How does it feel to be on your own just like a Rolling Stone?
Singing back – up for The Stones since 1989, Bernard Fowler is ‘grateful’ to be on stage with ‘the big boys’. Even though he and the other supporting players can be headliners in their own right, Fowler remains humble next to The Stones.
“A producer friend of mine introduced me to Mick and that is how I joined.” Says Fowler just a couple of week before he was set to join the Stones for their upcoming 2019 U.S / Canadian tour. ( Mick’s health issues have since cancelled the tour until further notice). Says Fowler; ” Mick liked my voice, my style and soul.’
Upon joining The Stones, Fowler noticed something about his ‘new band’. They walked how they talked.
” Everyone knows The Stones came from The Blues”. Says Bernard. ” They eat, breathe and live it all the time. On breaks in rehearsals, before shows – they play those tunes themselves or the original artists’ versions all the time. It is where they came from and it is part of their DNA”.
Almost thirty years after joining the band and having the best ‘seat’ in the house, Bernard’s appreciation for both the band and Mick Jagger have grown.
” Look …” Says Bernard. ” It is simple. There are two types of music. Good music and bad music. The Stones are a real and true Rock band and they perform great music. “
As far as watching Jagger dance, wiggle and take command of stadiums filled with 80,000 or more people …?
” My respect for Mick just keeps on getting higher. Night after night he is outperforming guys half his age. I think that globally, the respect is unanimous. He keeps getting better with age.”
Fowler grew up with Soul and Gospel in the house. Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke ( among others) raiding his ears and heart on a daily basis. Musically, because of his background – Fowler is ‘tightest’ with Keith Richards within The Stones. Richards’ musical background is very simular to Fowlers as Bernard’s Mom discovered one tour.
” I was in Keith’s room and I called my Mom”. Laughs Bernard. “Keith was playing a gospel or soul record and my Mom asked where I was. When I told her and she found out it was Keith’s records she said ‘ put that boy on the phone’. I’m not sure she loves Keith the person but she loves Keith’s musical tastes. That’s for sure”
The Rolling Stones are known ‘commercially’ as a Rock and Blues band. For purists it is the Funk and R&B rhythms that separate them from other bands and give them the title; ‘The ‘Greatest Rock n Roll Band in The World’. One of their greatest live songs (available on the Four Flicks DVD set) is Dance Pt. 1. A tune and performance which releases the pure Jagger and sees the band hit a groove that few can match.
‘ It is funny you brought up that song”. Says Bernard. “Almost from the time I joined I tried to get Mick to do that song live but always in vain. Finally he said yes and as the video shows – that is pure Mick Jagger. That music and those grooves are just in him.”
Fowler has a new album coming out April 19th. It is called Inside Out and it pays homage to Mick but not like one would think …
” Mick writes the greatest lyrics and I wanted to use those lyrics and magnify how good they are. How philosophical they are. In doing so, even die-hard Stones’ fans may hear words they missed in The Stones’ original recordings. Mick’s style and annotations sometimes blur or mask words and entire phrases.”
Inside Out does not have singing on it. The entire album was always a spoken word project floating in Bernard’s mind. Finally he decided to do it with his favorite Stones’ songs and a thumbs up from Mick.
” I went through their songbook (380 songs) and discovered so many songs. Some I knew because we have done them live but some were more obscure. When I read the words to them – I said, ‘Damn these are good! Whoever was around got a lesson from me and had to read them. “
All the songs on Bernard’s album are unrecognizable as Stones’ music. The only things on the album which Bernard ‘kept’ true are the background ‘ woo woos ‘ and the piano chord progressions in the song Sympathy for The Devil.
” I did not want it to be a Stones record. I wanted to start with the words and then add rythym. Whatever sounded good musically, we ran with it. I was fortunate to have a great cast of players on this album. It made the sounds that much better”.
Darryl Jones (bass) and Tim Ries (horns) of The Stones’ camp join Fowler as well as Steve Jordan from Keef’s other band; The X- Pensive Winos. Walfredo Reyes Jr and Lenny Castro provide African rhythms and Vince Wilburn (Miles Davis) and Clayton Cameron also add percussion. Guitar work is provided by George Evans and Ray Parker Jr. Keys and piano are laid out by Michael Beardon and David Bowie alumni Mike Garson. Keyon Harrold from the Miles Davis Biopic round things out. .
” The first song we did was Dancing with Mr.D. Even though Tim had done a Stones cover record with horns and Darryl is in the Stones, we never found outselves going the Stones’ route. I was focused on making all the songs the way I imagined them. Having Jordan along for the entire ride made me realize how good the ideas and music were. When Steve is on board – you know it is good.”.
Inside Out contains the songs Sister Morphine, Sympathy for The Devil, Tie You Up, All The Way Down, Undercover of The Night and Time Waits for Noone. Lyrically – all contain social statements which Bernard thinks are crucial in today’s ‘crumblin’ world’.
The album will shock the punters on first listen. After all, nobody is quite used to a penis under a dress. Once the barriers are broken and an open mind takes precedence; Inside Out is a masterpiece. No plasticity going on musically or in Fowler’s profound vocal delivery.
Inside Out may finally give Mick Jagger the accolades he deserves as one of the greatest philosophers, poets and lyricists of all time.
Thanks to the name and face of Bernard Fowler. A headliner on his own. Not like a Rolling Stone.