The end of the year is a time for looking back. Today I’m going back 50 years, almost to the dawn of the Crotchety Man era. It’s 1968, a time when experimentation in pop music was the order of the day and a slew of highly original acts flourished. One of the most flamboyant of those bands was The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Arthur Wilton Brown was born in Whitby, England on 24th June 1942. That makes him 76 years old now. He is still performing Fire, the song that made him famous in ’68, along with much of the theatricals that you can see in this YouTube video. In fact, his band has two gigs scheduled for January 2019, in Los Angeles, CA and Portland, OR. As far as I know he has no plans to retire just yet.
Fire took the charts by storm when it was released as a single, hitting the number 1 slot in the UK, number 2 in the U.S. and reaching the top ten across much of Europe. Of course it helps if you can grab the public’s attention with striking visual imagery – by painting your body and wearing a flaming headdress, for example – but Fire deserved the recognition it received on the strength of the music alone.
The single also appeared on the band’s eponymous debut album, which fairly sizzles with good tracks. The first side of the album has five tracks on the theme of Hell in which Vincent Crane’s Hammond organ stokes the flames below while the listener turns slowly on the roasting spit, impaled on the Devil’s pitchfork. Another five tracks on the second side take us on a bizarre journey through the underworld from the surreal Spontaneous Apple Creation to the gentle reassurance of Child of my Kingdom.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown is an oft underrated album in my opinion and it’s high time it featured on this blog. 50 years old it may be but it can teach the younger generation a thing or two about making good pop/rock music.