My home felt like a home to me. My mum and dad were there. And frequent visits from Uncle Arthur, Auntie Gladys, Uncle jack, Auntie Dagmar, Uncle Alf, Auntie Daf, Uncle Bill, Auntie Mary, Uncle Barney, Auntie Terri, and Uncle Charlie (who wasn’t really an uncle but was an honourary member of our family), who all added colour and laughter to our home at 51 Fawkner Street, St. Kilda.

From my child’s point of view our house was like Graceland and I was very proud of it. Today, I stand outside that same house and see a place so small and modest it resembles a doll’s house for grown-ups. Amazing that so small a space can house so many memories. To those who wander passed it would probably at best be considered “quaint.” To me it is a museum of my youth and I can still hear the distant echoes of laughter from my family, now all long gone.

My personality was formed in that house by those people. Life was simple and there was no need to be afraid of anything because my mum and dad held all the answers to Life.

It was a nicer world. People trusted each other. When we were having a poor week, Mr. and Mrs. Kilpatrick who owned the corner store would put the cost of groceries down on a piece of paper behind the counter and we’d pay them when we could. In those days to be able to wander up the street and buy an ice cream on the good of your name gave a small kid a lot of pride in who we were.

I learned the meaning of generosity and trust and the value of reputation in those bygone days. Your word was your word and your reward was the warm glow of pride when you were able to settle your meager debts.

From my mother I learned the meaning of kindness and never turning anyone in need away. I would sometimes wake in the morning and toddle down the corridor to find a stranger sleeping on our couch in the living room. When I’d ask my mum who this person was, she’d reply, “Oh that’s Tom, he’s from Hobart and didn’t have anywhere to stay so he’ll be here for a few days until he finds some place of his own.” People did what they could for each other.

From my father I learned that we all battle our own internal demons and that alcohol can sometimes make you say things you don’t mean. Hurt people hurt people. Sometimes in that house a kid got to hear and see things that ruined the dream world of Disneyland and Father Knows Best forever. But I learned forgiveness – knowing that at the heart of it my father didn’t mean what he said. He was not lashing out at us, but at the world. He’d had a much harder childhood than I could imagine and who knows what innermost regrets and sorrows his poor heart held and had to deal with every day. All I know is that he was the nicest man in the world up to 10 drinks. And that’s the man I choose to remember.

From my elder sisters I learned that envy can drive people to be cruel and mean-hearted and after many attempts over the years to forgive their actions towards me I had to cut them out of my life for good.

We were the last house in our street to get a television set and in the end we only got one by an Act of God. One day a delivery man from Steele’s dropped one off to us by mistake. Steele’s department store only realized their mistake two years later and dispatched another delivery man to pick it up. But by then we were seriously addicted to the weekly TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene, and there was no way my dad was giving it back. When the delivery man sensed that my dad was willing to fight to the death to protect his family’s entertainment, the man from Steele’s swiftly departed and our ownership of the small mahogany television set was never contested again. My dad was a hero that day.

Before God granted us a television set, a boy had to invent his own entertainment. So each day after school, I’d rush home, change out of my school clothes, get dressed, grab a football and stroll out onto Fawkner Street and start bouncing it up and down on the pavement. It didn’t take long before boys from other houses would hear the familiar sound and start piling out onto the street for a kick to kick football match until night fell and we were all called home for dinner.

I used to try and take skyscraper marks, sometimes climbing up onto the backs of my opponents, like my football idol Big Bill Stephenson of St.Kilda. My mum and dad had taken me to every St.Kilda match from the time I was a baby in their arms, and as a young boy I had marveled at Big Bill’s genius at full forward. Then, one day when the Saints played Essendon, Big Bill had climbed into the stratosphere for a mark and came down landing badly and ruptured his knee. When he collapsed to the ground, he uttered the words, “I’m buggered” to which his opponent Don McKenzie replied, “Thank Christ for that!” So far that year Bill Stephenson had kicked 20 goals in just three and a half games and at that rate would’ve scored 102 goals for the year at a time when the leading full forwards averaged 54. He never played again. To me, it was a tragedy on the scale of the JFK assassination.

