|Birth name||Arthur Wilton Brown|
|Also known as||The God of Hellfire|
|Born||24 June 1942|
Whitby, North Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
|Associated acts||Kingdom Come, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Instant Flight, Hawkwind, The Alan Parsons Project|
Arthur Wilton Brown (born 24 June 1942)is an English singer-songwriter best known for his flamboyant and theatrical performances, eclectic (and sometimes experimental) work and his powerful, wide-ranging operatic voice, in particular his high pitched banshee screams. He was also notable for his unique stage persona such as extreme facepaint and burning helmet.
Brown has been lead singer of various groups, most notably the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Kingdom Come, followed by a varied solo career as well as associations with Hawkwind, the Who and Klaus Schulze. In the late 1960s, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's popularity was such that the group shared bills with the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Mothers of Invention, the Doors, the Small Faces, and Joe Cocker, among others.
He is best known for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's 1968 single "Fire", reaching number one in the UK Singles Chart and Canada, and number two on the US Billboard Hot 100as well as its parent album The Crazy World of Arthur Brown which reached number 2 in the UK and number 7 in the US. Following the success of the single "Fire", the press would often refer to Brown as "The God of Hellfire", in reference to the opening shouted line of the song, a moniker that exists to this day.
Although Brown has had limited commercial success and has never released another recording as commercially successful as "Fire", he has remained a significant influence on a wide range of musicians in numerous genres due to his operatic vocal style, wild stage persona, and often experimental concepts; he is considered to be a pioneer of shock rock and progressive rock and has had an influence on both electronic and heavy metal music. In 2005, Brown won the 'Showman of the Year' award from Classic Rock magazine, with Brown receiving the award at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards ceremony held in London's Café de Paris.
Brown was born in Whitby where his parents ran a guest house. After attending Roundhay Grammar School in Leeds, Yorkshire, Brown attended the University of London and the University of Readingand studied philosophy and law, but he gravitated to music instead, forming his first band, Blues and Brown, while at Reading. After a spell fronting a number of bands in London, Brown then moved to Paris in 1966, where he worked on his theatrical skills. During this period he recorded two songs for the Roger Vadim film of the Émile Zola novel La Curée . Returning to London around the turn of 1966 to 1967, he was a temporary member of a London-based R&B/soul/ska group the Ramong Sound that would soon become the hit-making soul group the Foundations.
By the time the Foundations had been signed to Pye Records, Brown had left the group to form his own band, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.The band included Vincent Crane (Hammond organ and piano), Drachen Theaker (drums), and Nick Greenwood (bass). Brown quickly earned a reputation for outlandish performances, which included the use of a burning metal helmet, that led to occasional mishaps, such as during an early appearance at the Windsor Festival in 1967, where he wore a colander on his head soaked in methanol. The fuel poured over his head by accident caught fire; a bystander doused the flames by pouring beer on Brown's head, preventing any serious injury. The flaming head then became an Arthur Brown signature. On occasion he also stripped naked while performing, most notably at the Palermo Pop 70 Festival in Sicily, Italy, July 1970, where he was arrested and deported. He was also notable for the extreme make-up he wore onstage, which would later be reflected in the stage acts of Alice Cooper and Kiss. He was also famed for his powerful operatic voice and his high pitched screams.
By 1968, the debut album, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Produced by the Who's manager Kit Lambert, and executive-produced by Pete Townshend on Track Records, the label begun by Lambert and Chris Stamp, it spun off an equally surprising hit single, "Fire", and contained a version of "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, a similarly bizarre showman. "Fire" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.The song has since seen its opening line "I am the God of Hellfire" sampled in numerous other places, most notably in the Prodigy's 1992 rave anthem "Fire". The band recorded a second album, titled Strangelands, intended for release in 1969 but shelved by their label over concerns that it lacked sales potential. The album featured a more experimental and avant-garde sound that shed the pop sensibilities of the Crazy World's debut. Strangelands was not issued until 1988. Theaker was replaced because of his aviophobia in 1968 by drummer Carl Palmer, later of Atomic Rooster and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, for the band's second American tour in 1969, on which keyboardist Vincent Crane also left – although he soon returned. However, Crane and Palmer eventually left in June 1969 to form Atomic Rooster, spelling the end for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Though Brown never released another recording as commercially successful as "Fire", he worked with a varied group of musicians on projects called Strangelands, Puddletown Express, and (briefly) the Captain Beefheart-influenced Rustic Hinge, before releasing three albums with his new band Kingdom Come in the early 1970s.
The three Kingdom Come albums each have a distinctive character. The first, Galactic Zoo Dossier, was a highly complex concept album apparently on the theme of humanity living in a zoo and being controlled by cosmic, religious and commercial forces. The second, simply titled Kingdom Come, was loosely on the theme of water, which Brown had declared four years earlier would be the subject of the second album by the Crazy World. It was musically more conventional than the first, much less heavy, though stranger in places. The third album, Journey (1973), recorded in Rockfield Studios in Wales, was a space rock album, with Brown playing an early drum machine and thereby replacing a series of drummers. The band also recorded three of its songs in a live Peel Session for the John Peel BBC Radio 1 show on 25 September 1972.Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said that the album has been "most noted in retrospect as one of the first rock records to use a drum machine, which was still quite a novelty back in 1973." This was especially noteworthy on the track "Time Captives". Brown recalled "the whole album is based around the drum machine, and we had a lot of ideas that we wanted to explore using this technology. The drum machine they used was the Bentley Rhythm Ace, the British version of the Ace Tone Rhythm Ace FR-1.
Overlooked upon release, Journey has received generally positive retrospective reviews from critics. Alan Holmes of Freq said that "Journey was so far ahead of its time that you have to keep checking the sleeve to make sure that it really does say 1973 and not 1983" and that the album was "not only Arthur Brown’s masterpiece, but also one of the truly great albums of the seventies."
The stage acts for all three albums featured a wild mix of special effects, dramatic costumes and colourful theatrics, which were sometimes controversial. Brown had declared when Kingdom Come was formed that the intention was to create a multi-media experience and the band always followed that policy. The concepts, the music and the theatrics proved very popular on the university circuit but proved too way-out for a mainstream audience. The band appeared at the 1971 Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England and featured in the Glastonbury Fayre film which was shown in cinemas.
In later years, Brown released several solo albums. In 1973, he was one of the performers on Robert Calvert's album Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters , together with a number of other Hawkwind members.In 1975, he appeared in the Who's rock opera movie Tommy as "The Priest". Later that year he contributed vocals to the song "The Tell-Tale Heart" on the Poe-based concept album Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project. In 1979 and 1980, he collaborated with German electronic musician Klaus Schulze, and can be heard on the albums Dune , ...Live... and Time Actor . Also, In 1979 he moved to Africa and lived there for six months. He directed the Burundi National Orchestra, a nine-piece rock group that played Jimi Hendrix songs and local music.
In the 1980s, Brown moved to Austin, Texas, where his wife came from, and obtained a master's degree in counselling.On 17 January 1987, Brown performed "Fire" on the "Flashback" segment of the television programme Solid Gold . Together with former Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black, he also became a painter and carpenter for some years, and released an album with him, Brown, Black & Blue (1988). In 1992, Brown and fellow counsellor Jim Maxwell founded Healing Songs Therapy, a service that culminated in Brown creating a song for each client about their emotional issues.
Brown returned to England in 1996. In 1997, he re-recorded "Fire" with German band Die Krupps, while in 1998, he provided a spoken-word performance on Bruce Dickinson's The Chemical Wedding album, reading a portion of three poems by William Blake, and appeared as Satan in Dickinson's music video for "Killing Floor". He was narrator for the Pretty Things' live performance of their album S. F. Sorrow (1998) at Abbey Road Studios. He also appeared on television, guesting on Kula Shaker track "Mystical Machine Gun" several times during 1999.[ citation needed ]
A further change of musical direction occurred, when he formed an acoustic band and went on tour with Tim Rose in 1999. This band then added Stan Adler (cello and bass) and Malcolm Mortimore (percussion) and produced the album Tantric Lover (2000). However, the lineup did not last, and Brown put a new band together with guitarist Rikki Patten and multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn. In 2002, Brown was asked to support Robert Plant on his Dreamland Tour. By now Patten had been replaced by guitarist Chris Bryant. Brown was getting some more media exposure now. His band was briefly called the Giant Pocket Orchestra, and also Instant Flight. In the middle of this, in 2003, Brown released Vampire Suite (2003), an album with Josh Philips and Mark Brzezicki of the band Big Country, released on Ian Grant's Track Records. [ citation needed ]Also around this time, Brown's back catalogue was re-released by Sanctuary Records.
In 2001 and 2002, Brown made several guest appearances at live Hawkwind concerts, subsequently touring with them as a guest vocalist. On their December 2002 tour, Hawkwind played several songs by Brown from the Kingdom Come era, along with "Song of the Gremlin", which Brown had sung on Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters ; this was documented on the Hawkwind DVD Out of the Shadows .
Brown also provided vocals on two of the tracks on Hawkwind's studio album Take Me to Your Leader , released in 2005. [ citation needed ]One is the spoken-word "A Letter to Robert", where Brown recalls a conversation with Robert Calvert. Brown continued his association with Hawkwind, touring with a support set for them on their 40th anniversary tour in the United Kingdom in 2009.
