The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
By any measure 1968 was a dark, bleak year. Amidst all the turmoil (riots, anti-war protests and assassinations), the song "Fire," performed by the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, became an unlikely pop hit. Even stranger was Brown lasting impact. Though he was only a one-hit wonder, his outlandish performances influenced the likes of Alice Cooper, KISS, George Clinton and Marilyn Manson.
Brown grew up in Leeds, England and attended the University of London before deciding on a music career. He fronted a number of bands including The Foundations. But he left before the R&B/Soul group got a recording contract to form the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown.
The line-up had Vincent Crane (Hammond organ and piano), Drachen Theaker (drums), and Nick Greenwood (bass) but the focus was on Brown who performed wearing a helmet/mask with flames flickering about - often accidently setting himself on fire. One time fans kept Brown from being incinerated by pouring beer on him.
"Fire" had a demonic organ and punchy horns but it was Brown's vocal opening "I am the God of Hellfire" and manic delivery that makes the song so compelling. TV performances were insanely maniacal exhibitions - as if Alice Cooper was doing a James Brown impersonation.
"Fire" sold over a million copies and went gold. The self-titled debut album was produced by The Who's manager, Kit Lambert, and Pete Townshend. It featured the hit plus a cover of "I Put A Spell On You," which was originally recorded by Screaming Jay Hawkins - a man who made his stage entrances by rising out of a coffin.
While on tour, Carl Palmer replaced Theaker. Crane also left. Later, Crane and Palmer formed Atomic Rooster - Palmer's last stop before Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
With his group in disarray and no real way to follow "Fire", Brown launched Kingdom Come which combined Prog Rock with his demented theatrics. Brown later developed a relationship with Hawkwind where he made "special guest" appearances.
1968 The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown