Normie Rowe has delivered a powerful anti-war ANZAC Day message with his cover of 1927’s ‘Compulsory Hero’.
Normie was a victim of corrupt Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt who had no trouble sending young men to their death in Vietnam if it promoted his political career.
Holt set Rowe up as a poster boy soldier. He developed a publicity stunt by using ‘Australia’s Elvis’ as his celebrity soldier. Harold Holt illegally sent Normie Rowe to war for his own propaganda purposes.
”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 told Noise11.com in 2015. “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”.
When Normie returned from Vietnam, the music fans had moved on. “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”.
He was ready to give his music career away. “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 stumbled upon the truth by accident. “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.
Normie has recorded 1927’s ‘Compulsory Hero’ to mark the 50th anniversary of his conscription into the Australian Army.
‘Compulsory Hero’ was written by Garry Frost, who also wrote Moving Pictures’ ‘What About Me’. The song is about the Vietnam War. Aptly, the 1927 b-side was titled ‘Propaganda Machine’.