The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Before there was an Alice Cooper, there was an Arthur Brown. Cooper may have made the genre of shock rock popular, but it was Brown who was one of the pioneers. There were others before Brown, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Screaming Lord Sutch, to name two. But it was Arthur Brown who has been credited by many musicians as the artist that gave them the inspiration.

The CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN
THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN-1968

Arthur Brown is an English singer, who performed elaborate and innovative stage performances, and is considered one of the pioneers of the shock rock genre. It was not enough for Brown to sing his songs, he had to perform them visually, giving the audience a feeling of being involved in the music, giving them something to remember, more than just something to hear, but to see and feel.

Arthur Brown did not have much personal commercial success, however there were some interesting connections that he had with some other famous musicians of the day. Brown’s debut album in 1968, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, was produced by The Who’s manager Kit Lambert, and executive-produced by Pete Townshend, The Who’s legendary guitarist and songwriter.

Brown got himself booted from a tour with Jimi Hendrix, due to his preoccupation with fire, which was an important part of both his stage act, and the regularly recurring theme of his debut album. A mainstay of Brown’s stage performances was his burning helmet, which caused him to be perpetually in harm’s way, not only on his person, but also on the stages and venues in which he performed.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown has a recurring theme of fire and hell, which makes it kind of creepy for me. I remember hearing Brown opening the song Fire by exclaiming “I am the god of hellfire,” and subsequently having the bejesus scared out of me. Of course, as I got older, I recognised this as a means of artistic expression, and a bit of fun, but nonetheless, the theme of darkness and fire and hell permeate throughout parts of the record.

Fire was a big hit back in 1968, reaching number one in The United Kingdom and Canada, and eventually reaching number two in The States and charted in many other countries as well. It sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc.

The song Fire is considered a psychedelic song, but it did not feature that psychedelic guitar sound and it’s lack of bass made it a bit different than many of the other hits during the psychedelic sixties. There was a strong presences of the organ, which is associated with the psychedelic sound. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was Brown’s one and only record during the sixties, with Fire being his only hit and most recognisable song.

When discussing and contemplating the career of Arthur Brown, he is most remembered for his one hit song, and the influential stage performances that he made popular. The influence was far reaching, and as mentioned earlier, many musicians claimed Brown as an artist to emulate, including KISS, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, as well as others. What he lacked in personal success and acclaim, he certainly passed on to others. A good, if not strange record.

Rating: B


6 thoughts on “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

  1. Eric,

    I enjoyed your dissertation on the world of Arthur Brown. I had never heard of him before reading your post so it was cool to be introduced to that realm of music. What are your musical influences in rock? Did you listen to punk band like NOFX, Pennywise, and Blink, or did you go down the Alkaline Trio line of thought, which is darker and more like Arthur Brown? Keep it up. Cool site man.

    1. Hello Bradley, thanks for the comment! I like all kinds of music, but Alice Cooper is one I really like that was influenced by Arthur Brown. I have not heard of Alkaline Trio, so I checked them out on youtube, pretty good stuff! Please visit again, I’ll be posting on more bands!

  2. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article. Well, I don’t like the concept of “fire and hell” but I like other facts like passing on his music to other people. You have mentioned that Brown could not only leave his listeners with something to hear but also to remember. This means that his passion touched many people in different capacities.

    I don’t know much about him but I think the ability to pass on the mantle to other people is a great aspect of life. I wouldn’t feel happy at all if Brown didn’t inspire anyone with his music career. I’m sure he was a mentor to someone.

    Thank you for an informative post.

  3. Hey I remember Arthur Brown back in the sixties I was a kid who had the radio on all of the time. I did not know he had this thing with fire in his shows. That explains why he basically disappeared after his hit “Fire”at least from the radio but I heard that he continued with several more albums after that. I was wondering what happened but during that time it was a lot of bands doing their versions of the psychedelic rock. I guess in the States people were picky about the bands they liked that is why Alice Cooper became so big. Man you brought back some memories with this one. Great job! I hope I’m not showing my age.

    1. Thanks for commenting Ken! Age is only a number my friend, it’s all about how we feel. I think Arthur Brown basically was a one hit wonder on the radio, but he paved the way for many other artists, especially Alice Cooper, Bowie, KISS, and others who used a lot of imagery in their records and concerts. Brown made other records, but the height of his popularity came when he released his debut in 1968, and the hit “Fire.” Please visit again, I’ll be posting about more psychedelic records! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *