who actually were forced whether they wanted to or not. by the Federal Government, They were made to go there when the government changed, and then, wiped us, completely wiped us, that new government completely we can ever forgive that. and I don't think

How did being in Vietnam change you? How had YOU changed? I started to realise that than I ever believed before. life was much more valuable

I mean, you just...you would... You take it all for granted, in a situation like that, and unless you've been you will always take it for granted. I started to realise And when I came back, in show business, that if I was gonna be it had to be for something. and use it as a platform I thought that if I could do this the injustices that I'd seen to highlight

and that I'd been part of, being in show business. then maybe it's worthwhile you married Sue. Pretty soon after you came back, I mean, was that really about getting connected and taking solace in something else? I guess I really needed to feel... ..nurtured. granddaughter, I really relish it. When I cuddle my kids and my I love it. I love the feeling of it. same thing. And when I put my arm around my sis, feel responsibility Inevitably, parents when terrible things happen. Tell us what happened to Adam. jumped on his bike - Uh...young 8-year-old Adam

I'd bought three weeks earlier - a brand-new bike with the kid next door, and they rode up to the school and never made it all the way back. and they rode back Adam was hit by a car. And...and it was just the most...

(Sighs) ..devastating, that I've ever had. crushing experience saying, "If only..." But it was absolutely useless not to be visited in my vocabulary, The word 'if' became a word that was change anything. because it wasn't gonna thank God, Adam was gone and I was lucky, to have him for the eight years. in the most basic way. But it also changed everything Yeah. I mean, your marriage ended.

I moved to the Gold Coast. You moved to the Gold Coast. with whom... I...I had another partner, Jo, ..we had another two children. And once again, for me everything was rosy.

a new area, really, And you also branched into in terms of you as a performer didn't you? by taking up acting training, for a little while We were living on the Gold Coast

and then, all of a sudden, and we were doing very well took place the "recession that we had to have" and went down to Sydney, and we lost everything and I went off to drama school. So, this led to roles like... You were on 'Sons and Daughters' for a couple of years. I was on 'Sons and Daughters' My first play was interesting. the faded...faded, ageing rock star. It was the role of Vin Gray, (Laughs) cast to type. I think it might have been But... came 'Sons and Daughters' And then out of that

'Sons and Daughters' and directly out of came, of course, 'Les Miserables'. Jean Valjean. In which you played the lead part, Great role! Yeah. You know, 20 years ago, almost. and saying, People are still coming up to me and you were wonderful." "I saw you in 'Les Mis' And I...wow, fantastic. Let's see how things are today. TRANQUIL MUSIC when I felt really alone, There was a period of my life and I needed to do something for me stuff for everybody else around me. because I'd spent my life doing and bought myself a motorcycle. And so I went out and if I can't have an APC, Now, I'm going to go for a ride, I'm gonna have one of these. I reckon if you own a motorbike, you know what freedom really feels like. (Starts engine) UP-BEAT ROCK MUSIC I just love coming home from a tour, being in a place where the weather is almost always clement enough for me to get on the bike and just ride the beaches or ride the hills. One of the great things that happens when you're riding a motorcycle is you have no radio, and you THINK! And if you had a camera on my handlebars looking at my face... ..every now and then you would have to see a huge smile and a huge sense of pleasure. JAUNTY MUSIC Family is THE most important thing to every person... ..and I feel so sad for those people who haven't experienced family. Who's this? My children are just really very important to me.

All of my kids are so important to me in their own individual ways. Not the same as, but in their own individual ways. (Girl giggles and screams)

(Laughs) And my little granddaughter -

I mean, obviously grandkids are the apple of grandparents' eyes, and mine's the best one ever to have been born, obviously. Ready? I get very happy when she laughs. GENTLE MUSIC (Normie Rowe sings) # You don't have to say a thing

# I can see it in your eyes... # For the last 10 years, Jenny and I have been together. There was one time when it looked like we weren't going to be together anymore, and I really had a lot of turmoil to deal with during that period. And I don't know that I can live without her. Jen's my life support system. I rather think that without her, I wouldn't be alive. Well, Norm's a really good, gentle, loving, kind and really generous man. And actually, he's probably TOO generous, which is a good trait, but I think he needs to think a little bit about himself sometimes. (Sings) # Well, when you move in right up close to me... # Some people say I work really hard, but...

