- World Of Music - Rock biografije
A British war baby - Arthur's birth and first moments were
a mercurial foretaste of a life to come - born literally as the German bombs
were falling on the quiet English seaside town of Whitby. Arthur's mother was
terrified by the sound of the sirens.
Moments after his birth, as the keening whine of the sirens was heard by his
exhausted mother, she literally threw herself from the high old hospital bed,
clutching her new baby and rolled underneath for protection. Fifteen minutes
later the doctor, looking in on his rounds, pulled the frightened mother from
the floor - "Don't worry, Mrs. Brown, it was only the army diesel taxis
parking in the garages outside". Arthur's mother was distraught, but the
doctor cut her short - "Thank God you did believe there was a raid, the
fall from the bed has dislodged the placenta which must have been stuck in
your womb, if it hadn't been removed you could have been dead by morning -
your son has saved your life!"
Within a year the young Mr. B. "had risen from the dead" - in yet
another major air raid the entire Wilton (his mother's maiden name) family
had taken refuge in the basement of the family hotel high on the cliffs above
the town - in a spate of extreme bombardment the whole building was razed to
the ground. The local paper carried a headline the next day - "Entire
Wilton Family Lost in German Air Raid" - two hours after the paper hit
the street Arthur's grandfather dug his way out and walked into town. Was Arthur's
infant resurrection a foretaste of things to come?
School and early years were constantly upset by the war and the ensuing insecurity.
The only interlude of note being the short poem written by the young Arthur
- "Fire Poem" which eventually became the first track on his famous "Fire" album.
His father had a string of jobs and the family moved around a lot, eventually
settling in Leeds after a spell in Cardiff. The young Arthur was a good student,
eventually securing a university place where he elected to study law. Kings
College London held fascinations and mysteries for any young man, but for the
unusual and unconventional, it was a haven. Arthur was spiritually absolutely
at home. Clearly with term grades showing an average of 5% (some 55% short
of the required mark) something was causing a distraction - Arthur had discovered
The Chelsea Set, Bohemian London and Jazz. The Law was no longer a major influence
- and Arthur was OUT. No problem - by the following year he had a place at
Reading University to study philosophy and follow his true calling, music.
At Reading Arthur was asked to make a demo "flexi-disc" with a local
band, the exotically named "Black Diamonds" - Why not? So he duly
appeared at Marquee Studios and was produced by The Yardbirds' Paul Samwell-Smith.
Predictably nothing happened with the recording. A few weeks later he was approached
by his first real band - a fledgling Mod (well ahead of their time in 1964!)
outfit from Fulham called SW5.
Within a few weeks they were "The Arthur Brown Union", resident
at the attractively named "Plughole Club" in London's Tottenham Court
Road, where they caught the eye of a visiting record company executive from
The US division of Polydor Records - Clair Francis. She dragged them into various
studios to make an album of Soul and R&B standards. Time passed and Polydor
decided not to release the record - setting a pattern with Polydor which exists
to this day!
Shortly after a telegram from the "Union" informed
Arthur that he was sacked. Despairing of his career, Arthur set about the music
in London armed only with the now ancient "Black Diamonds" flexi-disc
- no takers. Drowning his sorrows in the famous "Kilt" discotheque
before returning to college Arthur felt a hand on his arm - "Arthur, how
would you like to start a Rock Empire in Paris, old boy?" These words,
spoken by Philip Woods, the man who had just recorded the "Moody Blues" No
1 hit and who, co-incidentally had been the engineer on the fabled "Diamonds" flexi-disc
- were all that Arthur needed. Ten days later he was on the ferry to France
- before that week was out he was the toast of Paris.
1965/1966 - During his first week in Paris Arthur was featured on French National
TV and the club where he worked became, overnight, the epicentre of the French
music scene. His stage act was the wildest and most excessive ever seen, even
in the exotic setting of the Parisian night life. His music, romances and excesses
were the stuff of legend and he was the darling of the city. Within a few weeks
he was spotted by The Baronesse de Lichy, Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda, President
George Pompidou. And he played for the President, provided the music for a
cult Vadim film with Jane Fonda - "La Curee" and was feted by all
Paris society. This explosion of activity was short-lived - the English Music
Scene was alerted and arrived in Paris only to find Arthur gone. His success
had upset the local Mafia, whose strip and sex clubs had been eclipsed by the
mass of youth flocking to his Montmartre Kingdom, and Arthur had been unceremoniously
removed to a rival club in the North of the city. The club's owner was a beautiful
and amorous recently-widowed mob wife whose exploits were dark and various.
