Film shining a spotlight on the untold story of the musicians behind some of the greatest artists and featuring interviews with Mick Jagger, Billy Joel and Keith Richards.
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This programme contains strong language
Most people probably don't know what a sideman,
or sidewoman, for that matter, is.
I'm a sideman. Have been for 40 years.
My name is Earl Slick.
I was David Bowie's sideman.
Yeah, Earl Slick on guitar!
Our job, as sidies, is to back up the big names.
You don't compete with the lead guy.
That's not a sideman.
Matter of fact, that's an out-of-work musician.
Most of the time, we're invisible.
Ghosts at the top table.
Our story takes you behind the scenes
with some of the world's biggest-ever stars.
MUSIC: I'm The One by Material
It's a song the girls in the band wrote. Lisa and Wendy.
# I'm the one, I'm the one
# I'm the one you want... #
Our job is to fit in with the star's vision.
Personality - yes. Ego - no.
# ..I am the one... #
Mr Bernard Fowler!
# ..The one for you
# Yeah... #
The sideman or sidewoman is mainly the dude on tour,
but sometimes, the lines are blurred.
Are you ready, Steve Cropper?
# ..I'm the one, I'm the one
# I'm the one you want
# I'm the one, I'm the one... #
Some are guitarists, some singers,
keyboard players, horn players,
and some are all these rolled into one.
On percussion and saxophone,
keyboards, harmonica, you name it,
Professor Crystal Taliefero!
# ..I'm the one you want... #
And for the new generation of sidies,
it's a whole new ball game.
# ..I'm the one you want, yeah... #
Give it to Momma.
# ..I'm the one you want. #
This film tells the untold story of rock and roll's guns for hire -
how we began, how we survive,
and how our lives are very different from what you guys imagine.
# ..I'm the one, I'm the one
# I'm the one you want... #
The hard thing for a sideman is, the better you are at your job,
the less people will notice you.
And that's the whole point.
# ..I'm the one, I'm the one
# The one you want
-# I'm the one you want
-The one you want
# I'm the one, I'm the one
-# The one you want
-I'm the one you want. #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The revolutionary Ronnie Wood!
People always ask, "Do you get nervous?"
When I'm putting my clothes on and getting into my make-up, no.
Charlie J Watts!
When I'm, you know, walking to the stage, no.
The minute I hit that stage, I start to feel...
Mr Bernard Fowler!
Drum starts, and then I start to get nervous.
MUSIC: Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones
Then I look out of my peripheral and then I see the boys.
They were just ordinary, now I'm looking at them
and they've literally turned into superheroes.
# Yeah, and the storm is threatening... #
And I'm nervous all the way up until I sing the first note.
The minute I sing the first note...
I slowly become settled.
And now I'm in the machine, and we're running.
# It's just a shot away
-# It's just a shot away
It's special because it's...
It's the fucking Rolling Stones.
It's the world's greatest rock and roll band.
# ..Ooh... #
My friend Bernard has been sideman to the Stones for 30 years.
He's very much part of the show.
I really like working with Bernard. It's really nice having him there.
I mean, most of the show, when he's out there,
he's out there with a light on him in front of, like, 60,000 people.
And stepping forward and joking around and...he's definitely there.
And he's introduced, his name is called, he's applauded.
He's part of this team.
# I never
# I never
# No, I never
# No, I never... #
He's very good at what he does.
He's hard-working, he doesn't screw up.
I mean, I'm not very good at learning from other vocalists.
I mean, I probably could learn a lot from him if I put my mind to it.
# ..I never... #
Bernard brings a reliability to Mick.
From sound check,
where they have a rapport and a strength
that carries on to the live gig,
where it's got to be delivered right.
Wait for it, wait for it.
No, not yet.
I think there's been a couple of other times where
either, for one reason or another, Mick got off the stage
to blow his nose, or whatever,
and B has taken over
for a verse or two.
# I saw her today
# At the reception
# In her glass
# Was a bleeding man... #
It would be very, very difficult to think of the Stones without him.
God, I rely on him for so many things on stage,
because he knows exactly what's going on,
and sometimes, I'm lost in the haze.
-# Always get what you want. #
I like that, here we go!
And all I do is look at B, and he goes...
Come on now. # ..You can't... #
To be versatile, and to be like a fireman, as well,
probably another requirement of the ultimate sideman.
I mean, we did 30 years without any backup,
but he certainly brings a quality and class to it.
For me, Bernard Fowler is one of the best undiscovered voices in America.
-I love the Stones, I've watched their children grow up.
I love the music.
They're like family, at this point.
I look at Bernard, and I see the Rolling Stones, I go,
that guy, this guy sings with the boys, man.
He's singing WITH the boys,
-not for them, not background vocals. That's how
Look, I've nothing against the audience,
the audience gets caught up with the Rolling Stones, they get caught up
with David Bowie, they get caught up with the Beatles, whatever.
You are just an appendage of that.
I remember walking into some club...
..and some guy says,
"That's Bernard Fowler.
"He's a backup singer for the Rolling Stones."
And the guy said, "Bullshit!
"Ain't no black people in the Rolling Stones!"
This guy had obviously... obviously seen all the shows!
It's your job not to horn in in any way whatsoever.
That word "side" takes on all connotations,
you know? You're to be invisible.
That's the sublimation of the ego.
A big ego is no good for a sideman.
You've got to know who you are,
where you stand in the hierarchy of things.
If you're a background vocalist, that's what you have to accept.
You might say it's a bit of an indignity,
but, you know, if you're clever enough, you'll understand that,
you know, there's a reason I don't...
It's not because you're ugly and I don't want on the stage.
# Tonight, I'm gonna love you... #
I grew up in Long Island City, Queens.
I grew up in a place called Queensbridge projects.
If you're taking the subway,
it's the first stop outside of Manhattan.
Queensbridge was a rough area,
really rough when I was growing up,
and it stayed that way for a long time.
This used to be a really bad area,
and I was part of the bad area.
Before I came to my senses,
I was really young...
..and I was doing, like a lot of young black kids in the inner city,
I was hustling.
And here come the rollers.
The cops come in.
We're scattering like roaches,
everybody's throwing their shit, throwing their shit,
I threw my shit.
And the cop came by with his flashlight,
and he looked at me...
..and he said, "You know what, Fowler?
"I could take you to jail.
"I know your mother. I know Miss Pearl."
He said, "If I catch you down here again,
"if I catch you down here again,
"I'm taking your ass in jail, whether I know your mother or not.
"Your ass is going to jail."
That was a wake-up call.
MUSIC: Don't Make Me Wait by New York Citi Peech Boys
# No, no, no, no... #
Bernard, like most of us sidies,
didn't set out to be a backing musician.
Most of us wanted to be the star.
We put this band together, the Peech Boys.
The next thing you know,
we're in the studio. I went in and sang this song,
Don't Make Me Wait.
# Don't make me wait Don't make me wait... #
It took off. We were king of the airwaves when that record came out.
Every club that you go, you hear Bernard,
so he started to build up his name
and I wouldn't call it as a background singer,
cos a lot of his stuff was lead vocal.
