Bernard Fowler

Fowler is an artist, so an album featuring Rolling Stones songs will be a unique and unusual one. He was once a member of Tackhead, an avant-funk band that emerged from Manhattan’s famed early-’80s garage/house scene. He has been recorded by blue-chip visionaries such as Philip Glass, YokoOno, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. His records include the 1986 Album (Public Image Ltd.) and Herbie Hancock’s mid-’80s electrofunk albums. Fowler also has another gig: he has sung and performed percussion on the stage and in the studio with the Rolling Stones since 1988. Fowler began riffing on a Stones song while soundcheck was taking place somewhere along the 2015 Zip Code tour. The band loved it. Fowler recalls Mick saying, “Bernard! I’ve seen Rolling Stones songs done in a lot of different ways, but never like this.” I said, “Well, you know what?” “I said, “Well, you know what? I’m going cut it when the tour is done.” That was all I needed to hear. That was the green signal.” It’s no surprise that one of pop and rock’s most popular singers has yet to sing a note on his latest record. Fowler says that after his two solo rock records, 2006’s Friends with Privileges (and 2015’s The Bura), “I felt the time was right to do something new.” “And spoken words are definitely different. Things that others run from, I run after. Fowler started poring over the Rolling Stones songbook to find material. He says, “I found many gems.” The stuff I ended up using only scratched the surface. Many people have celebrated Keith Richards iconic riffs and Mick Jaggers howl-and strut. But there has never been a more thoughtful, soul-baring, and completely original appreciation for the lyrics. Fowler removed all the melody and chord changes, and stripped out the lyrics. He then proclaimed the lyrics like the coolest preacher on top of slammin’ grooves powered only by a wide range of crackerjack musicians. Although it’s not singing, Fowler manages to do it so well that his vocal incantations are filled with anger, foreboding, and desire. Inside Out does not cover big hits to please the masses. While 1983’s “Undercover of the Night”, which reached the Top Ten, was a success, none of the other songs charted in the Top 40, including the classic “Sympathy For the Devil”. Instead, the goal was to find songs that would work in this format and resonate with Fowler personally as well as with current cultural moments. Inside Out is not just an insightful and passionate tribute but also a social commentary and autobiography. Fowler says, “It’s an excellent time to record this album: the world is so upside down.” “Prejudices, drugs, violence and injustice are all falling.” Inside Out also covers things such as love, lust, and mortality. These words may hit harder than they did in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Fowler utters, “We need more power/The strength of dark still abides,” and it’s true. Inside Out is rooted in New York City. Inside Out is rooted in New York City. Perhaps most important, however, is “Jibaro”, an incendiary poetry by Felipe Luciano (a former member the radical Puerto Rican-American rights organization the Young Lords, and an early member the Last Poets). Fowler says, “I heard him recite it in a HBO poetry program and that just rocked my world.” “I never forgot it. This record is a result of his inspiration. The autobiography is a strong representation of the back-in-the day New York. Fowler was raised in New York City’s Queens Bridge Projects that were predominantly black and Puerto Rican. He listened to a lot funk and r

Leave a Comment