During the next few months Arthur was moved from club to club and from country
to country, generally one step ahead of the law, the police and the music business.
Eventually when he was finally tracked down, his last gig had been burned to
the ground by the band (who were by now unpaid for a year) and the mysterious
patroness had been extradited by the Paris Police to answer charges of white
slavery and drug running. During the short year since leaving England Arthur
had been the single most successful Rock Artist in France, had incited the
beginnings of the Paris Student Riot scene, had performed for the students
- shoulder to shoulder with the aristocracy - and had become embroiled in very
heavy and dangerous high-level international crime and intrigue. His drinking
was legendary throughout the city although his drug intake was still under
control. Quite an interesting year.
Back to England in 1966 and Arthur is ensconced in a Bohemian flat in Kensington
- Vincent Crane is rehearsing upstairs and the embryonic "Crazy World
of Arthur Brown" is born. After advertising for a drummer they meet
Drachen Theaker who is returning from being too late for an audition with
Jimi Hendrix. Mitch Mitchell gets the Hendrix gig and Drachen joins Arthur.
The band start gigging as "The Crazy World" with Arthur developing
his excessive and groundbreaking stage act on the basis of the insane antics
of his Paris persona. The act becomes so extreme that gigs are hard to find
- but after being seen at the Rock "watering hole" The Speakeasy
by Hendrix and Jagger, a cult following develops. Gigs at Joe Boyd's psychedelic
lynchpin - The UFO Club - follow and Arthur develops his "Hippy Anthem" "Give
Him A Flower". By the start of 1967 "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" is
the underground focus of the psychedelic movement and the frontrunner in the
newly developing Progressive Rock movement. Arthur is courted daily by the
movers and shakers of the new Rock and Roll movement - Bryan Morrison (manager
of The Pink Floyd and the newly psychedelic "Pretty Things"), Robert
Stigwood, and Chas Chandler (Jimi Hendrix manager). The Beatles and The Stones
are fans, Pete Townshend gives Arthur use of his Soho flat. Everyone wants
to sign Arthur as a solo artist, but he won't leave the band.
Early in 1967 the notorious managers of The Who - Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp
(brother of actor Terence) who also own Track Records, the home of Jimi Hendrix
- sign Arthur to a management, agency and recording deal backed by Dutch giant,
Polydor Records. In '67 the first record - "Devil's Grip" is released,
but flops after a bizarre vinyl shortage at the Polydor factory. Undeterred,
Lambert and Stamp send Arthur on his first US tour and by May Arthur is playing
with The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Frank Zappa. The tour is a huge success
and a European tour follows. Upon their return they are ensconced in the cream
of London's Independent Studios recording the first album. During this period
Lambert is very, very "out of it" and the band contact Cream and
Bee Goes impresario, Robert Stigwood for help. Stigwood mounts a manoeuvre
to get involved with the band and the recording, but a paranoid Lambert rebuffs
the proposed involvement and Arthur is soon back in the bosom of Lambert & Stamp
alone. By Christmas, after some orchestration is added (without the band's
knowlege) the album is finished - Lambert is exhausted, his two week mixing
session unheard of at that time. The project gives all concerned a different
perspective - Lambert is quoted in The Times saying "(with Arthur) what
we wanted was a hip Elvis Presley - what we got was a Pop Lenny Bruce".
Early in 1968 the band are back in the USA where they have now achieved legendary
status with public and their peers alike. One week into the tour the band hear
the album for the first time, complete with the orchestration - they freak
out! But within weeks the single "Fire" is No. 1 in the UK and the
USA and throughout most of Europe. The album is Top Ten all over the world.
The tour becomes even more massive and the promise is "champagne all the
way" - the reality is a little different, the band get no money for their
work and have to this day never received a penny in royalties for the record!
Nevertheless, they complete the tour with the cream of 68's US rock supporting
them - Janis, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Zappa, and expatriate Brits, Ten
Years After, and Ginger Baker.
By summer the pressure is beginning to take its toll. Drummer
Drachen Theaker is getting more and more out of hand and organist Vincent
Crane's history of
mental problems have re-asserted themselves. Drachen is sacked and Vincent
is sectioned. Before Vincent is "sent away", Jimi Hendrix contacts
Arthur with a view to forming a new band (it would eventually become "Band
of Gypsies") incorporating Arthur on vocals, Vincent on keyboards, Jimi,
Mitch Mitchell and an unknown bass player. It doesn't happen as a result of
Arthur's commitments and Vincent's failing health - we'll never know what that
band could have sounded like... what a loss. Anyway it didn't happen, and ultimately
Vincent was too ill to continue at all...
