Mr. Fowler is looking at you. See him on August 26 with the Rolling Stones and August 27 at the MIM. PhotoCredit: Hans Eder
As The Rolling Stones visit Phoenix for possibly the last time, an unsung member of their touring company added an interesting piece to the band's canon.
Being a backup singer for Mick Jagger's band is one of the coolest jobs that Bernard Fowler has ever held. Additionally, the singer has been working on his own record, Inside Out, intermittently over the last three years. It features nine classic Stones songs reimagined in his unique style. Performed mostly in spoken word, Fowler breathes new life into "Undercover of the Night," "Sister Morphine," and "Sympathy for the Devil."
Fowler's take on "Undercover of the Night" is nothing short of stellar. Some hardcore Stones fans may not recognize the hit until the first snippets of the chorus come in. Sounding like a combination of Soul Coughing meets The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Fowler's style is reminiscent of the aforementioned groups' Mike Doughty and Michael Franti, even though he's been doing his thing longer than either of them.
Fowler seems to be particularly proud of this cover. Bass player Carmine Rojas (David Bowie, Tina Turner) suggested to Fowler that Raquel Morales, who is of Nicaraguan heritage, record the song's tense introduction.
"I learned about the whole subject of Nicaragua from the news. Sandinistas and the Contras. We saw it every day. Then The Rolling Stones wrote the song about it, and that got my attention. So, when I decided to do the record, I knew I would do that song. I didn't know I would write that dialogue on the front of it at the beginning ...that came after I recorded the track. I wanted to put a dialogue on top of it about a girl running scared in the jungle," says Fowler over the phone on a day off between Stones concerts.
Inside Out is an excellent way to introduce The Rolling Stones' music to listeners who may not be open to the style of their original compositions. Fowler says he will continue to make it a point to include the songs of his tourmates on his future releases. He says they're quite supportive of his efforts.
"Their reaction has been really good. I think it has even surprised them. I had no idea this record would be so well-received. I wanted to do something really different. People know me as a singer, you know, they don't know that I've recited a record for Charlie Watts," says Fowler.
The list of musicians on Inside Out, as well those who Fowler has worked with, is impressive. The 59-year-old musician reached out to drummers like Steve Jordan (Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos) and Vincent Wilburn (Miles Davis), bassist Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones), and guitarists Ray Parker Jr (Raydio), Jimmy Rip (Television), and Geo Evans to help with Inside Out. He has also worked with Ryuichi Sakamoto and producer/bassist Bill Laswell, who was John Lydon's (Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd) vocal coach and backup singer on PIL's Album (1985).
Bernard Fowler is scheduled to perform with The Rolling Stones on Monday, August 26, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Tickets are $62.25 to $442 via Ticketmaster. He is also scheduled to perform with Band 2 on Tuesday, August 27, at the MIM Music Theater at 7 p.m. Tickets are $43.50 to $53.50 via the website.