Revisiting Paul Rodgers’s Vocal Advice to David Bowie and Mick Jagger

The practical side of rock touring

Paul Rodgers
Paul Rodgers of Free performs on stage at Newcastle City Hall, 1972.
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No matter the genre, musicians learn from one another. Go deep enough into the history of popular music and you’re likely to find examples of this, whether it’s Ken Burns delving into the roots of country music or Dave Grohl chronicling the artists that helped shape the Foo Fighters. Sometimes, influence can be a more general or aesthetic decision; at others, it might relate to a very specific note, chord or technique.

That’s certainly the case when it comes to Paul Rodgers, best known for his work as the vocalist in groups like Bad Company and Free. In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, guitarist Reese Gabrels recalled a technique that Rodgers made use of that found a receptive audience with both David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

Gabrels himself has a long and impressive career in music; he’s currently a member of The Cure, and has played in groups with Rodgers, Bowie and Jagger at various points in his career. It was when he worked with Rodgers that he noticed that the vocalist had a dedicated pre-show routine.

“[B]efore and after the show he gargled with just distilled water and tea tree oil,” Gabrels recalled. “[L]ike 10 little drops of tea tree oil in an eight-ounce glass.”

It had worked out well for Rodgers, and Gabrels went on to tell both Jagger and Bowie about it. For a vocalist, keeping their instrument in shape is critically important; it’s not surprising to learn that anything that can help keep one’s voice preserved over a grueling weeks- or months-long tour is vital information.

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