|Music from the Hawkwind family tree - Part 12
This piece was kindly written by Adriano Troiano, to whom my grateful thanks. Seeing as it concentrates
on Arthur Brown, your best bet for further details on his work would be either
http://www.arthurbrownmusic.com (official site) or http://www.godofhellfire.co.uk (great fan site)
This is it! The original line-up (Brown, Vincent Crane and Drachen
Theaker) and the legendary stage show (including the famous fire
helmet) that inspired many artists and musicians like Alice Cooper and
more importantly, Dave Brock and our Hawkwind. Some say they
were the only truly original band to come out of London. Surely they
were one of the first to mix poetry, stage props and pop music.
Everybody knows the hit single "Fire" which put the German-born
Brown on the number one spot in the English charts. The famous
opening phrase "I am the god of Hellfire..." is known around the world
and is a timepiece of the era.
The stage show, Arthur recalls, developed out of sheer boredom. They played 3 shows a day in clubs in
London and Paris (Brown returned to Paris on several occasions), so he started to mime to the songs and
use whatever was lying around as stage props. Pete Townshend of the Who (who?) produced the album
and the two singles (Devils Grip / Give Him A Flower and Fire / Rest Cure) the first of which is now finally
available on the "Fire - The Arthur Brown Story" double CD by Sanctuary.
The original line-up split because they were offered a major deal and Arthur didn't want to sell out and leave
behind the people who put him there. (This anti-commercialism is what both Dave and Arthur have in
common). Both Theaker and Crane were understandably disappointed by this decision and soon after they
dropped out. Crane went on to form Atomic Rooster (very recommendable!!!!) and Arthur returned to
Paris with Drachen to play his "Puddletown" material that remains unreleased to this day.
The songs :
1.Prelude - Nightmare: this opens the concept side of the album (Arthur and the band had to split it in this
way, because the record company insisted on inclusion of standards). The song starts mystically, soon
going into typical Crane organ, which makes the album very 70's-esque. This combined with Arthur's
variable voice give the listener an eerie feeling. A good opening number, both mystical and up-tempo.
2. Fanfare - Fire Poem: actually the intro to Fire. After the trumpets we go into another of typical organ
line (note: there's no guitar on this album) with Arthur telling us a story about how he met the god of
3. Fire: although Arthur never liked the song, it's his big hit and he's still identified as the god of hellfire by
the vast majority of fans and vintage music enthusiasts. What can I say about the song ? I guess
everybody knows it. Brilliant organ, maniacal vocals and catchy chorus. The "little girl" - part cools things
down, only to come back to the chorus which slowly starts to go out of control. A true masterpiece and
pure 70's nostalgia.
4. Come And Buy: I really like this song and lyrics. The dramatic build up and a weird rhythm pattern
make this one unusual. The bridge, again, slows the song down before the finale, where we get to hear a
"possessed Arthur". Brilliant!
5. Time / Confusion: a mysterious slower-paced song with Arthur using his extraordinary voice to give
matters an almost spell-like atmosphere. The Hawkwind version of this (as matter of fact all the Arthur
Brown numbers on their 2002 live CD) is inferior to the originals here, which are far more organised and
thought through than Hawkwind's "jam" versions. But hey, they got better, just compare the DVD (first
gig) to the CD (last gig), what a difference!
6. I Put A Spell On You: standards, here we go. The band manages to do their own version of this
Screamin' Jay Hawkins classic. Actually this is the best version I've ever heard - you really buy into the
notion that he's going to put a hex on you. It remains in the set list down to the present day, throughout all
of Arthur's incarnations. Could be an original number. Great !
7. Spontaneous Apple Creation: a jam-like piece, as the title suggests. Nothing spectacular, but it shows
what Brown would be doing with Kingdom Come years later.
8. Rest Cure: the B-Side to Fire. An up-tempo track complete with yells and bells. Catchy chorus and
dominant organ, similar to Fire. Good.