# I drank from the devil's cup... #
And I had done some pretty diverse records,
and when vocals are needed, I thought of Bernard.
But just as Bernard was becoming a respected front man in his own right,
touring the world, he got a call from producer Bill Laswell.
The call was going to change the rest of his life.
I go home, Bill Laswell calls me.
"Hey, man. What you doing, man?"
I said, "Nothing, man."
"Cool. Go to the airport."
I'm like, "Nah, man, you don't understand.
"I just came from the airport, I just walked into my apartment."
He says, "Go back to the airport."
I said, "Bill, you don't understand, I just walked in."
"Go back to the airport."
So I go back to the airport, say to the lady,
"Is there a ticket here for me?"
This is the good old days. "Yes, we have a first-class ticket for you
"to go to..." I said, "Where am I going?"
She said, "You don't know where you're going?"
"No." "You're going to London."
I arrive in London.
Still don't know why I'm there. Bill picks me up.
Huge black Bentley.
We walk up the steps to this house.
Bill walks in, I walk in behind him.
There's a guy sitting on the floor with a guitar in his hand.
And the guy turned around and looked at me.
It was Mick. I had no idea.
I'm standing there, I'm saying to myself, "Oh, shit. Oh, shit."
That's all I could think, was, "Oh, shit."
He gives me a cassette and he says,
"You know, when we get to the studio tomorrow, this is the stuff
"that we're going to be working on."
So I went back to the hotel
and I did all the vocal arrangements on this four-track machine.
# Just another night Just another night with you... #
He did some good things on the She's The Boss album,
we worked together quite closely on that.
I can't remember exactly what we did, it's a long time ago,
but we worked quite closely.
# ..And I'm thirsty
# Thirsty for your loving, baby... #
I did all the vocal arrangements on She's The Boss.
That means all the, you know, the choruses and all the background
stuff, you know? All the vocals you hear other than his lead, I did.
-# I will play the jack of spades
-Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
# You play the queen I'll play the knave
# Oh, I'm lucky in love
# Yes, I've got the winning touch... #
Normally I do most of my own harmonies,
but he can change his vocal style to fit in with yours,
so it sounds like me singing twice, he can make it like that,
or he can make it sound like another person,
so he can sound like two different people.
# ..Lucky in love
# When I think I had enough... #
The relationship was very easy with Mick and I. It got...
It got not so easy once... once the band came.
Yeah, want to get up there, need another chord.
Bernard finally got to work with all of the Stones
on their Steel Wheels album in '89.
# With mixed emotions... #
Mick calls and says, "You know, the Stones are getting ready to
"do a new record, and I can really use your help."
I'm like, "OK, cool. Well, where are you?"
You know, he gives me the address to the studio.
One by one, the Stones started coming in.
Let's try and go from the top, then.
Charlie come in.
I'm like, "Oh, shit."
You know, I say "Oh, shit" a lot. Bill Wyman comes in. "Shit."
Ronnie Wood walks in.
Keith walks in. "Oh, shit."
And I'm in there, you know, coming up with the ideas.
That's when Mick says, "Hey, OK.
"I like the ideas, so let's go and do it for real now."
Not bad. Nice. Nice, right?
I feel some heat, and Keith is looking at me.
And I'm like, "Oh, man, this is not good."
I'm looking at this dreadlocked, you know...
This staring went on... It went on way too long.
So I said, "I've got to say something to this cat, man."
I looked at him and I said, "Is everything all right?"
At which point he says...
"You know, I didn't want to like you."
And I'm like, again, "Oh, shit."
I said, "Why, man?" I said, "I'm cool."
And he says, "I thought you were one of Mick's boys."
I'm like, "Oh, fuck."
As Mick and I were on our... Oh!
Anybody that Mick picked up
is not going to end up on a Rolling Stone session, you know?
# Button your coat... #
And then he says, "I know you're cool."
# ..And you're not the only ship... #
We get on with work and we were working so well together.
I mean, that day, you know, we became firm friends
and...it was a funny way of meeting, you know.
# Baby, I can't stay
# You've got to roll me
# And call me the tumblin' dice... #
When Bernard is singing background,
he's a support singer, you know.
He is supporting what they're doing.
# ..Honey, I got no money... #
And it's interesting, because a lot of singers
when they're doing background and can sing lead as well
as he sings, usually one or the other thing will suffer.
Either the background singing isn't strong or he can't remember parts,
or he can't do this or he can't do that.
There's, like, nothing in my book that he can't do, once he says,
"Yeah, I've got this."
# ..Call me the tumblin' dice... #
I've always thought about Bernard, the guy's actually too good.
But at the same time, I understand it
because he just loves to work with the Stones.
You know, coming up through the ranks,
something that was always important to me was to be acknowledged
and respected by the people that seemed to be above where I was,
the people that I wanted to play with, you know?
That's something that I always...
I look for that more than anything, to be received by those cats,
those cats that are out there doing it, you know.
They're someplace that I've strived to be.
And that means I'm good enough to hang.
I'm good enough to hang out with them.
I'm good enough not just to hang out with,
I'm good enough to play with them.
Yeah, that's a validation.
The validation that Bernard feels when he is with the Rolling Stones
is what we all want -
to feel part of something, rather than an outsider.
I worked for 40 years on and off
with David Bowie, and it defined my life
but playing music was never a choice - it was a calling.
I was a lousy student, I can't take orders,
don't like being pushed around or being told what to do.
So that eliminates probably 99% of the job market right there.
I sucked in school, so college was out.
I barely got through high school.
And I just loved it.
First of all, I just loved playing and listening,
which I did 24 hours a day, and still do.
But I didn't even know what the hell a sideman was.
It's not what I... I never sat around thinking,
"Boy, I'd like to be so-and-so's guitar player."
By the time I was 18, I had my own band and a new name to go with it.
He created a persona.
Instead of Frank Madeloni, now he was Earl Slick.
That sounds pretty good, you know.
He had the look, he had the attitude, he had the arrogance,
he had the certainty, he had the cockiness.
In 1974, I got a call from a British guy called David Bowie.
I wasn't really that familiar with his work
but I thought, "What the hell?"
I'm sitting like a jerk for a couple of minutes and then comes in this
skinny, spooky-ass-looking guy with bright red hair and no eyebrows.
No eyebrows. Like, what?
Anyway, he sat down and he was great.
It was David and it was great. He had a guitar with him.
Jacket with a bottle of brandy.
I just threw it down and we played, had some brandy,
we talked for a little while.
It was fun, it was pleasant, and he said, "Great, you can talk
"to my assistant and we'll let you know what's going on."
The phone rang the next morning, thank God, and she said,
"David wants to know if you're interested in doing this,"
and that's where it all started. I went for the sure shot,
and that's when the sideman thing started. That was not my goal.
# The Jean Genie lives on his back
# The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks... #
David could have taken on any guitarist of any level of skill
but instead he took on
this talented but raw, young kind of unbridled spirit from Brooklyn
and I think, coming to know David as I did,
I really see why he did that.