It’s funny the things that mean so much to us along the way and shape us as human beings. I still sometimes get teary eyed when I recall the long forgotten football hero Big Bill Stephenson. He passed away in 2010 with hardly a mention in the newspapers. But it meant something deep and profound to me. From Big Bill Stephenson I learned that no matter how high you soar, there is a still a price to be paid.

When I was born my mother wanted to name me Peter. My sisters wanted to name me Michael. And my Irish grandmother demanded I be called Frank. Guess who won out. A short time later we got a dog and he became Peter. Oh my, how I loved that dog. My first best friend. My confidante who never snitched on me if I did something wrong; who continued to smile at me even when I disappointed him and proved I was only human. From Peter, my rock, I learned loyalty.

One day I came home from school to be told the tragic news that Peter had run away from home. What? My best friend had run out on me? Had abandoned me for greener pastures? How could this be? It didn’t make sense. I grieved for many years over this and never got another dog. Perhaps deep down I still grieve in my schoolboy heart. Not that long before my mum passed away she told me the true story. Peter had not run away. The neighbor across the road had thrown chicken bones over our fence thinking the dog would like them. But Peter got one caught in his throat and choked to death. My mum invented the story that the rest of the family stuck by thinking it would be less traumatic for me if I thought he’d run away. I wonder if they still felt that when every evening after school I’d stand at the front gate looking up and down each end of the street for my best friend to come home. To me. It has probably instilled in me abandonment issues I carry to this day. If you love something too much, God takes it away.

Anyway, that was my first home. Sometimes I stand outside it today and fantasize that one day I’ll knock on the door and offer the people who live there a huge sum of money to give it back to me. I need somewhere to house these memories and am weary of carrying them for so long from one place to another.

And when I have it back, there’ll always be the kettle on for a visitor, a spare couch for someone in need, and if you have a dog with you, a big hug as I close my eyes and imagine Peter has come home.


(c) Frank Howson 2017


Website shots 036


The street beneath my feet
Has never let me down
Unlike the people
Who think they own this town
I tried my luck
But the cards were cut
When I complained
I was told to shut up

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens next depends on you
I miss the world I thought I knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

I gave myself to you
But then you lost your nerve
I was your army
Always ready to serve
You cut me off
And you burned my flag
I surrender
In peace I pack my bag

Goodbye black, hello blue
I'll spend my life forgetting you
I'll miss the dreams that won't come true
Goodbye black, hello blue

So I'll be off
Until who knows when
I'll see you in the stars
Until the broken heal again

Goodbye black, hello blue
What happens now we can't undo
I'll miss the love I never knew
Goodbye black, hello blue

(c) Frank Howson 2017

Title suggested by Chris Thomas.



A friend asked me to pick my 10 fave books of all time. The 10 best of anyting is a hard ask but here’s goes. I have chosen those 50 books that moved me the most and had the biggest influence.

1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

2) GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.

3) THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg.


5) NODDY IN TOYLAND by Enid Blyton

6) A LIFE by Elia Kazan.


8) CHRONICLES by Bob Dylan.

9) THIS IS ORSON WELLES by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich.

10) A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway.

11) THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

12) IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote

13) A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

14) HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain


16) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller


18) TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald

19) POWER WITHOUT GLORY by Frank Hardy

20) PETER PAN by James M. Barrie

21) DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN by Jean Cocteau



24) SCOTT & ERNEST by Matthew Bruccoli

25) THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers.

26) ERROL FLYNN – A MEMOIR by Earl Conrad

27) ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE by Alan Jay Lerner

28) DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig

29) OLIVIER ON ACTING by Laurence Olivier

30) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND MY HEAD by David Johnston

31) FREE ASSOCIATION by Steven Berkoff


33) MARILYN by Norman Mailer


35) A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway

36) JOURNAL OF A NOVEL by John Steinbeck

37) PICTURE by Lillian Ross

38) HOME BEFORE DARK by Ruth Park

39) TINSEL by William Goldman

40) PORTRAITS by Helmut Newton

41) THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT by Quentin Crisp


43) TEN GREAT PLAYS by William Shakespeare

44) FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim



49) IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon

50) THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne



I never took no for an answer.

