18 December 2008

Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Nightmare (b/w "Music Man")

Crazy World of Arthur Brown Nightmare

Label: Track
Year of Release: 1968


Poor Arthur Brown. His career started out in an enormously humble way, regularly playing psychedelic nights in tiny basement bars around London, before - seemingly out of the blue - "Fire" shot to number one in 1968 and changed his status overnight. From that point on, everybody involved with the act had to find a way of keeping a terrifying looking man wearing firey headgear in the public eye. This is inevitably where the problems started.

There's no question that there was more to Brown than screeching, shouting and demonic organ solos, but to be frank, his act could never be fairly described as 'pop'. The track "Give Him A Flower" proves that there was a fantastic Bonzos-esque sense of humour going on as well, but even in that case the jokes were possibly too niche and too knowing for mainstream consumption. Perhaps with this in mind, "Nightmare" became the follow-up to his number one, and lo and behold... nobody bought it.

"Nightmare" is even more threatening than "Fire", consisting mostly of a determined, full-on organ riff topped off with Brown's demonic screaming. It's not a bad record at all, but had Radio One played this during the daytime, it would have terrified the wits out of most of the nation - gone is the almost groovy hook, and instead there's a lot of terror and minimalism in its place. No horn section this time, I'm afraid.

Cases have been made for Arthur Brown by numerous critics at numerous points, and the claims that he 'invented Heavy Metal' and 'inspired Alice Cooper' are by now tremendously well-known. It does seem very sad, then, to think that the only major mention he's received on television in the last ten years has been on Chris Morris' Brasseye special, where "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" was revealed as being a slang phrase for a paedophile. As if being an undeserved one-hit wonder weren't enough of a problem...

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