Arthur Brown Biography

Arthur Wilton-Brown, 24 June 1944, Whitby, Yorkshire, England. A distinctive, uncompromising vocalist, Brown formed an R&B band - Blues And Brown - while studying philosophy at Reading University. He made his recording debut in 1965 with two contributions to a student ‘Rag Week’ flexi-disc, before moving to London where he fronted a succession of bands, known variously as the Southwest Five, the Arthur Brown Union and the Arthur Brown Set. In 1966 the singer moved to Paris where he began honing a theatrical and visual image. He was fêted by the city’s artisans and contributed two songs to La Curee, a Roger Vadim film that starred Jane Fonda. Brown returned to London in 1967 and formed the first Crazy World Of Arthur Brown with Vincent Crane (b. 21 May 1943, Reading, Berkshire, England, d. 14 February 1989; organ), Drachen Theaker (drums) and, later, Nick Greenwood (bass). They were quickly adopted by the ‘underground’ audience, where Brown’s facial make-up, dervish dancing and fiery helmet earned them immediate notoriety. Their popularity engendered a recording contract and the following year the band enjoyed a surprise number 1 hit with the compulsive ‘Fire’. The attendant album, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, contained many stage favourites, including ‘Spontaneous Apple Creation’ and ‘Come And Buy’, but was marred by poor production. Theaker and Crane left the band during a US tour, and although Crane later returned, Carl Palmer (b. Carl Frederick Kendall Palmer, 20 March 1950, Handsworth, Birmingham, West Midlands, England), formerly of Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds, joined as drummer. Brown’s most successful band ended in 1969 when the newcomer and Crane formed Atomic Rooster. Brown moved to Puddletown in Dorset, where a musically fertile commune had been established. Reunited with Theaker, he completed the experimental set latterly issued as Strangelands, before embarking on a new direction with Kingdom Come. This intermittently interesting band recorded three albums before splitting up.

Brown resumed a solo career in 1974, but despite a memorable cameo as the Priest in Ken Russell’s movie, Tommy, subsequent recordings proved highly disappointing. His voice, which once stood comparison with those of ‘Screamin’ Jay’ Hawkins, Little Richard and James Brown, was muted on the tired Dance album, and a reconciliation with Crane for Chisholm In My Bosom was little better. Brown then went into semi-retirement from the music business and settled in Austin, Texas, where he pursued a career as a carpenter and decorator in partnership with former Mothers Of Invention drummer, Jimmy Carl Black. In 1999, he guested with UK psychedelic revivalists Kula Shaker, still with his helmet of fire.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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