Australian 60s pop legend Normie Rowe has confirmed his conscription into the Australian army to serve in Vietnam was a set-up by Liberal Prime Minister Harold Holt to generate publicity by sending ‘Australia’s Elvis’ to war.
In recent years Rowe was contacted by the son of a Holt advisor who said his father confessed to the conspiracy before he died and wanted Normie to know the truth. ”I was contacted, not all that long ago, by the son of a military officer who was at the time the military attachment to Harold Holt,” Normie tells Noise11.com. “He told his story just before he died to his son. His son said Dad said he was in Harold Holt’s office and Harold was struggling with popularity and the anti-war movement. The officer said to Harold Holt “what you need is an Elvis Presley. Get Normie Rowe called up”. If the Prime Minister says something is going to happen then there is a pretty good chance it is going to happen”.
Rowe had long suspected something was no quite right with his conscription. “I guess it was about ’78. I was driving round the Eastern Freeway and came off at Hoddle Street still doing 120 kilometres per hour. I was pulled over and the cop said “you were born on the same day as me. How come you went into the army and I didn’t?” And I thought that was interesting,” he said.
By the time he had returned from the war, the music world had changed and the fans had moved on, leaving him without a career. “I did a show on the 1st February 1970. Zoot were on it and all the kids clamoured for Zoot,” he said. “They walked away from me completely. I was struggling with what I was doing on the stage anyway because it was the first show. There wasn’t a lead-up. I couldn’t go and work in the country and fall over a few times before I came into the big city”.
Normie quit the business at that point and went into complete withdrawal from society. “I stopped singing for 6 months and then my parents said ‘if you don’t get some work and start paying your mortgage the bank is going to take your house back,” he said. “The only thing I knew was how to sing but had to be a lot more than an ego trip. I thought every time I had the chance to do something for a charity of disadvantaged kids I would try and incorporate that into my show then I’d feel better about doing what I did. I got married and a lot of it was to do with creating a secure situation for my family.”
Normie successfully reclaimed his position in the music industry but never returned to the heady days of being Australia’s biggest pop star. After his return from the war, along with Zoot featuring Rick Springfield, the new kid in town for pop fans was a guy called Johnny Farnham.
2015 marks 50 years since Normie Rowe released his first single ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. The song was recorded in Melbourne and Rowe will return to the same room he made his first record to launch his ‘Frenzy! The 50th Anniversary Collection’ album.
Shows are also planned for Sydney and Brisbane later this month.
Normie Rowe Frenzy launch dates
June 5, Melbourne, Memo Music Hall
June 20, Sydney, The Basement
June 25, Brisbane, Kedron Wavell Services Club
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