Why? Beats me. Maybe my tough upbringing. Maybe it was ignorance. Sometimes if you don’t know what the risks are it makes you incredibly brave. Orson Welles was once asked how, at the age of 25, he could direct his first movie “Citizen Kane” and it go down in history as the greatest film ever made. His answer was, “I was ignorant. I didn’t know what the rules were so I broke them all. In fact, I was using John Ford’s cameraman, the great Gregg Toland, and one day the legendary old master film director himself John Ford came to the set and asked Gregg how I was doing. Greg replied, “Jack, the kid knows nothing about making a film. He’s doing everything wrong and breaking all the rules. And if you tell him what the rules are, I’ll kill ya, because he is doing some of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen.”

That’s my theory about the Beatles too. They didn’t know what the rules were, so they broke them. And music, and the world, would never be the same.

Well, maybe my breaking of the rules wasn’t anywhere near the level of the masters I have just mentioned, but the result was the same. Most times when people told me I was mad and that there was no way I’d achieve what I wanted – that’s when I had my biggest successes.

Let’s face it, if we all followed the formula, then every outcome would be the same. Predictable, safe, boring.

I knew from an early age that I wasn’t going to university. So my only other chance in life, it seemed to me, was to think outside the box. Go for the big gamble. Bite the bullet. Roll the dice.

I would be lying if I said every time I followed that advice I won. No sir. Many times I failed and failed magnificently. Losing my money, home and family in some cases. But what is a life if it isn’t to be lived? You certainly can’t win if you don’t place the bet, take the risk.

Like a lot of kids who weren’t great at school I sought refuge in music. At a young age I saw the Beatles on TV and it changed my life forever. They exuded such joy it was contagious. They seemed to be having such fun that you desperately wanted to be in that band with them. I know I did. So I picked up a cheap guitar and started practicing in my room. I dreamed of fame, girls, money and, most of all, experiencing the joy that I saw on the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo when they played together.

Music and theatre would earn me a living in Australia and take me around the world. But as the great Stevie Wright once sang, “…It’s a hard road” but for those who go the distance it will bring you a joy that can’t be experienced in any other profession. The joy of reaching an audience, touching their spirit and knowing that you’ve shared a magic moment that may not come again. As I’ve said, my life has been one of ups and downs but I would not change it for a minute. Even the most despairing periods have taught me valuable life lessons.

Do we choose music or does it choose us? I believe in destiny and a calling. And I think we know, deep down inside, what we’ve been made for. Sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes the noise of other well meaning people’s advice drowns out our own instincts. Sometimes we get scared of taking the leap of faith. But I firmly believe if you were born for it, you will know. And if you know, trust your heart. Your head is full of worries and numbers and doubts. I believe it is through your instinct that the universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it, talks to you. “Be brave and mighty forces will join you”.

Life is a long time to live with regret. I may’ve made mistakes in my life but I have few regrets. Looking back now from the vantage point of maturity I realise that everything that happened to me, both good and bad, happened for a specific reason. A lesson. If you get knocked to the canvas, instead of wasting years whining about it, stop and think about why it happened – and what it has taught you. Once you’ve learnt the lesson, there will be no need to repeat it.

I remember watching, along with the rest of the world, the great Muhammad Ali make his comeback for the World Heavyweight Championship against Joe Frazier. Ali had been stripped of his championship title by the U.S government because he’d refused to be drafted and go to Vietnam. After sitting out of the ring for several years, years in which he would’ve been in his prime, the case finally went to court and was dismissed. The judge lifted the ban and Ali was allowed to fight again. Unfortunately they couldn’t give him back his championship title because Joe Frazier now retained it. So, the Fight of the Century was announced and the world waited to see the outcome.

