ARTHUR BROWN – INTRO – 21ST OCTOBER 1967


Painted-face bachelor of philosophy in Arthur Brown world


As with many other things in Arthur Brown’s life, there is doubt attached to his age – “I’m twenty-three from the knees upwards” – and to his exact location in London. He’s unlikely to remain in one part very long because of his allergy to landlords.

So anytime you see a character closely resembling Lucifer, followed closely by a huge collection of books, optical machinery and a cat responding to the word opium, don’t panic, or start throwing pennies, or say: “Look at him – he’s a nutter,” and pat him on the head.

Arthur Brown’s the exception rather than the rule. Originally from the fishing village of Whitby in Yorkshire, he has a pretty weird background. His father is an inventor – is responsible for the world’s first fully automatic toothbrush, and a pneumatic car – and his mother is a chemical analyzer of peanuts and cashew nuts. “She’s a kind of psycho-analyst, if you like.”

He left school at eighteen and took Law at King’s College, London, where he was thrown out a year later because he leapt about on the tables. After that he took a series of jobs, including shovelling manure on a sewer farm, and eventually went back to university at Reading.

Apart from other things, he’s now a Bachelor of Philosophy, as well as a leader of his very popular explosive group – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown.

Stage antics win fans

His trio is building up a huge following around the country with its stage antics. Like nothing short of being lowered on stage by crane, circumstances permitting that is.

Arthur was the first pop musician to paint his face like a devil and forget buttery love songs or ridiculous commercial lyrics.

He’s currently living in London’s West Kensington and is surrounded by his “fund of knowledge,” – which looks more like general paraphernalia, and which in turn surrounds his bed.

“Ah,” he said, “this bed holds many fond memories for me.”

He gave it an affectionate pat and then began a demonstration of how he makes up his face before a show. But just why does he make up?

“We sing about certain regions of an audience’s thinking life, you know, like fantasies. Take the theatre – nobody questions all the make-up. you’re acting a part. We’re trying to bring the dramatic part into pop. Take a song, its words and mood. You carry out the words and mood with lighting and effects like this make-up. I mean, if you were singing about devils, it wouldn’t be very effective if you wore a suit.”

The scene must be set

“We must create an environment with our dress, mood and make-up.” Arthur may change dress several times during one performance. “That’s because we change environments. The scene must be set and upheld. We try and approach people on different levels. We combine feelies with audible tactibles.”
What? “Feeling the thing as well as experiencing it.”

His whitened nose stood out in stark contrast as he painted the tip black. “Now take love,” he said. “There’s a language being used in love songs that nobody would ever dream of saying. O.K., in opera you get pure love – like in Romeo and Juliette, great.

“In the past, love has always been idealistic, but now people are beginning to wonder why they like somebody, why they go out with them. In singing it should be the same. You should be able to sing about what you want, what you really feel. The way we do it is to involve the audience, otherwise it fails.”

Londoners were the first people to experience Arthur Brown when he began about five months ago. At that time, psychedelia was very popular in London, and Arthur’s music was immediately accepted.

His big opportunity

His big opportunity came when he played the Fourteen Hour Technicolour Dream at London’s Alexandra Palace, where Pete Townshend of the Who spotted him and signed him up for the Track label. “I’ve never looked back since,” Arthur joked. Since then, his gigs haven’t just been limited to London. Reaction out of London was mixed.

“Our first job out of London was in Yorkshire. Someone had driven off with our public address system and I had to rely on leaping about during the performance. Everyone thought I was a nutter, but the girls got excited because we were different, and our music was exciting.

“That’s another thing. I often think about how girls see me. You know how they identify with the singer. The blokes think me horrific. I wonder how the girls identify with me?” A silence fell over the room as he suddenly began to think about the girls. “But I don’t worry about it. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to perform.”

Performing to Arthur Brown is his art. He feels he’s performing in a direction only his performing can help him to do. “I think that we could out-perform a lot of other bands on straight music, but that’s not enough. We have to act out our songs and connect between the songs and the performances, involving the audience before we can say we performed. eventually I would like to see myself as an artiste.”

The act is symbolic

Although on the surface his act may appear a little weird, he’s played the UFO once “I began the act by swinging in on a wire. Only some people couldn’t see the wire. It sounds ridiculous but some of them believed I was God! I just couldn’t dissuade them – they didn’t want to be dissuaded. All that night they followed me around saying: ‘He’s the Messiah, he’s the Messiah.’ It was incredible!

“Another time I walked off the stage and one of the audience came up to me and said: ‘I’m from another world. Give up all your commerciality. I can make you a prophet,’ and so on, you know.”

By the time he’d finished painting his face he looked like a ghoul. He went downstairs to the living room and confronted his girl friend. She immediately put on his record “Devil’s Grip” and began dancing with her girl friend.

“Go it, gells, go it,” he yelled and joined in. Minutes later they were joined by the cat which responds to the word opium, and a pet hamster.

Just part of Arthur Brown’s crazy world.

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