He really dialled into sort of people's spirit, people's vibe,
what they could bring to the situation,
not just musically but personality-wise.
Dialling into what you could bring to the artist
is what all sidemen want.
David didn't tell me what to play or what to do.
He allowed me to express myself within his music.
He accepted me as part of his vision.
I wasn't an outsider.
The Station To Station album which Stay came from
was one of the most exciting periods I had with David
because he was actually asking me to come up with parts and things
and this was actually the first one, and a proud moment, you know.
He would look at me and this big smile...
Just before even the solos came in,
he had this big smile on his face, man,
and that would drive me home, man.
That would drive me home.
Respect for what we bring to the table is what we sidies live off.
It makes you go that extra mile.
But I never forgot that it was David Bowie's name on the billboard,
But there are times when sidies are thrust right into the spotlight,
almost as visible as the stars themselves.
When Prince became Prince and the Revolution
he wanted sidemen or, in this case, sidewomen,
who could bring something a little extra to the party
and look the part.
That would be Wendy and Lisa.
# She wore a raspberry beret
# The kind you find in a second-hand store
# Raspberry beret
# I think I love her. #
I think Prince's vision about the band being mixed -
male, female, black, Jewish -
that was a very conscious decision and a desire on his part.
Lisa and I not only
being female, we were lovers.
We were a couple.
And he was like, "Oh, my God,
"it's female, it's gay, and everybody's just freaking, right?
"It's controversy. This is it. Oh, my God!"
Back then with new wave music,
a lot of bands were coming out with girls
and it was just the novelty, I think, at first,
and just sexy arm candy,
somebody to play that role.
# You jump up on the one
# Woo! #
But Wendy and I turned it into power
instead of just like, a frilly little something pretty to look at.
I had, like, '80s stockings and I was like, "Yeah, OK, I'm going to...
"I'm going to add a nastiness to it so I'll accept the garter
"because I am playful...
"..but I'm not going to... I'm not going to show you my tits."
I was the female facilitator so that he had all the room to
be like this sexy, hot, androgynous tornado, right?
He knew where to dig and once he found his gold it was like,
"I'm free now,"
and we were a perfect frame, and that is great side players.
Give that front person the freedom to fall on their asses,
you make sure they've got the perfect little environment to
be the freak they want to be.
Wendy and Lisa got Prince.
They understood him,
knew what he needed before he did.
And, boy, could they play!
And again, clusters all the time.
Lisa was actually a trained, serious player.
Lisa could push back to Prince because she was the only player
who could do things better than he could
on her instrument.
Wendy and Lisa had grown up together.
Lisa essentially invited Wendy
to come along on some of the tours,
and she was around,
she knows the parts and she can play,
and apparently Prince is kind of, you know,
knocked sideways in that moment, like,
"That's not just Lisa's friend, that's a real player."
On Purple Rain, there's a song called Computer Blue.
I mean, we co-wrote that song with Prince.
He came up with an idea and said, "I just...
"I need to put the frame in it. I've got to put it in the pot
"and put the pressure cooker on now, and let's see what we come up with."
I started playing the lead line to this with the...
# Ba-ba-dem, ba-duh-duh-duh. #
When we were first writing the song,
the lead line came out of Wendy,
and I just was fooling around synth sounds,
and I think that really inspired Prince.
I think that he thought that was a really important part of the song
and the groove.
He was just like, "Yeah, high-five," and a writing credit.
Computer Blue was one of the songs performed
so memorably in the Oscar-winning film Purple Rain.
It's hard to think of any other sidies who have ever been given
this kind of spotlight.
Most of us are relatively unknown outside the industry.
Wendy and Lisa were different.
I find incredible grace and delight being able to find the holes
and to enhance what's missing.
I find that a great task for me,
as someone who tries to be as good of a musician as I can be,
not just an instrumentalist,
but, "What can I offer the artist to be better?"
It's a song the girls in the band wrote.
Lisa and Wendy.
The song Purple Rain...
In the movie he says, you know,
"I'd like to perform a song that the girls wrote."
I had an interview and someone misquoted me
when asked, "Did you write Purple Rain?"
And the answer in the print was, "Yes."
I get a phone call from Prince,
and he's EXTREMELY upset.
"Why did you say that?!
"Do you think you wrote Purple Rain?"
And I said...
"But we helped you."
Prince walked in the room and said,
"Here's the chord progressions."
I thought to myself,
"Oh, that looks like a very country progression."
And what I pride myself on
is finding a way to re-harmonise
something that's very simple.
# I never meant to cause you any sorrow. #
So I played the chords,
but I stretched bottom notes and I put ninths, different shades.
# ..I never meant to cause you any pain. #
Here comes the chords.
Those are the opening chords of Purple Rain.
Did I write Purple Rain? No.
But would Purple Rain have been the song that you hear to this day
without Chef coming in,
"This is the dish I want to cook.
"I've assembled an incredible crew here.
"What are we going to do?"
# I never meant to cause you any sorrow
# I never meant to cause you any pain
# I only wanted one time to see you laughing
# I only wanted to see you laughing
# In the purple rain
# Purple rain, purple rain... #
The version of Purple Rain used in the film was a recording
of Wendy's first live appearance with the Revolution.
She was just 19 years old.
I wanted to be a great guitar player in a great band.
I wanted to be a great player.
But there's ambivalence about that role that I had
and what I knew Lisa and I were giving him.
I did have moments of anger at him.
I always wanted him to say, "You're great!
"God, I couldn't do this without you!
That didn't come out of his mouth.
Prince made it perfectly clear that if you were there
and you had that role
and you were next to him playing,
that was his validation.
But in the spirit of full disclosure,
I wanted his validation.
But when it came right down to it, he had every right to ignore you.
He hired you,
he wanted to do this thing,
and he was signed to Warner Bros,
and it wasn't specified,
there wasn't a distinction made
that - "You are now going to partake in my soup."
It was just like, "This is going to be AWESOME.
"Aren't you going to have fun?
"I'm having fun." And we're like, "Yeah!"
# I don't care, pretty baby. #
Being on stage in front of tens of thousands of people alongside
Prince - or Bowie, or whoever -
is a pretty special feeling.
But what all of us sidies have to accept is that we are not the stars.
I knew where I was in the pecking order with David Bowie.
I was the gun for hire with a job to do.
As sidemen, we are there to support.
# Now put on your red shoes and dance the blues. #
If he's tired or a little distracted,
he relied on me to take that spot.
That's my job.
Slick could be a foil.
That was definitely part of what he did for David.
Slick was really the... maybe the more animal of the two,
and that animal element really needed to be there,
that earthiness, and Slicky was really that personified.
But it's still his tour.
So to make it his tour and to make sure that he came
looking in the best light, my job is to catch him
when he's going to fall down,
make sure that I pick up the energy if he doesn't have it
and make it work on that stage.
As sideman, that's what I do. And, um...
And you've got to remember...
Cos I've seen sidemen go sideways.
All of a sudden, they think THEY'RE the star.
MUSIC: Space Oddity by David Bowie
They work together in a sonic way,
and they can work together visually.
