Literary Scene: Jack Howard – Small moments of glory

There are many, (previously unforeseen) ways to support local musicians and gig workers, and this is but one. You should read this book – not just because you want to do your bit, but because if you managed to navigate your way through the music scene in the ‘80s especially, there are many pages that will make you laugh (and perhaps cringe). Who doesn’t need a laugh right now?

I don’t think Jack Howard deliberately set out to recreate mirthful scenes in his story, but like all interesting tales, you can’t help but overlay your own experiences onto the lines. Here we generation X ‘ers’ can make the average punter a little green with envy, for we could go into the wilds of music land at age 16 or 17, not ever be asked for I.D., get more than a little tipsy on Fluffy Ducks, and see an ‘intimate’ show by a ripper band at the Chisholm Caulfield Student Union house, The Pier Hotel, The Village Green, The Nott…you get the picture. The ‘80s were cringe-worthy in so many ways, (the fashion was hideous) but this was the time when pub gigs really took off like the Concorde and many iconic Aussie bands were born. Gen X ‘ers’ are getting old, but we saw this happening, and you can’t beat it. Aussie bands that struggled to get airplay in the ‘70s and held on, finally got a better ‘go’ in the ‘80s when the music hit radio playlists and the bands took to the suburbs and played it hard.

It’s not easy for any musician to make it in the rock music business, especially when you play trumpet, but I bet that we can all think of at least one song that’s better for the use of a brass section. To be honest, trumpet isn’t totally cool like a sax or trombone, but boy can it make cool sounds, especially when a master like Jack Howard plays it. He is not typical of your large ego ’ed’ musician type, and genuinely believes that (despite his accomplishments) there were many occasions when his playing was under-par. Well Jack, we didn’t notice. Take it from non-trumpet-players, the addition of your warm trumpet sounds gave the songs great depth and raised them above the status of simple rock ditty.

In the book there are typical rock and roll moments, but Jack Howard isn’t a typical rock musician. He re-lives times in The Hunters and Collectors, Midnight Oil and his other collaborations via the journals that he wrote at the time. He recognizes that sometimes we see the past through rose coloured glasses, and sometimes events weren’t that bad, (or that good). Howard even admits that history changes the further away we get from the event, and as other memories sully the original as they all become a blurry knot. Despite this, his genuine love of music stays pure and never dims, though working and touring was a bloody drudge mostly. The back-of-house work tested everyone. Driving in rusty, hot, unsafe, unreliable gas guzzlers to the back of beyond, only to be met with 20 punters who want music (but not the music you play), could have been soul destroying if he didn’t have faith in himself and the band. Then there was the performance. When it went well, nothing beat it, and when it went badly it felt like he was out there for days.

The title of the book Small moments of glory lays testament to Jack Howard’s humble outlook, because in the big scheme of things, the ‘Hunners’ and the ‘Oils’ were big and ARE big. Ask contemporary Aussie band members who they look up to and who they were influenced by. Who put in the hard yards so that Australian music could be accepted on the world stage? Who paved the way for others in the shithole dives with poor sound and worse band rooms? Who didn’t get carried on the shoulders of security guys up the steps to the top of the Great Wall? Who went onstage and played their guts out after zero sleep because the Valiant had to be pushed into the nearest one horse town? Jack Howard and others of his ilk deserve all the glory they can get, not just small moments. It’s mostly due to them that Aussie music is what it is today. Respect man. Respect.

Title: Small moments of glory
Author: Jack Howard
Genre: Autobiography (Music)
Published by Brolga Publishing Pty Ltd (2020)
ABN 46 063 962 443