Pete Brown - Biography
By J Poet
Pete Brown was one of England’s best know beat poets, when Jack Bruce asked him to help write lyrics for his new band, Cream. He contributed words to many of Cream’s best know songs including “I Feel Free,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Politician.” His success with Cream led him to start his own band, Pete Brown And His Battered Ornaments, in an effort to continue combining poetry with rock, jazz and blues. The band kicked Brown while they were cutting their second album, and he put together Piblokto! a progressive rock band. Brown was still performing regularly around Britain with various bands and as a poet in 2008, but he records infrequently. In 2007 he received a BMI Million-Airs award for two million plays of “White Room” over American radio.
Pete Brown had his first poem published by the Evergreen Revue in 1954 when he was just 14. By 1960, he was one of the few poets in Britain able to make his living by reading his poetry live. His first long time collaboration was with Mike Horovitz’s New Departures Group (1960 - 65), reading poetry to the band’s jazzy improvisations. He took part in the Albert Hall poetry readings of 1965 and 1966 representing England’s beats alongside William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Robert Graves; Brown then toured Britain reading with Ginsberg and Robert Creely.
In 1965 his friend bass player Jack Bruce asked him to write lyrics for songs he was composing for his new band, Cream. He contributed to many Cream hits, most notably “I Feel Free,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room” and “Politician.” Brown performed with The First Real Poetry Band, including guitarist John McLaughlin in 1967 then started writing songs with Graham Bond for his band, The Graham Bond Organisation. He was the band’s lead singer briefly, then started his own group, The Battered Ornaments. Musically A Meal You Can Shake Hands with in the Dark (1969 Harvest UK) veered from jazz/blues/rock to Middle Eastern tonalities. Brown’s vocals are gruff, but he delivers his witty wordplay masterfully. The Battered Ornaments kicked Brown out of the band while they were cutting their second album. His next effort was Piblokto!, a progressive rock band that cut two albums - Things May Come and Things May Go But the Art School Dance Goes on Forever (1970 Harvest UK) and Thousands on a Raft (1970 Harvest) before disbanding. He made a one off album with Graham Bond, Two Heads Are Better Than One (1972 Deram UK) and then went back to the poetry circuit.
During that time Brown also wrote lyrics for two of Jack Bruce’s solo albums, Songs for a Tailor (1969 Atco) and Harmony Row (1971 Atco). He continued collaborating with Bruce over the years contributing lyrics to Out Of The Storm (1974 RSO), I’ve Always Wanted To Do This (1980 Epic), A Question Of Time (1990 Epic), Monkjack (1995 Locomotive GT) and More Jack Than God (2003 Sanctuary).
In 1983 Brown returned to music with sporadic recordings that include Party in the Rain (1983 Discs International, 1999 Mystic UK) a collaboration with keyboard player Ian Lynn. In the 90s he started a new band called Interoceters and his own Interoceter label and released Ardours of the Lost Rake (1991 Interoceter, 2003 Voiceprint). He also reunited with Piblokto! piano man Phil Ryan for The Land That Cream Forgot (1996 Viceroy Vintage) and Coals to Jerusalem (2003 Blueprint). Peter Brown and The Interoceters Live (2004 Mystic) includes tunes from throughout his career, while Living Life Backwards (2006 EMI) is a more straightforward retrospective of his studio work over the years. A new LP with Phil Ryan was released in 2010, entitled Road Of Cobras.