Tuesday, 26 May 2020

45 RPM Gems - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown - Fire (1968)


 

"....I am the god of hell fire - and I bring you - FIRE!!!....."

There is only one way to begin this review, isn't there?

A true psychedelic classic from 1968  - I remember as a nine year-old making the same proclamation as Arthur Brown had used to open the song in the playground after seeing Brown perform the song on Top Of The Pops in a flaming headress (which actually burnt his head) - the song is a wonderfully bonkers affair, backed by swirling organ, pounding drums and a bass pedal for that deep, rumbling sound - no bass guitar or lead guitar were used, notably - and embellished by Brown's lunatic, leery, charismatic vocal. It was possibly one of the first genuine psychedelic hits. It also uses some horn and string overdubs to great effect and has a deceptively quiet, dreamy hippy "bridge" in the middle before the demonic, Mephistophilean lunacy returns. It was a delightfully nutty one-off of a single. At nine years old I absolutely loved everything about it. So did many more as it went to number one.

Arthur Brown and his Crazy World were genuine ground-breakers, his maniacal, high-pitched vocal shrieks influence many a subsequent heavy metal hollerer, Vincent Crane's keyboards surely influenced Deep Purple's Jon Lord, Brown's theatrical, gothic get-up undoubtedly inspired a young Alice Cooper (check out that face make-up) and many a prog rock band will have got off on the group's instrumental indulgences and lyrical nonsense.



The 'b' side to Fire was the bassily groovy and gently enjoyable Rest Cure - an appetising serving of psychedelic 1968 on a plate. It is full of organ, bass and infectious drums together with some dreamy strings. I love the warm bass line on it. Brown's vocal is more controlled in places, too. For me, I can hear hints of David Bowie's 1979 Red Sails in the chorus.

The one album the group produced was great too.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN (1968)

1. Prelude - Nightmare
2. Fanfare - Fire Poem
3. Fire
4. Come and Buy
5. Time/Confusion
6. I Put A Spell On You                                
7. Spontaneous Apple Creation
8. Rest Cure
9. I've Got Money
10. Child Of My Kingdom


This was the only album released by psychedelic nutcase Arthur Brown and his Crazy World band. Produced by Who producer Kit Lambert, with help from Pete Townshend, it is a superb period piece/curio and also far more influential than many give it credit for. Many progressive rock bands, heavy metal singers and goths will have dipped into it for inspiration. It actually got to number two in the UK album charts.

Arthur Brown was on vocals, Vincent Crane on organ, Drachen Theaker on drums and Nick Greenwood on bass. Session drummer John Marshall filled in on drums on tracks six and ten.

Prelude - Nightmare is a very late sixties piece of psychedelia - all swirling organ, crazy drums and ominous-sounding, sonorous vocals with some proto-heavy metal shrieking from Brown. Ian Gillan no doubt took note, as did Jon Lord to those organ breaks, I'm sure. Together with the next track, they both set the scene for the album's centrepiece. Fanfare - Fire Poem has some unsurprisingly bizarre spoken poetry before it breaks out into a madcap piece of keyboard, drums and bass-powered sixties backing and Brown's equally crazed rantings as he builds up towards the iconic proclamation of "I am the God of hell fire!!!".

A true psychedelic classic from 1968  - I remember as a nine year-old making the same proclamation in the playground after seeing Brown perform the song on Top Of The Pops in a flaming headress (which actually burnt his head) - the song is a wonderfully bonkers affair, backed by organ, drums and a bass pedal for that deep, rumbling sound - no bass guitar or lead guitar, notably - and embellished by Brown's lunatic, leery, charismatic vocal. It was possibly one of the first genuine psychedelic hits. It also uses some horn and string overdubs to great effect and has a deceptively quiet, dreamy hippy "bridge" in the middle before the demonic, Mephistophilean lunacy returns. It was a delightfully nutty one-off of a single. At nine years old I absolutely loved everything about it. So did many more as it went to number one.

  

The bass guitar returns on the atmospheric, brooding Come And Buy, which sees the manic, demonic fires die down a bit on a very Doors-esque - it contains the lyric "funeral pyre", like Light My Fire) - haunting number. Time/Confusion begins in similarly understated fashion, featuring some impressive drums and Confusion is a very Alice Cooper-esque final part. Cooper must have been influenced by this. Brown's high-pitched maniacal voice is back at the end as the organ gets more and more frantic.

So, that was side one - the journey into the fires of hell. Side two began with a psychedelic, organ-driven cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' blues, I Put A Spell On You. The sound is a bit scratchy on this one in contrast to the previous material. Spontaneous Apple Creation is an early example of prog rock - basically a serving of semi-spoken nonsense backed by some indulgent, quasi-classical organ noodling. Despite that, I still like it. "Three million people told butter from Stork..." was a wry reference to a contemporary advertisement for a butter substitute (Stork) which said "you can't tell Stork from butter...".