Brown reunited the surviving members of Kingdom Come (except Des Fisher) in 2005, for a one-off concert at The Astoria in London, performing material from Kingdom Come's album Galactic Zoo Dossier, with an encore of "Spirit of Joy". This show won Brown the 'Showman of the Year' award from Classic Rock magazine, with Brown receiving the award at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards ceremony held in London's Café de Paris.In 2007, Brown and Pynn released Voice of Love on the Côte Basque record label, featuring a number of original recordings.
In August 2007, during a concert in Lewes, East Sussex, England, Brown once again set fire to his own hair. While trying to extinguish the flames, Phil Rhodes, a member of the band also caught fire. Brown carried on after the fire was put out; he had however lost a few chunks of hair.He appeared as a priest in the video for the Darkness song, "Is It Just Me?". In 2009, a roll-out re-release of Brown's back catalogue was commenced by Cherry Red Records' subsidiary Lemon Recordings and continued from 2010 onwards on their sister label Esoteric Recordings.
In 2010, Brown played a set at the Glastonbury Festival in the Glade. On 10 June 2011, days before his 69th birthday, he played at the Ray Davies Meltdown Festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London where he invited Z-Star to duet with him. Six weeks later, again in London, he played the High Voltage Festival; the gig was recorded and released (on vinyl only) as The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Live at High Voltage. In 2012, Brown and Rick Patten released The Magic Hat alongside a comic of the same title by Matt Howarth. In 2013, as the result of a successful pledge campaign on PledgeMusic, Brown released the album Zim Zam Zim, recorded in his yurt in Lewes.In 2018, Brown was a guest vocalist on the first five dates of Hawkwind's UK tour.
In April 2019, it was announced that Brown would join Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy as guest vocalist on "The Royal Affair Tour", starting in June 2019.ELP Legacy's sets on this tour included Brown providing vocals on his signature song "Fire", as well as on the Emerson, Lake & Palmer songs "Knife-Edge" and "Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2."
—"The God of Hellfire Speaks: 73 Years Inside the Crazy World of Arthur Brown", Vice magazine, 2013.
Though Brown has had limited commercial success and has never released another recording as commercially successful as "Fire", he has been a significant influence on Alice Cooper,David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, George Clinton, Kiss, King Diamond, and Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, among others, and his songs have been covered or sampled by a range of artists including Ozzy Osbourne, the Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, the Who and Death Grips.
Brown's voice and in particular his high banshee screams, are a precursor to the banshee screaming of many later heavy metal singers, and his theatrical concepts and stage presence such as the face makeup, especially his black and white face paint (corpse paint), voodoo dancing, and flaming helmet pioneered a lot of what was to become shock rock and progressive rock.Alice Cooper stated, "Can you imagine the young Alice Cooper watching that with all his make-up and hellish performance? It was like all my Halloweens came at once!"
The third and final Kingdom Come album, Journey (1973), is noteworthy for being one of the first rock albums to feature a drum machine, especially on the track "Time Captives".
Hawkwind are an English rock band known as one of the earliest space rock groups. Since their formation in November 1969, Hawkwind have gone through many incarnations and have incorporated many different styles into their music, including hard rock, progressive rock and psychedelic rock. They are also regarded as an influential proto-punk band. Their lyrics favour urban and science fiction themes.
Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy, was a British singer, songwriter, and musician. He is best known as the founder, lead singer, bassist, primary songwriter and only continuous member of the British rock band Motörhead.
Neil Percival Young is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, and activist. After embarking on a music career in Winnipeg in the 1960s, Young moved to Los Angeles, joining Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. Since the beginning of his solo career with his backing band Crazy Horse, Young has released many critically acclaimed and important albums, such as After the Gold Rush, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, and Harvest.
Space rock is a genre characterized by loose and lengthy song structures centered on instrumental textures that typically produce a hypnotic, otherworldly sound. It may feature distorted and reverberation-laden guitars, minimal drumming, languid vocals, synthesizers and lyrical themes of outer space and science fiction.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown is the eponymous debut studio album by the English psychedelic rock band the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The album was produced by the Who's manager Kit Lambert with associate production by Pete Townshend. The album was released in June 1968 on Lambert's Track Records label in the UK, with North American distribution handled by Atlantic Records. The album was released in the US in September. It was the only album released by the band in its original incarnation; a follow-up was recorded in 1969 but went unreleased for two decades.
Vincent Crane was an English keyboardist who was best known as the organist for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Atomic Rooster. Crane co-wrote "Fire", the 1968 hit single by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer is an English drummer and percussionist, credited as one of the most respected rock drummers to emerge from the 1960s. He is a veteran of a number of famous English bands: the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Asia. Inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1989, he was awarded "Prog God" at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards.