So now Arthur is stranded in Midtown USA with no band, no money and a pair
of "missing" managers; oh, and a worldwide No. 1 album and single.
He is penniless and is forced to borrow money from fabled New York Times jazz
critic Ralph Gleason and promoter Bill Graham to return home. At this stage
the album and single have probably sold in excess of 5 million units in the
previous three months. By now his totally uninhibited live appearances and
screaming vocal style have begun to influence a generation of early 1970's
rock musicians. Arthur is the source of the principal inspiration for the "First
Wave" of Heavy Metal rockers - Sabbath, Widow, Purple, etc - all documented
as regarding Arthur as their fundamental influence - Oh God Arthur, what have
you done now?
Back in England an uneasy truce is made with a penitent Lambert and Stamp.
Carl Palmer is drafted in to replace Theaker and shortly Crane is able to return
to his duties after a "cure". After a short rehearsal the new line-up
is out for US tour No. 3. The tour is arduous - dates everywhere and again
alongside the cream of the rock world, the Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Premier
Cast of Hair, etc. etc. The gruelling schedule, the erratic behaviour of Lambert
and Stamp and the failure of anyone to pay him has irretrievably dented Arthur's
confidence. He wants out of the management deal, so the band informally leave
their managers and look for new representation. The schedule and their own
internal demons conspire to confound them however, and by the autumn both Crane
and Palmer have left and returned to the UK to form their own band - "Atomic
Rooster". Arthur finishes the US tour alone and returns to the UK to work
with the wayward Drachen on a new album in Puddletown deep in Dorset. A tour
of France follows with the mercurial Giorgio Gomelsky attempting to manage
The tour is predictably stricken with unwanted notoriety. As a result of Arthur
removing all of his clothes in a gesture of solidarity with the Parisian Student
Revolt, the French Communist Party (who have unwisely sponsored the tour) lose
valuable seats in the French House of Representation. The band retreat in haste
to the UK - Gomelsky (an expatriate communist Russian Jew) disappears totally
and the "Puddletown" album is shelved as a result of mounting pressure
from Lambert and Stamp. The situation is intolerable, so eventually, on one-sided
and incredibly onerous terms, the unrepresented Arthur signs a document which
releases him from the deal with Lambert and Stamp (unbeknownst to Arthur they
continue to get all the money from the "Fire" album and chunks of
his publishing income to this day!).
In 1971 Polydor Records in Germany want to sign Arthur to a new deal and thus
a new band - "Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come" is born. Three highly
challenging and inventive albums are recorded by Kingdom Come - chronologically "Galactic
Zoo Dossier", "Kingdom Come", and "Journey". The band
tour endlessly with a wild act incorporating electronics, rock, synthesisers
and predominantly, theatrics supporting even Duke Ellington on one bizarre
night. Their influence gives inspiration to artists as diverse as Alice Cooper
and Genesis. They are the first band ever to use the drum machine as a live
and recorded instrument, pre-dating dance and sequence music by 15 years. Way
ahead of their time, by late 1973, Kingdom Come is dead.
Throughout 1974 - Arthur, always a seeker of the truth, chooses meditation
and spiritual enlightenment as a path, guided by The Gurdjieff Way. He moves
away from London and music and lives simply in the heart of rural Gloucestershire
with others following "the way" alongside neighbour Stevie Winwood
and many disillusioned rock stars and celebrities. He weakens only once, encouraged
by Laurence Olivier's chauffeur to pop out for a non-spiritual "quick
fag" and do the film of "Tommy" with Ken Russel, Eric Clapton,
The Who, Tina Turner, Elton John and Oliver Reed.
After his year's spiritual sabbatical, Arthur returns refreshed to London
and makes a deal with David Howells of Gull Records (Howells incidentally became
the man responsible for the PWL/Kylie Soap Pop explosion of the 1980's - bizarre!).
Arthur records a new album for Gull - "Dance - With Arthur Brown".
This is a hugely acclaimed record critically, but Gull's resources are less
than ample and the record is not a huge success. During the same year however,
Arthur records "The Telltale Heart" for The Alan Parsons Project
and the record is a multi-million selling epic worldwide. During this period
Arthur, as eclectic as ever, works on separate projects with Robert Calvert
of Hawkwind ("Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters" album) and tame
lunatic Vivian Stanshall (a marriage made in heaven). Although Arthur has no
management or agency, Gull have placed the album with Tamla Motown in the USA.
