Bernard Fowler and the NYC Peech Boys

Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: Bernard Fowler and the NYC Peech Boys

Although there’s more likelihood of a rooster’s todger suddenly sprouting from my forehead than The Rolling Stones gracing this organ, the band that’s been a major part of my life for the last 58 years have once again provided my parallel universe anchor throughout an unimaginably difficult 2021. 

Rummaging through the old record collection reminded me how the tall guy with dreadlocks who’s been singing backing vocals for the Stones and their side projects since the 1980s, also lent his mellifluous power to electronic notables including Herbie Hancock (‘Future Shock’ and ‘Sound-System’, no less), Material, Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Mixer DST and Ryuichi Sakamoto, as well as being lead singer in Tackhead. Along with countless sessions from Philip Glass and Public Image Ltd to (eternally irritating) Duran Duran, let’s not forget both ‘Do The Smurf For What It’s Worth’ and the magnificent ‘Odeon’ for inestimably seminal Celluloid Records.

This monumental cornerstone of future-foraging New York music is Bernard Fowler from the Queensbridge Projects. Today, I’m celebrating his mightiest work of all with the New York Citi Peech Boys. Formed with Larry Levan and keyboardist Michael De Benedictus, their otherworldly sound first loomed on those NYC radio tapes I often burble about, starting with the astonishing 12-inch records ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ and ‘Life Is Something Special’ (the title track of their only album, released in the UK on Island). All colossal, doctored beats, wildebeest scrotum basslines from Darryl Short and De Benedictus’ nagging synth riffs, the Peech Boys fearlessly lashed their hallucinatory grooves with Robert Kasper’s rock guitar, topped with Fowler’s sublimely soul-charged vocal manoeuvres.

Singles like ‘On A Journey’ and ‘Dance Sister (Biofeedback)’ gained their shapeshifting audacity from producer Levan, who tailored them for his epic Paradise Garage sets. Watching him bombard that crazed crowd with the Peech Boys one heady night in 1983, their unusually idiosyncratic sound made perfect sense dubbed to fuck through those gigantic speakers. This was music made to blow minds, rattle ribcages and take the club’s ecstatic communion to ultimate dancefloor heaven (and then he played The Clash!). Nothing would ever sound the same again. 

Bernard Fowler we salute you. Being a vital part of the band that started everything makes perfect sense too. 

It only remains to wish everyone a very happy 2022. In 2021, I lost my mum and my incredible dog Jack. Hopefully things can only get better, starting with making my first solo album!

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