Ron Howden, English drummer, Died at 78


Nektar, which translates to “nectar” in German, is a name synonymous with the world of English progressive rock. Formed in the vibrant city of Hamburg, West Germany in 1969, Nektar emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. The band was composed of talented individuals: guitarist and lead vocalist Roye Albrighton, keyboardist Allan “Taff” Freeman, bassist Derek “Mo” Moore, and drummer Ron Howden. Alongside these core members, artists Mick Brockett and Keith Walters contributed their talents to the band’s unique visual experience.

1969–1973: Early Years

Nektar’s inception in Hamburg marked the beginning of a captivating musical journey. What set them apart was their approach to band dynamics. While it wasn’t entirely unprecedented to have non-performing band members (e.g., lyricist Keith Reid in Procol Harum), Nektar’s lineup was unusual, as a third of their members had no role in performing or writing music. Despite this, the band credited all six members for songwriting on their album sleeves, though BMI records indicated that the music was primarily composed by the four performing members. Brockett, however, co-wrote lyrics with Moore and played a crucial role in shaping the band’s original album titles.

Their debut album, “Journey to the Centre of the Eye” (1971), was a groundbreaking concept album. It featured a single song running over 40 minutes, with a unique twist—the last 100 seconds of the first side were repeated at the beginning of the second side to maintain continuity. The album told the story of an astronaut granted profound knowledge by extraterrestrials and was characterized by sonic textures reminiscent of psychedelic rock.

Their follow-up, “A Tab in the Ocean” (1972), leaned on more conventional rock and blues influences. Unfortunately, Keith Walters had departed by the time of their third album, “…Sounds Like This” (1973), which was heavily improvised. However, Walters’ art continued to grace their shows and album designs, contributing to the band’s visual identity. During this period, Nektar cultivated a cult following largely through word of mouth.

1973–1982: Height of Success and Disbanding

Nektar’s US release, “Remember the Future” (1973), propelled them briefly into mass popularity. This concept album revisited the theme of extraterrestrials enlightening humans, this time with a blind boy as the protagonist. It showcased a more melodic sound than previous albums and reached the Top 20 album charts in the US. Their next album, “Down to Earth” (1974), followed the concept of a circus theme and sold well, breaking into the Top 40 album charts. It even included their only song to chart on the Billboard singles charts, “Astral Man.”

The subsequent album, “Recycled” (1975), exhibited a stylistic resemblance to bands like Gentle Giant and continued their strong connection with the progressive rock genre.

In December 1976, Roye Albrighton left the band, marking a significant change in Nektar’s lineup. They continued with guitarist/vocalist Dave Nelson and released the album “Magic Is a Child” (1977). This album showcased a more eclectic sound with shorter songs and straightforward rhythms.

Nektar’s journey took a different turn in 1978 when the band disbanded. However, in 1979, Albrighton and Freeman resurrected Nektar with bassist Carmine Rojas and drummer Dave Prater, releasing “Man in the Moon” (1980) before disbanding once again in 1982.

2000–present: Reformation and New Nektar

2000–2018: Reformation

Nektar made a triumphant return in 2000, with a lineup comprising Albrighton, Freeman, and drummer Ray Hardwick. In 2001, they released “The Prodigal Son” (2001), marking their resurgence. The following year, Nektar headlined NEARfest with the classic lineup, featuring Moore on bass and Howden on drums, with guest appearances by Larry Fast on synthesizers.

In 2003, Moore left the band, making way for bassist Randy Dembo. Nektar released “Evolution” (2004) before Freeman was replaced by Tom Hughes. However, in August 2006, Dembo and Hughes left the band due to various issues, including communication, money, personality, and trust in management.

The band went through several lineup changes but maintained its musical spirit. They performed at progressive rock-themed festivals worldwide and played in old haunts in the New Jersey/New York area. However, their journey wasn’t without hurdles, including a dispute with their manager, Roy Clay, who was later convicted of fraud, lying, and forgery.

In 2007, a solo tour by Albrighton was followed by a full band tour of Europe, primarily Germany. The band postponed their tour to complete the new album, “Book of Days,” which was released in 2008. This album featured more of Roye Albrighton’s guitar work than previous Nektar albums.

Nektar continued their resurgence with a tour that featured a full performance of “Remember the Future” in its entirety. Their lineup now included Klaus Henatsch on keyboards and Peter Pichl on bass. These concerts led to the acclaimed live double album “Fortyfied” (2011), released in 2009.

In 2009, Nektar performed in the US again, headlining the Rites of Spring Festival and embarking on a week-long tour along the East Coast.

In Memoriam

On July 26, 2016, the music world mourned the loss of Roye Albrighton, who passed away at the age of 67 after an unspecified illness. His death marked the end of an era for Nektar.

Despite this loss, the band pressed on. The remaining members, Henatsch, Howden, and Fry, continued to produce new music. They released the double live album “Live in Bremen” (2017), documenting their last tour with Albrighton.

Tragedy struck again on September 29, 2023, when Ron Howden passed away at the age of 78. This marked the end of an era and raised questions about the band’s future plans.

2018–present: New Nektar (Germany-based band)

In 2018, the Germany-based Nektar made a subtle shift by operating under a new name, New Nektar, to distinguish themselves from their past successes. This incarnation of the band recorded the concept album “Megalomania” (2018), featuring Che Albrighton on drums. The Megalomania Release Tour in December 2018 showcased their musical evolution. Che Albrighton’s absence led to Norbert “Panza” Lehmann taking over on drums.

Nektar’s journey has been marked by resurgences, reinventions, and the enduring spirit of progressive rock. Despite the challenges they faced, the band’s music continues to captivate audiences, leaving an indelible mark on the world of rock music. The future of Nektar, as both the US-based and Germany-based bands, remains an intriguing question, poised for new chapters in their storied history.