Arthur Brown - Biography
By Nick Castro
Arthur Brown is one of the most eccentric rock singers to emerge from the psychedelic 60's, first striking it big with the song, "Fire". Brown was born in 1942 in Yorkshire, England. Brown was educated in London, studying philosophy and law. He played in bands in the early days of the London r&b scene. Brown joined a group called the foundations, but just before they got to record their first record, Brown left the group to pursue his own music. He recorded, in 1965, a flexi disc for his college newpaper. One side of the record was credited to Arthur Brown with the Diamonds. This same year found Brown performing his own compositions in the London area clubs. He first began leading his own group, the Southwest Five, who became the Arthur Brown Union and finally, the Arthur Brown Set. Brown found work in Paris at a club called Moulin Rouge, where is band got a residency. It was in the wild artful atmosphere in Paris that Brown first acquired his penchant for flamboyant flair and wild costumes. In these early days he got a reputation for wearing a crown of candles. Brown's early music took him to Spain before returning him back to is home country.
In 1966, Brown got work doing a soundtrack for a Roger Vadim film and came close to releasing a solo record, but instead his career took a sharp turn south and Brown was forced to find menial work to support himself. Brown continued to perform in and around London until one day, Joe Boyd, legendary producer, spotted Brown playing and was impressed by his classically trained piano playing. Boyd gave Brown and the group a job playing at his UFO club. Brown began to incorporate fire into his stage show and soon was creating fear amongst the concert promoters.
Just when it seemed that Boyd was going to sign the group to his Witchseason Productions, Pete Townshend hired Brown and his band to record some demos at his home, which would later be released on the soundtrack for the film The Committee. Townshend convinced his managers to sign Brown and his band to Track Records, which they did, and released the album The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968 - Track). The album became an instant hit, both in Europe and in The United States. The Song, "Fire", with it's opening line, "I am the god of hellfire", which has become one of the most famous lines in rock history. Townshend produced the album, which is hailed as a milestone of psychedelic rock. The album does an amazing job of containing the sounds of Browns wild stage shows and antics, like the time he lit himself on fire, only to be saved by fans who dowsed him in beer. Although Track backed Brown with lots of promotion and press, their relationship was strained when the band, who had by this time sold lots of copies of the first record, were not making any money from royalties. Once the group began to get television appearances, Brown had perfected his stage routine, which resembled complete angry mayhem, and the band were wearing grim reaper outfits. Misfortune struck the group though, when two of Brown's friends sued him over the song, "Fire". They claimed the song was very similar to their own song called "Girl" and eventually they settled for co-writing credit on all future issue of records with the song. Brown was, by this time, getting many requests to perform at festivals and open for famous groups, like Jimi Hendrix. Once again though, Brown's career suffered from bad luck when his label rush released some singles that sold poorly resulting in poor attendance at the festivals, which led to a stigma attached to the band. No one wanted to book them any longer. Soon Brown's band disintegrated and some of the group's disparate elements left to form the band Atomic Rooster.
In 1971, Brown released his second record, Galactic Zoo Dossier (1971 - Polydor), with his new band, Kingdom Come, which was a huge masterpiece of theatrical prog rock. The band, driven by the organ playing of Michael Harris. Although the album was not a it upon its release, it has become iconic in record collector circles, and even has a psychedelic magazine named after it. Kingdom Come followed this album with their self titled Kingdom Come (1972 - Polydor). This album is the most accessible of the three they released. The album, like other Brown recording, gives a sense of art montage of prog rock recordings. Their third release, The Journey (1973 - Polydor), continued the art prog mania and is also famous for being the first rock album to feature the use of a drum machine. The album is also awash in synthesizer and mellotron among reverb and echo laden voiced and organ runs.
In 1975, Brown shocked what was left of his fan base when he made an about face in style and released the album Dance (1975 - Gulp). The album pursued a more pop format and even included a cover version of the Animal's song, "We've Got to Get Out of This Place". The album also featured the Jamaican group Toots and the Maytals on the song "Soul Garden" and Brown makes an attempt at a dance record that incorporated rhythms from around the world.
Brown has continued to release albums, including his newest, The Voice of Love (2006 - Zoho Roots), which harkens back to the sounds of 70's singer/songwriters as much as it does any of Brown's previous works. Brown has also made recent appearances with Hawkwind, who he has been acquainted with since their collaboration on the 1973 album Captain Lockheed and The Starfighters (1974 - United Artists), which was a solo album by Hawkwind singer, Robert Calvert. Also on the album are Brian Eno and the Pink Fairies.
brown has also had a resurgence of excitement from the music industry, beginning in the 90's. He also tried to mimic man of his old antics and again they went awry when Brown lit fire to his hair, and when attempting to help Brown, bandmate Phil Rhodes caught fire as well. Neither member was hurt badly, though, Brown completed the show with missing chunks of hair.