Earl never upstages David.
You know, it's just kind of a great matchup
of mutual respect.
# Though I'm past 100,000 miles
# I'm feeling very still
# And I think my spaceship knows... #
When I worked with David, I got to play both on the road
and in the studio and, for me, that was just great.
But there are also those players
who are only hired to work in the studio.
The session musicians.
I mean, there are guys that just do sessions
and they don't go on the road.
They don't necessarily ever play live.
So I think that's the difference
between a session man and a sideman,
that a sideman is expecting to play to an audience, live.
A session man maybe never plays live or only occasionally.
A session player, you think of him being in recording studios,
but the sideman has
a little more input to the artist they're working with.
His feedback is amazingly important,
you know, but I've been in recording sessions where I've changed
the whole vibe of the studio, you know,
just based on what I played.
Sometimes that's not wanted by the artist
and it's not comfortable.
"This is not your gig," they'll say. "This is not your gig.
"What are you telling us? We have a vision.
"Your job is to execute it."
Executing the vision of the artist
was extremely important for session players,
especially in the '60s.
But one guy who I really looked up to
and successfully combined the roles of session man and sidemen
was guitar legend Steve Cropper.
RINGTONE: Green Onions by Booker T & the MGs
Hey, call me back. I'm in the middle of an interview, doing a video. OK.
Sounded pretty good.
MUSIC: Green Onions by Booker T & the MGs
Steve Cropper was part of the Stax record label,
based out of Memphis, Tennessee.
I would say that Steve Cropper, without a doubt, is
one of the greatest sidemen/session men I have ever seen in my life,
because he could adapt to whatever the flavour and role would be
in a credible way. And his commitment to it would be all-in.
And that was the thing that made Steve special.
When we first heard Booker T stuff,
we naturally assumed that it was an all-black affair, you know,
and I was quite amazed to find out that Steve was white and Duck Dunn,
the bass player, was also white.
That, at the time, this was still pretty unique.
Booker T & the MGs had hits
and then also functioned as the brand that was backing
the different vocalists that came through.
# Do you like good music?
# That sweet soul music... #
With Stax, you have a sense that it's a band that's creating
a sound that's a signature sound.
# ..Way out here on the floor now
# Oh, going to a go-go.
# And they're dancing to the music
# Oh, yeah, oh, yeah... #
The formula back in the '60s,
everybody had their own studio
and their own set of musicians,
you know? They didn't look up in the phone book
and call this guy cos he's good
or that guy cos he's good.
They're the same guys all the time.
And we played on almost every session.
# Don't you ever be sad. #
Alongside Steve's work with Booker T,
he was also the indispensable sideman to Wilson Pickett
and to Sam & Dave,
and in a business where everyone is indispensable, that's unusual.
# ..Hold on, I'm comin'... #
When we would do a Sam & Dave session, Steve would bring
the flavour that we were looking for and we're communicating
for the Sam & Dave project,
that you could tell that sounded like Sam & Dave.
And if he were then, in fact, doing Booker T & the MGs,
he would take that role
and it would sound like Booker T & the MGs,
yet it's the same four players.
And you've got to be a special,
special sideman to make that work that way.
MUSIC: Time Is Tight by Booker T & the MGs
It's Stax Records.
You had white musicians as a support for black artists.
We were the leaders in that.
And you have to understand, we're talking about the '60s.
There were idiots of racists in the '60s,
white racists that hated to even look at blacks walking on the same
street with whites, let alone playing in bands with them.
And then you put them in a role that's backing up
and supporting someone that's black, that was revolutionary.
But that's what was happening at Stax Records.
You had guys like Steve Cropper
who were willing to go into that role of support,
and then, on concerts,
willing to get on stage and be called all kinds of names.
Steve Cropper was an amazing sideman,
but it was what he contributed to the song.
He played the rhythm parts,
but he was clever enough to come up
with intros and different parts,
like we did Knock On Wood.
Eddie Floyd and I were writing at the Lorraine Motel
and he said,
"I got a great idea for a song." I said, "OK, what?"
He said, "I want to write a song about superstitions."
I said, "OK.
"Eddie, what do people do for good luck?"
And he said, "Well, they go..."
HE CLICKS HIS TONGUE
So we started writing, and we knew we had it.
We finished the song,
and I know I sat there for a long time
trying to come up with an intro,
and I couldn't come up with one.
The only idea that hit me, I said,
"I wonder what In The Midnight Hour would sound like backwards?"
And I don't know how I came up with the original
of In The Midnight Hour, but it started on a D chord...
So it's the same walk, just in reverse, so it...
# I don't want to lose... #
And that was Knock On Wood.
# I don't want to lose
# This good thing
# That I got
# If I do
# I would surely
# Surely lose a lot
# Cos your love
# Is better
# Than any love I know
# It's like thunder
# The way you love me is frightenin'
# I better knock
# On wood. #
I said, "You want to learn how to play guitar?"
All guitars have the same dots on them.
It's a scale thing, I guess, I don't know.
I said, "Just follow the dots
"and you can write hit songs!"
-It doesn't matter!
# Oh, yeah
# Oh, my, my! #
Steve Cropper not only played on hit songs, he co-wrote them.
Knock On Wood, In The Midnight Hour and many more.
He was a songwriter, a session man,
a producer and a sideman,
all rolled into one.
# What you want, honey, you got it. #
So, when wanna-be soul star
Otis Redding turned up at Stax in 1964,
Steve and Stax owner Jim Stewart just knew they had someone special.
# Respect is what I want! #
Al Jackson, the drummer in Booker T & the MGs,
came to me and he said,
"You know that guy, that big tall guy?"
I said, "Yeah." He said,
"He has been bugging me to death for somebody to listen to him sing."
I said, "Yeah, OK. Bring him down to the piano."
And this guy comes up, and I said, "OK,
"there's the piano, play something."
He said, "Well, I don't play anything."
I said, "Well, I don't either."
And he said, "Well, can you play me some of them church quads?"
"Quads" instead of "chords".
And he starts singing These Arms Of Mine.
# These arms of mine
# They are lonely... #
And I said, "Stop, hold it."
He said, "What, you don't like it?"
I said, "No, I like it great, I just want Jim Stewart to hear it."
And I went to the control room, I said,
"Jim, you got to get out here and hear this guy sing."
# ..These arms of mine
# They are yearning... #
And I'm not lying about this, the hair on my arms stood up.
-# ..Yearning from wanting you... #
By my recollection, we had 17 hit singles in a row with Otis Redding.
He never had what we would call a flop.
# ..Let them hold you... #
Steve is one of the most original guitar players.
When I heard those first licks on his Otis Redding records,
"Oh, there's one, there's one."
Probably the other thing about a sideman, and I'll throw this in
with Steve Cropper, is the ability to read a song very quickly.
# Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba. #
There was sort of context here with the piece of music that
you're playing, and to put your own thing on it,
but it's that sympathy for a song which is a sign of a good sideman.
# Sad, sad song, y'all
# Sad songs, that's all I know. #
Otis Redding's relationship with Steve was so great
that he wanted his sideman on tour with him.