During the fight, Ali, for the first time in his career in the U.S was knocked to the canvas and the whole world gasped. But what moved me, was not that he’d been knocked down, but how quickly he got up. It showed the pride of the man. The great dignity. The courage. The heart.

It is called the music business for a good reason. Music Business. One word does not outweigh the other. Both are equally as important. It’s strange the memories that stick with you of your youth. I’ve always remembered being a young music crazed kid and standing in the middle of the large and impressive Sutton’s Music store in the heart of Melbourne city looking around in awe at all the beautiful music instruments proudly displayed. Then gazing at the massive catalogue of sheet music of the latest Top 40 hits of the time. It was one of those defining moments in one’s life. I was completely lost in my thoughts imagining how wonderful it would be to work in the music industry. I was suddenly jolted back from my daydream when a salesman asked me if he could help me choose the best musical instrument for me. Sadly, I told him I was just looking, he smiled and told me to let him know if I needed any advice, and then walked away leaving me with my dreams.

I thought how blessed he must feel to work in such a great store, to hear music all day, and to play a part in helping people choose the right guitar or keyboard or trumpet or whatever to set them on their path.

These salesmen become like Gods to me and I hung on every word of advice they gave. Perhaps it was the power of attraction that I set in place that day with these constant dreams. Who knows? All I knew was I wanted to be a part of the music biz and perform and write songs that maybe other people would record.

There is a quote I once read that I love. It’s rumoured to have been written by the great Robert Louis Stevenson (author of “Treasure Island”, “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” etc.). The passage reads “….Down through the ages I have walked with men, yet none have ever fathomed me, with the prince and the beggar I roam the earth and all men love me, for I am the spirit of the very best that is in them, and they praise and strive for the best that is within me. I am the soul of the arts. I am music.”

I firmly believe that music, as Mr. Stevenson so eloquently wrote about, is indeed magical and that it lives within our heart and soul, and is indeed the very best of us.

It has been researched in recent years by psychologists that music plays a huge part in influencing our mood. They have sometimes instructed their depressed patients to compile a collection of the happiest songs they can find and to play it while they work out or go for a long walk and report back after a week as to its effect. The majority of people confirmed that their depression was eased and replaced by a much more positive and optimistic outlook. It’s ironic that when we go through a relationship break-up we tend to gravitate to listening to songs by Leonard Cohen or other experts in grief and despair and what happens? We get more and more depressed.

Many people listen to various classical music pieces for relaxation and meditation, and swear by its beneficial effects to calm their inner stress. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for factories and business offices to have upbeat background music or “muzak” played to increase productivity.
I don’t think it’s by chance that for many hundreds of years, just before battle, generals have had soul stirring music played to their soldiers, either on bagpipes, violin, trumpet or drums depending on the culture.

Many people have unfairly blamed Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer, for contributing to the Second World War. Of course that’s a laughable exaggeration but it does highlight the potential power of music and how it can be contrived and manipulated for a required effect on the psyche of man.

President Roosevelt personally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to George M. Cohan for the positive impact his songs had on the morale of U.S. soldiers and citizens alike during wartime. Also, take into account the joyful sounds of the Beatles’ early hits. There’s an old Indian wisdom that states, “The smile you send out returns to you.”

The Fab Four sent a huge one out into the world and the outpouring of love and joy that came back at them was a staggering phenomenon we may not witness again. It is fitting that the last line of the last song of the last recorded Beatles album is, “…And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

This leads me to believe that the Beatles were smart enough to be well aware of what they were doing. Just as the Rolling Stones’ savvy manager Andrew Loog Oldham, realising it was useless for his band to attempt to compete with the Beatles, deliberately went for the opposing market. He contrived his band to be the antithesis of everything the Beatles represented. The Stones purposely dressed to look unkempt and dirty. No Carnaby Street or Saville Row tailored suits for them. They also grew their uncombed hair longer and looked surly in publicity photographs. This proved to be a stroke of genius and they claimed the counter culture. The rebel kids who couldn’t identify with the joyfulness of the Beatles music or their lovable image. Of course as time went on and the Vietnam War escalated my idol, Mr. Lennon, steered his boys into more rebellious and revolutionary waters. The icing on the cake was a modern minstrel that called himself Bob Dylan who, as Don McLean described him in his symbol-laden smash hit “American Pie,” Dylan dressed in “…a coat he borrowed from James Dean and a voice that came from me and you.” There is no doubt that Dylan sang and played the battle call for a generation of young kids who rejected the authority of their war-mongering leaders and prophetically warned them that the times were indeed a-changing and that they’d “…better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.”