..I can't work really hard. Suffering with PTSD, I just can't stand the stress, and so I do limit myself. I control how much work I do and it's all well within a safe level. # Shakin' all over... # (Crowd cheers) I enjoy performing more... ..every day than I have previously. I don't know what it is. I don't know why that phenomenon exists. (Sings) # Quivers down my backbone... # If they took music away from me, I wouldn't survive. There IS no life without music.

# Shakin' all over... # (All cheer) It's fascinating you say that, that you're enjoying performing more than ever. Why do you think it is so? 'Cause...I guess 'cause I don't really have to. So, is it more of a sense of freedom than ever before? Oh, yeah. It's knowing that...that my health will be looked after,

is more important than anything else. And from time to time, I... (Stammers) ..I present with really dramatic versions of post-traumatic stress disorder. But I know what it is and I know where to get help, and I do seek it out. When did you first know that's what you were suffering from? When Jenny and I looked like we were gonna break up, and I think it was probably the straw that broke the camel's back. It really pushed you to the brink, didn't it? Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, I tried to commit suicide. I saw no point and I saw myself as more of a liability to other people than I did as an asset, and that visits me quite frequently. You have got a lot of support about this, but over time you've given a lot of support to others. For example, after your second marriage broke down with Jo, one of the practical problems you faced in that period was your teenage daughter's problems with heroin, which went for a long time. Yeah. How did you...working with her,

gradually help get her back on the rails? The hardest thing that I ever had to do was this... ..discover what tough love was. It was really hard for me to turn around and say... .."Look, as long as you are doing drugs, you cannot live in my house." And I warned her mother. I said, "You can't let her live in your house. "We have to say no." And the tough...the tough... That's not being tough on the kids, that's being tough on the parents, because you...you need to know that they're gonna be safe in their bed every night, but you know with things like heroin and... (Stammers) ..cocaine and all these other things that these kids do... ..they're not gonna be safe anywhere. So, you were exposed to all of that in your early days, of course. The whole point was, I knew nothing about it.

They talk about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. I knew nothing! I have...I haven't... (Stammers) You did the sex and rock-and-roll, but no drugs? (Stammers) Yeah, pretty much. (Laughs) And at that stage I didn't drink either, you know. I didn't drink until I was in Vietnam. So, talk about a goody-two-shoes. (Laughs) Well, goody-two-shoes, you've had lots of demons to deal with. Over all the years, any regrets? No regrets, no regrets. The only regret I really have is that... I just wish that my personal family could have stayed around a lot longer.

By which you mean...? Well, my mum and my dad, my brother. And I...I... You know, I adore my sister so much, and I actually... ..I actually don't know how I'm going to deal being without her. Something, somehow, through all the troubles you've had, has kept you going. There's some sort of internal driver that makes Normie Rowe get up in the morning. What's that? The first thing you do is you decide to get out of bed and decide to make it and then decide to go on and achieve something that day, and then at the end of a year you've achieved at least 365 things. Normie, it's great to talk to you. Thank you for coming in. Thanks. Thank you. It's been great sharing this time. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd She grew up amid the colour and vibrancy of Ghana in West Africa. As a young woman, she went to London and became a nurse

before heading to Australia with her husband. When her kids faced racist taunts, she fought back by creating the 'Africa in Schools' program. And it was so successful that within a week, I was getting phone calls all over the State. "Come and do it at my school." "Come and do it at my kindy."

Next week on Talking Heads... My twin. ..Dorinda Hafner. (Laughs)