# ..Sad songs, that's all I know. #
Otis said, "You guys have to go on the road with me,
"you have to be my backup band."
That's what made it unique and so special.
The band that played on the hit records was the same band that
played on stage with the artist.
Same licks by the same people,
playing the same thing with the same feeling -
never heard of, because you have what you call session players,
and then you have your touring musicians.
They don't do both.
In our story, Stax is really important.
Here, musicians like Steve were given, if not star billing,
at least visibility in a way that was pretty rare before then.
Steve was behind Otis but crucial to his success.
# Sitting in the mornin' sun
# I'll be sittin' when the evenin' comes
# Watching those ships roll in
# Then I'll watch them roll away again
# I'll just go sit on the dock of the bay
# Watchin' the tide roll away
# Sittin' on the dock of the bay
# Wastin' time... #
-# I left my home in Georgia
# Headed for the Frisco bay... #
This was the last song Steve and Otis worked on together,
though Otis never heard the final track.
He was killed in a plane crash.
He was just 26 years old.
# So I just goin' to sit on the dock of the bay... #
The role I had with Otis...
We partied together, we'd go to clubs together,
we'd do different things.
# Sittin' on the dock of the bay
# Wastin' time... #
Otis calls himself a backwards country boy,
but there was something that was extremely magic...
-There'll never be another one.
Steve's relationship with Otis was kind of special,
and his reputation was sealed.
He would go on to work with everyone from Rod Stewart
to Eric Clapton, to the Blues Brothers.
And as a sideman, that's what you need - a reputation.
Because the artists you work with don't always have work for you.
But if you are lucky, someone else might.
And my luck was certainly in when I got a call in 1980.
So I hadn't seen David Bowie since '76,
and I got a phone call from the producer Jack Douglas,
and he said, "Oh, I got this session for Slicky."
"Who is it?" "I can't tell you."
But after three or four days, I kind of figured it out.
It was John Lennon.
I was a little nervous. I don't get nervous. That one made me nervous.
John had certain session guys that he had used,
and John said, "Well, I need a wild card in here.
"I need a street player that can't read, that's just like me -
"irreverent and does what he wants."
That's how I got the gig.
It was not a challenge working with John at all because he left me
alone to do what I wanted to do.
# Here in some stranger's room
# Late in the afternoon
# What am I doing here at all? #
I was really ecstatic.
It was a really good time in my career.
It really was. And not just my career, in my life.
I loved it. John just let me loose.
When I'm with one of, like, these so-called stars,
I feel like a peer, you know, that's the way I'm treated.
I'm treated like a peer.
# I'm losing you. #
I was really lucky to work with both David and John in a period
that I now see as the heyday for us sidies -
the '70s and the '80s.
At this time, there were superstar solo artists who needed sidemen
and respected the role they played.
And if you were a sideman or woman during this golden age
who could play - not just guitar but were a multi-instrumentalist -
then you were going to get a lot of gigs.
Hey, what's up, y'all?
and saxophone, keyboards, harmonica,
you name it, she plays it out of Gary, Indiana.
That's Professor Crystal Taliefero.
Crystal is always there. She's a total professional.
When we're on stage, she delivers.
She's a show unto herself.
I can always rely on her to come through,
no matter what we're doing, and that's...
a great thing to be able to rely on.
I never have to worry about what she's going to do
or how she does it.
# Harry Truman, Doris Day Red China, Johnnie Ray
# South Pacific, Walter Winchell Joe DiMaggio... #
I've never wanted to be a star, not even when I was a kid.
I didn't even know what a star was.
This whole thing chose me.
I thought I would be married with five kids.
Maybe an accountant or something.
-Seriously! I mean...
# But when we are gone
# Will it still burn on and on and on? #
But, you know, I'm glad it turned out this way. Best time of my life.
Who knew? Who knew?
# The man said, There's a storm front comin'
# White water runnin' And the pressure is low... #
Crystal hooked up with Billy in the '80s,
having worked with some of the biggest names of the day
including John Mellencamp, Joe Cocker and Bruce Springsteen
# I've got a woman. #
She went from the keyboard and then she picked up the saxophone,
and, you know, it was kind of like, "Wait,
"she's gorgeous and she's grounded...
"She's talented. She's got great stage presence."
That is, I think, how Crystal is still in this business,
because she's an asset to anybody.
# White water runnin'... #
We started working together, and right away, I say,
"Oh, this woman knows what she's doing."
She was going to help us arrange harmonies, play percussion...
I didn't know if it was going to be permanent.
I thought it might be temporary. It was up to her.
Today, women sidies are part of the show.
But it's easy to forget that, back in the '80s,
this was all about the guys.
A woman coming to the band was different.
A couple of flags went up, you know, you know.
But I knew that was going to happen.
# The papers say she was seen in LA
# With a stranger... #
I was expected to be the sexy one.
Thank you, Billy, for...
I don't think he purposely meant for that to happen,
it just happened to be that way, and I'm...
I'm happy I was there.
# I've read where it's said she sleeps in a bed made of satin. #
I mean, I want to hear guys say, "Hey, you're sexy, I think that..."
Hey, thank you. You know? Yeah, it makes me feel good.
Yes, there are benefits to being a sexy sidewoman.
Lots of benefits.
Guys like sexy, hot girls. I mean, you're popular.
You know, you get a lot of recognition.
# That's not her style. #
And I got a lot of recognition.
And it's probably why I got a lot of gigs.
I didn't notice that there was any issues with her being a woman.
I mean, she was a good musician.
So right away,
all the people that I was working with at the time
had respect for her.
And that's really what it, I think, came down to, was just,
she's a good musician and so you better hold your own, you know?
Being one of the guys but not a guy, doing the hang.
When they say, "OK, you one of the fellas, you can hang,"
that's a compliment.
That means they're accepting you as one of the fellas and they still
respect you as a woman.
Now, when I first came in now, that was the first time
I guess Billy had worked with a female, which was interesting.
He did very well, by the way.
He did. He did good. The guys did good too.
After 28 years, Crystal still plays with Billy's touring band,
but at the end of the day,
it doesn't matter how long you're with the star,
when the tour's over, for most of us sidies, it's a case of,
"What happens now?"
As a sideman, I live like a king, I'm treated like a king.
I don't want to do anything but play music. It's great.
It's Disneyland. I get to do what I want to do every day.
Nobody questions what I do. All my needs are taken care of.
Then, said tour is over.
Said sideman goes home
and said sideman sits there waiting for the phone to ring,
which is OK at the very beginning cos there's some money left,
but this money gets smaller and smaller and smaller,
and nobody's calling, and you're going,
"Why are they not calling?"
Is it possible to hit you up again and be a big pain in the ass?
And you'll come up with whatever reasons you come up with,
which may be true, may not be true,
but I think the more known you are and the more visible you are
as a sideman, to your front man,
the less approachable you are.
I'll sit out here all year.
The phone doesn't ring because they think you're owned.
And in a way, you are.
What are we doing here?