It is well documented that the protest movement undertaken by teenagers in the late 60s was the cause of President Nixon’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam. In a war that the U.S still can’t believe they didn’t win, ironically, they hadn’t been beaten by the Viet Cong but by their own children who had shown the world that they had a voice and it wouldn’t be silenced again. Again, just another example of the power of music.

How many people have fallen in love while certain romantic songs have played and these remain “their” song forevermore? If there is a God perhaps it makes perfect sense that He or She invented music and through it is how He/She speaks to our heart.

I can certainly attest to the power of music to change lives. It changed mine. The famous Joseph Campbell who studied the mythologies of all known cultures since the beginning of time and wrote the brilliant book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” stated, in one of his last TV interviews, that when he was a young man he felt his life was in turmoil and everything that happened to him made no sense. But, looking back at his life from the vantage point of being an old man, he wondered “Who conceived this brilliant scenario?” because it all made perfect sense – “This led to that which led to this” and so on.

(c) Frank Howson 2014



The wheels fell off Grandma’s wedding cake
The neighbours went to town for a New York steak
Daddy got cancer and it made his day
When I see you coming I don’t know what to say
The junk got bad, my arm came off
And Uncle Jill told me to watch that cough
Rover’s got rabies better put him down
When I see the preacher gonna punch out that clown
And it burns, burns, burns makin’ perfect sense
Gonna donate my heart to the future tense
Hold that thought, I’m makin’ perfect sense

The house caught fire nearly killed my joke
The senator from Maine he went up in smoke
Mummy’s a Christian and she drives me mad
She’s never met Jesus but she’ll tell you she had
The Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
I played it all night till I caught me a rash
Skinny ol’ Ruby removes all my clothes
While her one-eyed husband watches TV shows

Gonna get me a girlfriend that isn’t so dense
And she’ll listen to me makin’ perfect sense
Gonna mortgage my debts, fiddle my defense
Get out of the kitchen, I’m makin’ perfect sense
I’m gonna pin down Roscoe and take a fence
He doesn’t know a thing about perfect sense
Gonna fix all the vents and burn circus tents
Trust me when I say it all makes perfect sense
And it burns, burns, burns makin’ perfect sense
And it burns, burns, burns makin’ perfect sense
And it burns, burns, burns makin’ perfect sense…

Recorded by Frank Howson & J. Marshall Craig for the Santa Barbara Tapes.

(c) Frank Howson 2013



Some time ago an Italian sea captain got lost and discovered a vast incontinence. Then some Dutch people, probably Vikings or Ewoks, killed him and hid the body under rocks in Sydney. That’s why it’s now called the famous Rocks area and so many Italian restaurants are built there. Captain Francesco Albineani is somewhere underneath them. True story. I think.

The Vikings raped and pillaged, as they do, then went home and forgot all about The Demons Land, as they called it.

A short time later the English arrived and, owning a lovely flag, planted it in the ground and claimed ownership. Some of the Aboriginals were not happy about this technicality, but when they raised concerns, Captain Cock put them in their places by saying, “Well you can’t bloody speak English that’s why!”

Not long after creating this bad karma, Captain Cock himself was killed, along with his crew, on another expedition to steal countries, and was turned into a sandwich by a group of tribesmen who, after viewing his thin white legs, mistook him for a chicken. That place is now called the Sandwich Islands. It was thought that the Chicken Islands was a little disrespectful to what had been great semen.

