Brian Anthony Howe (July 22, 1953 – May 6, 2020) was an English rock singer and songwriter, best known for replacing Paul Rodgers as the lead singer of Bad Company.
Brian Howe was born in Portsmouth, England in 1953. He sang with a local band called Shy, then joined White Spirit, replacing singer Bruce Ruff, but the band quickly collapsed, and Brian Howe never recorded an album with them.
In 1983 Howe’s career was jump-started when singer-songwriter, guitarist, and political activist Ted Nugent recruited him to sing lead vocals for his “Penetrator” album and to front its subsequent world tour.
Brian Howe’s first gig in the USA was with Ted Nugent in 1984.
Brian Howe’s contract with Ted Nugent was not very favorable to him and he was said to be working at a vastly reduced rate of around $450 per week. This and not being given any writing credits on songs such as “Tied Up In Love”, ultimately led Brain Howe to leave Nugent and pursue a solo career and album.
In 1986, when Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke decided to regroup for a new project, their record label, Atlantic Records, insisted they continue with the name Bad Company. As Bad Company’s original singer Paul Rodgers was already working with a new supergroup called The Firm, with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, the remaining two members partnered with Brian Howe, who was introduced to them by Mick Jones of Foreigner, as the new lead singer.
Brian Howe’s vocal style brought more of a pop-rock sound to Bad Company, which Atlantic Records, was looking for after declining audiences at previous live performances and the poor sales of “Rough Diamonds”. The band hired Foreigner producer Keith Olsen to produce the new line-up’s initial album, “Fame and Fortune” which was released in 1986. Reflecting the musical style of the mid-1980s, the album had a lot of keyboards, unlike previous Bad Company albums, and was reasonably successful commercially. The single “This Love” managed to reach No. 85 on the UK Singles Chart, but was not the success the band had hoped for.
In 1987, the group decided not to play up the keyboards in their sound as much, and toured supporting Deep Purple.
On the next album, 1988’s “Dangerous Age”, the band got rid of most of the keyboards and returned the band to a guitar-driven sound. “Dangerous Age” did better than “Fame and Fortune”, producing several MTV videos and the hits “No Smoke Without A Fire”, “One Night” and “Shake It Up”. The album went Gold and hit the Top 60.
Bad Company’s next album, “Holy Water” was written mostly by Brian Howe and record producer Terry Thomas and released in June 1990. It was enormously successful both critically and commercially, reaching Top 40 and Platinum status by selling more than one million copies. “Holy Water” gave us the singles “If You Needed Somebody”, the title track “Holy Water” and “Walk Through Fire”. Mick Ralphs sat out most of the “Holy Water” tour, taking care of personal and family matters, although he did play on the album. He was replaced on the tour and in videos by ex-Crawler guitarist Geoffrey Whitehorn, but returned later on during the tour, with Whitehorn going on to join Procol Harum where he still plays to this day. The “Holy Water” tour was one of the top 5 grossing tours of 1991, which saw many other rock acts facing a downturn in concert attendance brought on by the economic recession and rising ticket prices.
The final studio album Brian Howe did with Bad Company was “Here Comes Trouble”, which was released in 1992 and featured the Top 40 hit “How About That” and “This Could Be The One”. The album went Gold, and the band recorded a live album, “What You Hear Is What You Get: The Best of Bad Company”, which featured live versions of hits from both the Rodgers and Howe eras of the band, on the tour.
Brian Howe left Bad Company in 1994, saying “Leaving Bad Company was not a difficult decision. It had got to the point where nobody was contributing anything to songwriting and quite frankly, the band was getting very very sloppy live. I quite simply, along with Terry Thomas, got tired of doing all the work and then getting nothing but resentment for it from Mick and Simon.”
In 1997 Brian Howe released his first solo album “Tangled in Blue”. In late February 2010, his second solo album, “The Circus Bar”, was released and has become, according to one review, “one of the best solo albums of the past 25 years.”
In October 2016, Brian Howe began recording acoustic versions of Bad Company classics, some of Brian’s solo material and other songs for a future album titled “Porch Sessions”.
On June 30, 2017 the first new studio recording from Brian Howe, ‘Hot Tin Roof’, was released worldwide, on his own label, Howe’s Business.
Brian Howe died in Florida of cardiac arrest on May 6, 2020 aged 66. He had a history of heart illnesses including a heart attack in 2017.
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