So they're thinking, we're rolling in money,
and we're buying houses, and we're working,
and we're on retainer,
and any minute we're going to be doing this,
and that's just not the truth.
The truth was that in between there would be times
when years would go by.
I mean, this is one of them good-ass do-nothing days. I like this.
I'm going to do nothing today after you guys go.
MUSIC: Show Biz Kids by Steely Dan
You know what? It's a double-edged sword.
You're playing with the world's greatest rock and roll band,
and when it's over, it's going to be hard to get another gig,
because, first of all, people, for some reason,
they think that you're part of the band.
I'm a gun for hire.
I wish I made that kind of money.
I wish I made Rolling Stone money.
But that ain't the case.
I don't take make that much money where
I can take a vacation or take a break.
I've tried, you know, taking a break after a Rolling Stone tour.
And when that money got low, trying to find another gig -
Oh, my God!
It's not like you can just call
and say, "Hey, I'm Bernard Fowler and I want to tour, NOW!"
Shit don't happen like that.
And, like I said, I've done that before,
and it bit me in the ass.
I might take a few weeks or so, but I'm back at it.
I've been blessed that every time the Stones have gone out,
I've gone out, but...
It's really funny because, like, sometimes, you know,
I get telephone calls from friends or fans and they're like,
"Hey, man, I hear the Stones are going out,
"aren't you going with them?" I'm like, "I didn't hear anything."
And when that happens, it kind of fucks with you a bit
because you're not even sure if you're even going.
That's part of being a sideman, I think,
-not being sure!
Brother B has nothing to worry about on that.
It's whether the Stones will still be around,
it's not whether he'll be with us, for sure. You know?
It's up to him. As long as he wants.
-# What's my name?
-Ooh ooh... #
Yeah, he'll be with us till the end.
Then we call him a Rolling Stone.
When we all retire, he can become...
We'll give him a little badge with,
"I am finally in there."
-# Ooh ooh
# Ooh ooh... #
Well, as far as I'm concerned,
he is officially a Rolling Stone.
By now, Brother B...
The rock, I mean...
-# Ooh ooh
-Oh, yeah! #
I still do see myself as a sideman with the Rolling Stones.
By no means am I a Rolling Stone.
And nor will I ever be.
-# Tell me, baby
# What's my name? #
Would the Rolling Stones suffer without me?
They can continue.
But they'd miss me!
-This is something special for you.
Bernard's kind of lucky.
Despite some insecurity,
he does have a long-term gig with the Stones.
I worked with David on and off for 40 years,
but the work was by no means constant.
I never really knew what was around the corner.
He sacked me once, but then I was called back.
Every time one of his guitar players vaporised or quit or whatever,
I got the phone call.
And people say, "Doesn't that make you feel used?"
He was doing what he needed to do at the time.
I took the gig, which meant I did what I needed to do at the time.
So it was... It was, you know, one hand washed the other.
# Girls and boys... #
But being sacked, let go, replaced, whatever you want to call it,
when it happens, it hurts, and it really does piss you off.
From the moment I was hired till the moment it all ended,
it was nonstop.
# I only knew her for a little while
# But he had grown accustomed to her style... #
So I never felt that it would end, until it ended.
So, you know, it almost felt like someone kicked the bed
while you're sound asleep, where you're like,
"What, what, what? What?!"
That's kind of how... Or, like, that's how it felt when it ended.
# Baby, I love you so much... #
Me and Lisa were fired.
# Maybe we can stay in touch... #
The night that we got fired, I can't say that Prince thanked us.
I could just feel his feelings just contradicting each other,
themselves within him.
-# Boo! #
I think he was at a crossroads.
I think it was hard for him to say thank you at that time.
He said, "You know, I've just gotten to this place where I just
"need to change it up now because I've spread myself too thin.
"You guys are your own people and I need more of it in my control."
We were blown away by it and understood at the same time.
That's what it is when you're a side person -
Yeah, it felt like my life exploded.
It took me on this incredible ride,
and then suddenly... Pshoo!
You know, "Let's not do this any more."
It was really like a romantic break-up, you know?
And I think he missed us, too.
Which always freaked me out when I'd get signs of that,
that he was missing us or wondering where we were.
It would make me mad.
It was a facade in that Prince was never going to be
a member of a band, that he was never going to be as collaborative
as, you know, what it was
that he was putting forward.
I will say that Purple Rain was the most collaborative period
in his career.
After the success of Purple Rain, you know,
there was no possibility of collaboration after that.
I mean, at that point, nobody could ever say no to him again
because he had shown that he knew better than everybody else.
Wendy and I were pretty lost after the break-up
and weren't really sure what we were going to do.
We rented a house for a couple of weeks
and licked our wounds, kind of like, together.
We commiserated. And then we started to write songs.
People were waiting for us to write, you know, a Prince track,
but it's not Prince & The Revolution,
that's a different thing.
# Come in, take a chair
# Nothing else to do out there
# It's what you want and what you need
# Decisions made in privacy... #
Now we're not the arm candy, you know,
we can actually be the centrepiece.
And that was the desire.
# I'll name your fate
# Don't be shy, I'm waiting
# Come to the sideshow
# Come to the sideshow
# Yeah! #
And then ensued the dynamic of,
"What are you talking about?
"What do you mean, what are you selling?"
OK, we understand commerce -
we've got to sell a product, there's branding, da-da-da-da-da.
But this is where that being a woman
in the music business
-is sort of like an oxymoron.
You need to be fuckable...
# Where it's at
# Time can't wash away the fears
# Stay away from the devil's tears. #
That's what the species is.
I don't want to play a part in that game, but when my twin sister came
and sang with Wendy & Lisa, the marketers fucking loved it.
Because Susannah was, like,
hot and sexy, fuckable,
and, like, woohoo!
"We can market that!"
I thought Wendy & Lisa were great,
but the move from sidie to solo artist is really a tough one.
# Well, didn't your mama tell ya?
# Didn't your papa tell ya?
# To get a little satisfaction... #
We ended up getting, like, dropped repeatedly.
On every label, we'd be signed and dropped, signed and dropped,
signed and dropped.
And, you know, because they were just like,
"Well, where's...?" You know...
I don't know what they wanted. A little red Corvette.
But that wasn't going to happen.
With us, it was a more subtle success,
that we could play clubs and sell them out.
In my estimation, I think that means that we made it
and we're able to keep working.
I haven't had to get a job at Staples
or McDonald's or something, so...
# Didn't your mama tell ya?
# Didn't your papa tell ya? #
Was it disappointing for me to realise that I wasn't a star?
-I feel embarrassed saying it.
# Didn't your papa tell ya? #
I wanted to be as important as the artists
that are important to me, to other people.
I wanted to be able to have people listen to the work that I did.
My idea of being a rock star
probably didn't match
what my musical output was.
# If love can melt down barriers... #
-There it is.
All right, let me just try it.
When Wendy and Lisa didn't turn out to be huge pop stars on their own,
they were able to adjust because of their training,
because of their versatility
and because of their brand name
and the awareness of Wendy & Lisa to go on
to be hugely in demand and to play with folks like Madonna
and Joni Mitchell and Seal,
and able to build a career
It's too busy at that tempo. It's too much.