The album and single get great radio airplay, requiring Arthur to go to the
US and tour, the record enters the National Radio Playlist Chart and just as
it looks as though Arthur is to get a bizarre US R&B crossover hit - Gull
pull all of their acts off Tamla Motown after a dispute. The album disappears
and Arthur goes to Israel to play on the frontline for wounded troops. This
leads, via his established spiritual path, to discovering a talent for musical
spiritual healing. Alongside his musical career he develops this and continues
to this day.
In 1976 Arthur marries and has a son. Whilst living in a Sufi establishment
in Scotland he compiles a second album for Gull - "The Lost Ears" a
compilation of the "Kingdom Come" and unreleased "Puddletown
Express" material. Having established his domestic position, Arthur is
recording again in 1977 - a new album "Chisolm In My Bosom" is released.
The album is 50% arranged songs and 50% totally live improvisation - not unsurprisingly,
it bombs in a big way. Disappointed, Arthur moves into a hut (!) in Bermondsey
(all he can afford) and by the summer has moved on again, this time to Burundi
in Africa, where he becomes a teacher of music and history.
You can't keep a good man down... In 1978 Arthur returns to Europe to work
with pioneering German synthesiser and electronics giant Klaus Schultz. They
record three massively successful European albums - "Dune", "Dyemagic" and "Live" -
and tour extensively over 40 days throughout the huge arenas of Western Europe.
These albums and the tour receive huge critical acclaim and give rise to German
hit records. Arthur is now a fully established mainstay of the European electronic
music scene - predating the huge British electro-pop explosion of "The
Human League" "Depeche Mode" and Gary Numan by years.
With this acclaim secured, Arthur predictably decides upon a full 180° change
of direction and returns to the UK to record a new album with his erstwhile
colleague, Vincent Crane. The album, "Faster Than The Speed of Light",
is the best kept secret of the decade and sinks without trace.
Even Arthur has had enough by now and decides to move to the US with his American
wife. The start of the 1980's sees Arthur living in Austin, Texas and taking
care of family matters. Not long after establishing home in Austin, contact
is made with Peter Gabriel and discussions are afoot for Arthur to record a
new album at his Real World studios using his (Gabriel's) band. Eventually
Arthur declines - smart move, Arthur, as shortly after Gabriel has his biggest
solo hit - "Sledgehammer". As a footnote to this, it is interesting
to learn that a few years before, when Arthur had just returned from Africa,
he was approached by Peter Gabriel who was showing interest in African and "world" music.
Arthur suggests that Gabriel visited Africa and in due course went to Senegal
where he connected with Youssou n'Dour and the rest, as they say, is history.
During 1981 Arthur records an album with "Blondie" producer Craig
Leon, who was involved in the aborted Gabriel project. The album "Speak
No Tech" is reviewed in glowing terms throughout the USA, but is on a
tiny record label and, frankly, Arthur's interest is almost academic by this
time. The following year Arthur records another album, "Requiem",
for small Texas label Republic Records. This album isn't really released, it
just escapes and even now, very few people know of its existence. This doesn't
worry Arthur who by now is ensconced in his multi-path way of life and is concerned
with quality, not quantity. His family and private life are really the focus
for Arthur at this time and he is happy in his sphere of influence with friends
and associates centred around the enlightened "spiritual capital"of
Texas that Austin represents.
During the mid 1980s Arthur forms a lunatic "ragbag" Texas-based "Crazy
World of Arthur Brown". He is coincidentally running a successful house
painting and decoration company with Jimmy Carl Black, the foul-mouthed but
well-meaning "Mothers of Invention" drummer. In a moment off work
they record a crazed Texas psycho R&B album together - "Brown, Black
and Blue" - as usual the reviews are great and the sales are shit. No
problem, let's paint another house...
Late in the 1980's Arthur is back in school to study for his Masters Degree
in Counselling. He graduates in 1988 and immediately heads for Mexico for further
esoteric education with a desert Shamen, where he learns yet further methods
of healing with music.
The start of the following year is blighted by the sad news of the death of
his old friend and most productive musical partner, Vincent Crane, who has
taken his own life on the 14th February in that year. Vincent's life was blighted
by mental illness and personal demons and he is sorely missed by his loving
wife Jean. Arthur flies back to the UK and sings at Vincent's funeral. It is
a sad affair and one of "The Crazy World" is now gone.