Somewhere around this time an angel appeared to King George The Turd, known to be completely bonkers, and said, “You must rename this lovely country. It does not deserve to be called The Demons Land.” King George the Nutcase, quick as a late train, said, “Well what do you suggest, oh vision?” To which the Angel replied, “Call it Orrrrstraalia.” King George said, “How do you spell that?” The vision replied, “I don’t have a fucking clue, I’m an angel, dickhead!”

And that is how this vast beautiful incontinence, known for its floods, came to be called Australia.

Back in England someone got the smart idea to get rid of all the Irish in London by sending them to this new land. When the Irish said, “Fuck you, we’re not going!” They were arrested on trumped up charges, such as your name was Paddy. Or your mother had two eyes.

Disgruntled, the Irish arrived here and haven’t stopped whining. Or beering. Sometimes they sing irritating songs about it.

The Aboriginals, a very spiritual race, were forced to watch Irishmen drink until they fell down and got up again, urinating on dingoes and each other. The Aboriginals mistakenly thought it must’ve been some kind of weird ritual from the old country, and vowed to give them a wide berth.

One of the Irish flock, Edward Kelly, known to his mates as Pansy, kicked up such a fuss about being in the Land of Incontinence the Victorian Police targeted him as a “arsehole” and offered him a job. They explained that if he wanted to be in the force he’d have to drop the name Pansy and be called something boring like Ned. Well, Neddy told ’em what to do with their job and stole a horse, riding off into the horizon yelling, “Catch me if you can you drongo coppers!” He was followed for miles by the Police in their attempt to explain to the mad bastard that he’d stolen his own horse which was not quite an offence in anyone’s book. Even if you were Irish. Pansy Ned, short time later, teamed up with a nice man sporting a sensible haircut named Joe Byrne, a former dress maker of some note. As Ned had a habit of trying on ladies dresses and staying in them for some days, the two young men had much in common and hit it off immediately. Finally, the Police said, “That’s it, we’ve had enough of Pansy Ned stealing his own horses, and setting fire to his own house (with his mum and sister in it), that we better put him away for his own safety.” That’s when Pansy Ned and Joelene (as he was now named) Byrne hatched the idea, after 4 bags of funny mushrooms on toast, to make a suit of armour. Possibly a great concept but like all things Irish, deeply flawed. The young men, tripping off their tits, forgot about covering Neddy’s legs. Some say it was a miscalculation, others say it was Ned’s vanity that was his undoing. Ned sent word to the coppers that he was intending to ambush them (on reflection possibly a fatal mistake tipping them off). He then forwarded them all free train tickets to Glenrowan. This, even the Victorian Police, world famous for their stupidity, thought was curious and got their accountants in at once to add two and two together. What followed was a big showdown at Glenrowan between Ned and a few of his mates, Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger, against the entire Victorian Police Force. Now, even though the coppers were dull, it only took a few hours for them to work out that if they aimed at Pansy’s pins they could bring the arsehole down. Ned’s last words were reportedly “(I would’ve made) Such a wife.”

In the continuing chapters I will document with the same passion for accuracy and historical detail the lives of other such incredible Australians as General George Armstrong Custer, Billy The Kid, Ronald McDonald and Gandhi.

(C) Frank Howson 2014



Only in it for the money
Only in it for the money, honey
Here makin’ some bread so I can spread my wealth
Countin’ my money, countin’ the time
To give it away
Find some broken people
And give them somewhere to stay
People like to accuse you
Of all the things they are
It’s makes them feel comfortable
That you’re in the same car
“He only likes her cause she’s got dough”
“She only likes him cause he’s got blow”
They got to tear down everything
That has love’s glorious glow
Spiritual vampires that suck your life
So they can live
They hate you because you remind them
That they’ve nothing to give
Only in it for the money
Only in it for the money, honey
Here makin’ some bread so I can spread my wealth
Countin’ my money, makin’ the rent
To give it away
So that evil angels
Just might have somewhere to stay
I’m movin’ out baby
Just as soon as I can
While I still remember
That I’m a man

(c) Frank Howson 2014