The 'b' side to Fire was the bassily groovy and gently enjoyable Rest Cure - an appetising serving of 1968 on a plate. It is full of organ, bass and infectious drums together with some dreamy strings. I love the warm bass line on it. Brown's vocal is more controlled in places, too. Arthur then gets the funk on a lively, enthusiastic cover of James Brown's I've Got Money.

Child Of My Kingdom is a sprawling closer with several changes of pace and mood, jazzy piano and prog stylings. You can imagine people like Dave Greenslade being inspired by this. Again, it is very Doors-influenced (or did it influence The Doors?). The band stretch out on this one and show that they can really play, it was a shame that it all ended here.

All mad as a box of frogs, but very enjoyable. Delightfully so, in fact.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

45 RPM Gems - The Rolling Stones - Jumpin' Jack Flash (1968)

 

Although I had, of course, been well aware of The Rolling Stones before their May/June 1968 hit, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, it was this song that really confirmed that I leaned to The Stones over The Beatles. There was an accompanying black and white “video” to the song that got played on Top Of The Pops in which the group looked menacing, decadent and pretty dodgy overall. A leering Mick Jagger wore Native American-inspired warpaint and Brian Jones and Keith Richards sported huge dark shades. Even Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman had a bit of make-up on. You wouldn't want to meet them in a back alley. This appealed to my inner nine year-old burgeoning anti-authoritarian rebel streak. After listening to this I wasn’t going to take any shit from my primary school teachers...

The song is a masterpiece of edgy, scratchy riffery courtesy of Richards (although Wyman claims to have written it, uncredited) and Jagger delivers a superbly drawly vocal on lines like “I was bawwwn in a crossfire hurricaaaayyyne...”  and “I wawws raaayysed by a toothless, bearded haayyyg...”. It sure blew those poncy Beatles away, for me. Lennon could be as sarky as he wanted, he still could come nowhere near the down ‘n’ dirty sneer and grubby power of this lot. They infuriated parents, teachers, MPs and the older generation in general and that was fine by me. That was when I realised rock could be used as a social weapon. What would attract me to punk’s ire seven years later was instigated when I first heard this record. Music could contain fire and anger and could exorcise your demons. This was not pop, it bristled, burnt and bawled from beginning to end. This was something different.

The song has been played by the group more than any other in concert and was named after Keith Richards’ gardener, whose clumpy footsteps woke Jagger one drug-addled morning at Richards’ house - “don't worry - that’s jumpin’ Jack” said Keith (approximately) to a bemused Jagger. The rest is rock history. Richards also stated that the “crossfire hurricane” line referred to his having been born during a German air raid on Dartford in 1943. It was also memorably performed with John Lennon for the Rock And Roll Circus film. The most famous cover of the song was probably Aretha Franklin's 1986 one (which featured Richards and Ronnie Wood).



The ‘b’ side, Child Of The Moon, is a deliciously buzzy, psychedelic grunge that reminds me somewhat of The BeatlesRain, although Jagger’s vocal is positively Dylanesque at times. Charlie Watts’ drumming is very Ringo Starr-inspired, you have to admit. It was a throwback a year to Their Satanic Majesties’ Request - no country rock or Delta blues here. Together with the ‘a’ side, these two tracks represented some of the most demonic, dark examples of The Stones’ late sixties ouevre.

Probably the best way to listen both of the tracks is in their original, thumping mono. Much as I like stereo, the stereo recording of JJF has always sounded a bit flaky to me, difficult to pinpoint, but something not quite as pure as the mono recording.

What was odd for me as a ten year-old was that I loved this, but I also loved The ArchiesSugar Sugar. Then again, in 1977, as well as listening to The Clash, I enjoyed the occasional dose of The Carpenters. I have always been a bit of an enigma.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Monday, 25 May 2020

45 RPM Gems - The Equals - Viva Bobby Joe (1969)


 

The Equals are largely accepted as being the UK's first interracial pop group, certainly the first successful one, chart-wise. Formed in London in 1967 by Eddy Grant they had several hits, the biggest of which being the catchy Baby Come Back in 1968. Another excellent hit from the group was the infectious, pounding proto-funk of Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys. This anti-war song was quite adventurous for the period. Grant himself went on to have a renaissance ten years later during the punk/reggae crossover era and clocked up several more hits, including the number one I Don't Wanna Dance.

This little-remembered single is recalled by myself as one of those I merrily sung in the playground, with its terrace-like chorus lending itself ideally to such performances. I lived in Leicester at the time and the Leicester City fans serenaded striker Allan Clarke with "Allan Clarke...viva Allan Clarke..." using the song's chorus during the 1968-69 season.

The song concerned a character called Bobby Joe who pleased crowds with his "funk machine". It has a very late sixties thumping backbeat and rock pretensions. "Liverpool to Brighton baby.....in next to no time baby...Bobby Joe is coming here today....Bobby Joe and his funk machine...everybody's gonna see a sensation...". Quite what his funk machine was is not clear. Basically, it is short piece of late sixties pop fun and not too much more. I just remember it vividly.

Actually, the 'b' side, the rock meets Northern Soul bassy stomp of I Can't Let You Go is a better track. It has a bit of a hint of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose about it.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------