Levitation is the tenth studio album by English rock group Hawkwind, released in 1980. It peaked at No. 21 on the UK Albums Chart.
Kingdom Come were a British band of the 1970s, that played psychedelic, experimental progressive rock music. They were fronted by Arthur Brown, who gave them his theatrical style and operatic voice. The combination ensured that the band was a hit on Britain's festival circuit, but lack of record sales, indifference from music critics, and poor record label promotion led to its eventual demise in 1974. The band was later marketed as Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come in the United States due to name conflicts with an unrelated band with the same name. Despite their lack of commercial success, Kingdom Come's 1973 album Journey has received generally positive retrospective reviews from critics. Alan Holmes of Freq said that "Journey was so far ahead of its time that you have to keep checking the sleeve to make sure that it really does say 1973 and not 1983" and that the album was "not only Arthur Brown's masterpiece, but also one of the truly great albums of the seventies." The album was also "most noted in retrospect as one of the first rock records to use a drum machine, which was still quite a novelty back in 1973."
Hall of the Mountain Grill is the fourth studio album by space rock band Hawkwind, released in 1974. It is regarded by many critics as a career highlight.
"Motorhead" is a song written by Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister while he was a member of the English space rock band Hawkwind. It was later recorded by Motörhead, as he called it this instead of Bastard on his then manager's advice.
Warrior on the Edge of Time is Hawkwind's fifth studio album. It reached number 13 on the U.K. album charts and was their third and last album to make the U.S. Billboard chart, where it peaked at number 150. Many of the lyrics are by Michael Moorcock, and the album is loosely based on the concept of Moorcock's novel The Eternal Champion. Reviews have been mixed, with Melody Maker panning the album and particularly criticizing the vocal work while the All Music Guide has praised the album for features such as the songwriting. This would also be the last album to feature the band's bassist Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, who was fired from the band one day before the album's release.
Track Record was founded in 1966 in London by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, then managers of the rock group The Who. It was one of the first British-owned independent record labels in the United Kingdom. The most successful artists whose work appeared on the Track label were The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Thunderclap Newman and Golden Earring. The label ceased operations in 1978 but was revived in 1999.
Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music is the sixth studio album by the British rock band Hawkwind, released in 1976. It reached No. 33 on the UK album charts.
"Fire" is a 1968 song written by Arthur Brown, Vincent Crane, Mike Finesilver and Peter Ker. Performed by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, it was released as a single and on the band's debut album, also called The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The single became a transatlantic hit, reaching number one in the UK and Canada and number two in the United States, while hitting the top 10 in markets across Europe.
"Silver Machine" is a 1972 song by the UK rock group Hawkwind. It was originally released as a single on 9 June 1972, reaching number three on the UK singles chart. The single was re-issued in 1976, again in 1978 reaching number 34 on the UK singles charts, and once again in 1983 reaching number 67 on the UK singles charts. The original mix has been re-released on the remasters version of In Search of Space.
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown are an English psychedelic rock band formed by singer Arthur Brown in 1967. The original band included Vincent Crane, Drachen Theaker (drums), and Nick Greenwood (bass). This early incarnation were noted for Crane's organ and brass arrangements and the burning helmet Brown wore during live shows.
Atomic Rooster are a British rock band, originally formed by members of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer. Throughout their history, keyboardist Vincent Crane was the only constant member and wrote the majority of their material. Their history is defined by two periods: the early-mid-1970s and the early 1980s. The band went through radical style changes, but they are best known for the hard, progressive rock sound of their hit singles, "Tomorrow Night" and "Devil's Answer", both in 1971.
Journey is the third and final studio album by British experimental rock band Kingdom Come. After the band featured drastically different styles on their first two albums, and after several line-up changes, band leader Arthur Brown worked the band towards a new direction for Journey. The album was the first album in history to use a drum machine responsible for all the percussive sounds on the album. The drum machine in question was the Bentley Rhythm Ace, manufactured by Ace Tone. Although the band had commented the album was entirely based on the drum machine, the band attempted to, in rock and electronic terms, create an album that was the closest they could get "to a string quartet". The album features other experimental techniques, including using a triangle to guide guitar playing and extensive use of Mellotron and synthesizers from new member Victor Peranio, who replaced Michael "Goodge" Harris early on production.
Phillip Edwin Lionel Shutt, known professionally as Phil Curtis, was an English session musician and bass guitarist known for his work with Arthur Brown, Kiki Dee, Steve Gibbons, Larry Carlton, Chris Rea, Gilbert O'Sullivan, John Morgan, Denny Laine, Steve Marriott, The Bay City Rollers and many others.