Life goes on in Texas and in 1991 Arthur is admitted into The Church of Universal
Life as a fully fledged Minister. This sounds pretty impressive, but when you
learn that other "ministers" include Cary Grant and James Mason,
I think you'll begin to get the picture. Nevertheless, should you wish it,
you can be legally married, christened or buried by our hero. A contemporary
headline in the National US magazine "People" reads
- "from God of Hellfire to Singing Shrink"...
Life is getting a little complex by now, Arthur's marriage is rocky and mainstream "ordinary" life
is taking its toll on the pleasantly "unconventional" Arthur. This
year has another shock for Arthur - his remaining partner in "The Crazy
World", Drachen Theaker, dies suddenly of a brain tumour. Dracken was
always a little shaky health-wise (having been born with two sets of ears)
but his death is sad and leaves Arthur alone as the only remaining member of
the band. And then there was one. Eventually 1992 is redeemed by a Christmas
album of Austin artists with Willy Nelson - another well-kept secret but a
lighter end to the year.
In 1993 Arthur takes a big step and decides to tour the UK with his US band
- his first UK visit for many years. The tour is a huge success, but his long-standing
marriage breaks up upon his return. More focussed, Arthur returns in 1994 to
really attack the European market. Things are going well until during the high
point of the act he hits the high scream in "Fire" and passes out.
He has suffered a massive brain haemmorage and is lucky to be alive; he has
to take 6 months convalescense in a UK hospital. Given the fate of his two
original partners in "The Crazy World" perhaps this should have been
the end for Arthur, but somehow he is restored to (pretty much) full health
and returns to Texas in 1995 to "settle his affairs". Nevertheless,
it proves a cathartic experience.
In June of the same year, Arthur is asked to perform at the White Nights Festival
in St. Petersburg in Russia before some 300,000 people. The Festival is televised
live to more than 10 million people throughout all of the Russias. Arthur's
performance, entirely unaccompanied, is the spiritual and artistic high point
of the show leading to impassioned reviews from the Russian press. Other performers,
Joe Cocker, Terence Trent D'Arby and Sheryl Crow are hardly mentioned. There
is something kindred to the passionate and imprisoned Russian spirit which
is clearly visible in Arthur's music and presentation. He returns home a hero
in Russia, where his name is still the stuff of legends. Later that same year
he undertakes a "low-key" UK tour in order to test his health and
stamina in a full touring environment. He is seen by well-known manager Ian
Grant (Big Country/The Stranglers/The Cult) who persuades him to return to
the UK full time.
Arthur returns in 1996 to re-launch his career and to see justice done in
respect of his years of missing royalties from the "Fire" recordings
and album. Although things don't work out with Ian, Arthur issues a massive
lawsuit against Polydor Records for the unpaid millions and losses and damages.
The case continues to this day. It is reported in the Financial Times, Punch
and The News of the World. After his false start (including a bizarre re-recording
of "Fire" with "The Stranglers", produced by Alan Parsons,
which was never released) he is rehearsing and prepares a new act to return
to the major spotlight in 1998.
On Sunday September 6th 1998 at Abbey Road Studios, Arthur takes the role
of Narrator in the first ever world-wide Live Internet Global Broadcast of
the milestone psychedelic album "S.F. Sorrow" by "The Pretty
Things". Performing alongside "The Pretty Things" and Dave Gilmour
of "The Pink Floyd", Arthur's contribution as the Narrator is astonishing
and re-establishes him overnight within the UK industry.
Now, it looks as though we may finally see Arthur Brown fulfill
the immense potential that he has been displaying since that first explosion
sexuality and charisma that captivated Paris more than thirty years ago. Ladies
and gentlemen, you are lucky to be witness to the Second Coming of the First
Child of The Revolution.
Crazy World Of
Arthur Brown - Fire
I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you
Fire, I'll take you to burn
Fire, I'll take you to learn
I'll see you burn
You fought hard and you saved and earned
But all of it's going to burn
And your mind, your tiny mind
You know you've really been so blind
Now 's your time, burn your mind
You're falling far too far behind
Oh no, oh no, oh no, you're gonna burn
Fire, to destroy all you've done
Fire, to end all you've become
I'll feel you burn
You've been living like a little girl
In the middle of your little world
And your mind, your tiny mind
You know you've really been so blind
Now 's your time, burn your mind
You're falling far too far behind
Fire, I'll take you to burn
Fire, I'll take you to learn
You're gonna burn, you're gonna burn
You're gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, burn
Fire, I'll take you to burn
Fire, I'll take you to learn
Fire, I'll take you to bed