And then from that, springboard into writing scores, soundtracks,
TV shows, films.
It's not ironic enough.
It feels too, like, anthemic.
Wendy and Lisa's contribution is much like an actor on the show,
and I always treated them as if they were actors.
With an actor,
you don't tell them how to do a scene.
You don't, say, don't give a line reading.
And as much as maybe the studio and network at times
on parts of the music would want a line reading,
a specific kind of music, I always resisted giving them that note.
So we should be playing something ironic, not too romantic.
In my experience in working with them,
I don't think we ever have them rescore something more than maybe
three or four times, and I'm talking about...200 episodes of television.
Wendy and Lisa made it again as sidewomen, but now in TV.
They're writing music for some of the biggest US shows.
Yeah, that was good.
And they even got an Emmy to prove it.
SHE PLAYS: Nurse Jackie theme
So, to survive when you're not on the road, us sidies
need to find other ways to use what we've got to make a few bucks.
I don't think that I've been versatile enough during my career.
What are you, a cop?
I don't see a fucking uniform on your sorry fat ass.
A lot of the other guys, though, that weren't versatile enough
disappeared completely off the planet, and they ain't coming back.
That's something that really hit me
like a tonne of bricks about ten years ago,
that I'm going to have to sort of...
spread out here, but where?
-It's got such a...like a natural leather scent.
So I thought, "What are my talents? What the hell can I do?"
Yeah, I play music, but I also paint and customise my own clothes.
So I thought, "Why don't I do something with that?
"Worth a try?"
-This is great.
Extra bullet holes.
That? Oh, that's 40-grit sand paper.
-You can make bullet holes that way.
-I can trash anything.
I do it anyway, might as well, like, you know,
-maybe make money out of it.
Christian Benner is a New York fashion designer.
I really like his style.
So I brought a load of my stuff to see
if we might be able to do something together.
And then you take this shit and you put it in bleach
-and then use a bunch of rusty nails and...
-..shotgun shells and...
Can't play it, but it looks cool.
I don't have what he has,
and he doesn't have what I have.
This is gorgeous, though.
I want what he has,
he wants what I have,
which makes for a great partnership.
A Christian D original.
-I did fuck with it, though.
-Yeah, I noticed.
What do you think?
I do belts and jackets,
but the way I paint things and the way I do things can actually add
to his thing, and even some of my stuff will stand on its own.
-Oh, my God, I did a good fucking job. I'm good, thank you.
He's been in business. He's got the machine to do it.
Whereas I don't.
Therein comes your trade-off.
He gets my name to help him out a little bit, I get the machine,
I get the help, promotion, all the stuff you need.
-Why don't our managers talk to each other?
-Yeah, let's start this.
For me, it's fashion.
But all of us sidies have to find our own way.
Crystal Taliefero is - no shit -
Professor Crystal Taliefero
from Indiana State University when she's not touring.
Can't see me doing that.
I think I'm talented in more ways than just being a musician.
I think I'm talented, I think, more so in social skills.
I think I have good social skills.
Which I think should be weighed on the same level
as the performance skill.
You could have a talented person
and he could play 50,000 instruments and have zero social skills and...
Who wants to hang around with him?
He can't do the hang. He's out.
Crystal teaches up-and-coming musicians.
Who knows? Maybe the next generation of sidies.
I'm teaching how to get the job, how to keep the job,
performance, stage performance, delivery, spontaneity.
I'm teaching basically how to survive.
I want you to use those eyes, those big, terrific eyes you have.
# You, you turn my life... #
Are there opportunities here for my students doing what I do,
as a sideman?
Yes, they are there, but it's a little more difficult
now for the younger generation.
They're all talented, great musicians, of course,
but I think they've been watered down.
There's no more identities.
Only the star's allowed to have an identity.
Maybe I should rethink and start grooming solo artists instead!
The music business today, hell, it's like another world.
One, two, three, four!
Thankfully - ha, ha - there are still some big artists out there
that need great sidemen, or in the case of Beyonce, sidewomen.
And when Beyonce toured the Beyonce Experience in '07,
she worked with some of the best sidewomen in the business.
There's anywhere from 20 to 30 people on stage with Beyonce
at any given point. I'm seeing everything.
I'm seeing people losing their minds, going crazy,
seeing their icon for the first time.
I'm seeing a big party, honestly, in the Beyonce concerts.
I wish everyone had the opportunity to get that point of view.
# Your love's got me looking so crazy right now
# So crazy
-# Got me looking so crazy right now
# Your touch got me looking so crazy right now
# Looking so crazy, my baby... #
Crystal "Rovel" Torres is extraordinary.
She's a multi-instrumentalist
who started working with Beyonce in '07 as a trumpet player.
When we first began, much of Beyonce's repertoire
didn't have horn parts.
We had a lot of creative freedom, you know, as long as it wasn't
stepping on the melody or getting in the way what was happening.
We had creative license to kind of add what we wanted.
She asked me to do a solo. She didn't... She was very open.
She didn't say specifically what to play.
There were 40,000 people staring at me,
and Beyonce said...
"Give it to Mama!"
And there's my moment.
She suggested that I do something really dramatic
and put the horn up, you know, back like this when I solo.
Sometimes it came out, sometimes it didn't, cos it's really hard
to play a trumpet in heels, you know, doing a backbend.
I'd done maybe five world tours,
but you have to understand,
the story was obviously about Beyonce,
so you have your choice to take it or leave it.
The quintessential, modern sideman or musician
has to be open to all of the many places that music leads you.
After being part of Beyonce's touring band for several years,
the day came when Crystal didn't get the call
to join Beyonce's 2012 tour.
When I actually didn't get the call after all those years,
it hurt, it definitely hurt.
Sometimes you are a part of an artist's vision, you know,
and that's a beautiful thing. And sometimes you're not.
And I think how every musician deals with those setbacks
really determines their fate and their success and their future.
You have to be aware that this is a business and you're working
with a star, so it's not that they don't want you
to promote yourself, but you just... you are working for a bigger brand.
And sometimes it's about that brand first.
This needs to be protected, so you have to find how you fit
and how they can work together.
Nowadays, much more so than in the past,
you have to be able to switch gears quickly.
And that would be the time when I developed my songwriting
and production skills and got into that and met Lupe.
# I love her and I hate to leave her lonely
# Ring, ring went the iPhone It was my homey... #
Lupe Fiasco is a Grammy award-winning rap artist
who was always looking out for new talent.
Crystal's name kept popping up and I was like, who's this Crystal woman?
And then it was like,
"Hey, Crystal, would you mind coming in and,
"you know, playing on certain records?"
It's so cool to be able to have a working relationship
with somebody who operates at an internationally renowned level.
So I show up, not really knowing what to expect, and he said,
"Just do your thing."
And so I went into the live room and just put in a harmon mute
and he immediately responded to that sound,
that Miles Davis Kind Of Blue kind of sound.
It's like I'm in the studio with Miles Davis, right?
To have somebody of a high calibre, being able to, like,
"Hey, can you play it like this?" Then they'll play it like that.
And, "Oh, it was amazing! Now can you play it like this?"
"Yes, I can play like that."
"Oh, my God. Can you just play?"
By the end of that session, the song just became
this moody, jazzy, organic hip-hop mix.
# Are you ready to die? You just a baby
# Why them tears up under your eyes? You just a baby... #
It graduated into my next album where it was like,
it was a no-brainer, it was like,
I'm going into the studio, I need Crystal.
I feel that the best artists understand that we are all
working in service to the music,
and while everyone has their roles,
at the end of the day, the music is what brings people to them.
There's clearly a place for the next generation of sidies.
But what about those of us who've been around the block a few times?
As far as the future goes for me as a sideman,
I would say that it looks bleak.
In 2016, my main man David Bowie passed away.
That changed everything.
Ah, that's where the lift-off part comes in, isn't it?
Which is kind of what I felt happened when David...
..passed, you know, he lifted off.
# This is ground control to Major Tom
# You've really made the grade... #
David comes into my head every day since spring of 1974.
When you're entrenched with somebody that long,
it just does not go away.
David meant a lot of things to me
because he is the first person in my career
that I walked onto a stage
with 20,000 people and had a gold record within six months.
And how much I learned from him, I was always HIS guitar player.
Now I'm Earl Slick the guitar player
that used to work with David Bowie when he was alive.
With David gone, it's going to be tough.
# Here am I sitting in a tin can... #
A lot of the guys I knew that WERE hiring sidemen
are now retiring, which is kind of scary, but who knows?
# Planet Earth is blue
# And there's nothing I can do... #
Bernard is doing more of his own thing
alongside his work with the Stones.
And that's got to be good.
# Ah-ah-ah... #
Hopefully more people will see
that I am only a sideman for the Rolling Stones.
When the Stones ain't rolling,
Bernard's out shaking that money-maker.
The future is, I see myself as a solo artist.
# Walked up to the Redbreast playing
# Everybody starting swaying
# See baby shaking her hair
# Hands swinging up in the air... #
You know, it's all independent, I'm doing it myself,
there's no machine behind it, and it's hard to get stuff heard.
# Say goodbye to strife
# Groupies gonna tell your wife... #
I don't think he's hampered as a solo artist
by being with the Rolling Stones.
But it's very hard to succeed as anything in show business.
There's thousands of groups looking to make one single,
I mean, it's not an easy business to be in.
# Shake it, baby, shake it
# Shake it, baby, shake it... #
Bernard loves to step out of the shadow, he loves to go and project.
He'll make people feel good.
And I think that's the reward for Bernard.
# Baby, baby Baby, baby... #
If I knew how to make my solo stuff break big enough for me
to go out and perform it all the time, I would.
It's a great dog, but it's still less than two years old,
so it's still a puppy.
Steve Cropper, as ever, prefers to be in the shadows.
And he can afford to,
having written some of the biggest hits of all time.
You can tell, as I haven't hung it yet,
but this is for 10 million plays from BMI.
Still in the package they give it to me.
I've always wanted to just be the band member.
I would never want to be that famous where, 24/7,
somebody's trying to get to you.
And I pride myself on the fact that I, for years,
was able to stay under the radar.
Cos I get to play behind singers that are great and they entertain,
they dance, they do it all.
I'm back there just grooving, having a ball.
And as long as there are great singers,
there are still going to be sidemen.
But the job may change a bit.
My job has changed in the last 30 years.
I'm not doing as much featuring spots,
moving over for a new person to come in now.
And we do that, you know,
to make room for other artists to be featured that are coming in.
So...and that's fine, that's the natural progression.
You're in that one, Crystal.
I'm just loving the place that I'm in.
I think I've just got more seasoned. You know?
That's what I want to call it - "seasoned".
Today, one avenue for us sidies is to revisit our past,
which, to be honest, is a bit of a double-edged sword.
Prince's Revolution have recently reformed to play a few gigs
to celebrate the life of Prince.
The fans will always want it.
They're going to want the Revolution to go out there
because that keeps Prince alive for them, right?
-Is this still in the A?
-To D, A to D.
But how could this not be a slight midlife crisis
and want to sort of get back the taste of your own greatness
from that moment?
But what I believe we're trying to do as a band is to try
and figure out, is there a life to it or is it just that?
I'm not going to be stupid.
If what ends up happening is
a midlife crisis is leading the pack,
if that is what's driving this,
bye, folks, I'm out.
I always hated ending on that D.
Unless we can make it huge, you know, like, wah!
I too have been revisiting my past.
And it has thrown my whole life into perspective.
For me, David Bowie was always there.
Even when he wasn't.
And now, performing his stuff without him is weird.
But there is a healing here
and doing it with a fellow sidie makes me feel OK...
You know, two sidemen from two different camps
coming together to do something, but we're not just bringing
the sideman stuff with us,
we're bringing our own individual vibe and feel.
You've got vocals all around, yes?
I think something really good is going to come out of that mix.
I did not want to try
to emulate David Bowie through a pseudo-Brit Bowieoke dude.
And I got to work with Bernard and we are now best friends
and we'll continue working together because I love the guy to death.
It's good to see y'all, how you doing?
Hang on to it.
My name is Bernard Fowler and I'm happy as fuck to be here.
Let me say hello to my partner in crime. The reason I'm here.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I couldn't think of anybody but him that could really
not only pull it off, like, vocally,
but, you know, has his own stage thing.
And he wasn't going to imitate, you know,
I know that he was just going to be Bernard and that's what I wanted.
# Look at the sky, life's begun
# Nights are warm and the days are young... #
# Maybe if I pray every
# Each night I sit there pleading
# Send back my dream test baby
# She's my main feature... #
# I could be only one in a million
# But I won't let the day pass without her... #
Bernard is magic.
Damn, y'all sound good tonight.
He made them cry, he made them laugh, he made them scream.
# ..They call them the Diamond Dogs... #
The man got right to their gut.
And that ain't easy to do.
# We can be heroes
# Just for one day
# We can be heroes
# Just for one day... #
I mean, some shit happened last night on that stage.
That was my pay cheque.
I'm going home with a smile on my face.
# Just for one day
# Just for one day. #
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I'm working to make money to pay my bills, take care of my children
and eat, just like the rest of you guys do, you know?
But I do have something that the other guy doesn't have -
I've got freedom.
I don't like being told what to do and I like the fact that, you know,
I can just sit out here by this creek sometimes
and just fucking do nothing.
And I'm not sitting in traffic four hours a day
waiting to be 60 years old
and collecting some bullshit pension and a fake gold watch.
Reality TV, Budweiser and popcorn?
Jesus, shoot me!
Film shining a spotlight on the untold story of the sidemen, the musicians behind some of the greatest artists of all time. The sidemen are the forgotten 'guns for hire' that changed musical history. Featuring interviews with Mick Jagger, Billy Joel and Keith Richards, this film takes viewers from the 1960s to today, via global stars such as Prince, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Beyonce.