9. I've Got Money: another standard - Arthur Brown doing James Brown. It just doesn't fit in with the rest
of the album. It's a one-to-one copy as they fail to put their essence into it, but then, it's really hard to do
blues differently. No psychedelics here.
10. Child Of My Kingdom: the epic of the album, and a fascinating song. The chorus is followed by
whistles from children, quite good. The middle part is bluesy, showing off the band's roots. Almost every
aspect of the band is shown off in this song, naturally with Arthur doing his in-character voices. Great!
The album is and always has been available on CD (Polydor). Included are mono mixes of the first six
songs, as in 1968 there were two versions of the LP available - mono and stereo. I don't bother with the
mono version, I start playing the CD from track 7.
Some of the best: Arthur Brown - The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)
Highly Recommended: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come - Galactic Zoo Dossier (1971)
After being offered a deal with Polydor in Germany, Arthur put
together a new band consisting of Slim Steer on drums, Andy Dalby
on guitar, Des Fisher on bass, Michael Harris on organ, plus Arthur
on vocals. With the addition of guitar and mellotron they became more
Hawkwind-ish in appearance and soundwise, too. A freaked out bunch
of hippies led by the god of Hellfire himself - scary!
They were using a lot of LSD as Arthur explains: just listen to the
album for a minute and this is confirmed! Sadly, after this one came
out they never played these tracks live again (anti-establishment), so I
guess that cost them a lot of followers at the time. Kingdom Come
only recorded three albums, and nowadays, much like Hawkwind,
they're highly underrated.
1. Internal Messenger: starts off heavy, after the spoken word intro, with a full-frontal guitar assault. This
is their "Brainstorm", I guess. Arthur sings theatrically about the end of the world. A standout track and a
good warm-up for what's to come.
2. Space Plucks: a number penned by Brown/Crane, weird rhythm and more spoken words here. Complete
with eerie mellotron. Very Crazy World-like.
3. Galactic Zoo: a very "different" piece of music with Mr. Brown doing his high-pitched screams . The
end part gets more and more into this mystical space-rock feeling.
4. Metal Monster: a rhythm piece with this great intro where it seems that there's something wrong with
your stereo, but it's programmed. I believe they might be the first to have done this, to shock the listeners I
suppose. A voice-tube allows Arthur to deploy yet another mysterious voice. Pure Kingdom Come!
5. Simple Man: a simple song for a simple man? Well, it's a laidback number with a cool chorus. Pink
Floyd-ish effects on the middle part. Good!
6. Night Of The Pigs: one word: LSD. There's no other way a human being would deliberately put this on
record. A chaotic collage of a song (well, an intro, if you like). Shades of what's to come on the next
7. Sunrise: a Masterpiece. Slow and soulful with a real "ballad" feeling. Arthur's voice gives you the creeps
on this one and his desperation that the listener can hear is very haunting. It slowly builds up to the
8. Trouble: similar to Simple Man. Very 70's indeed, acoustic guitars and wonderful lyrics : "I would like
to write a song and tell the world what's wrong with it today." That's what they're (we're) all doing,
Arthur, to this day!
9. Brains: vocals only, overloaded background vocals. A weird small intermezzo piece.
10. Medley: strangely enough, this is a medley from parts of Galactic Zoo and Space Plucks. It's an
interesting mixture, but somehow I don't see the similarities with the constituent numbers.
11. Creep -and- 12. Creation: these two are actually one number. Creep serves as the intro. Famous for
the live performance when, at the end, Arthur did his high pitched scream and the first two rows fainted
away! It's a bombastic, slowly creeping number about the creator, who is neither good nor evil.
13. Gypsy Escape: another favourite of mine, this almost instrumental number prefigures what was to
come on the next couple of albums. Full of different organs and interesting, interchanging rhythm parts.
Again, an epic piece to close the album.
14. No Time: wait, there's one more, a Crazy World-style song. Almost a commercial number, with some
boogie feeling. Time to groove again!
Highly Recommended: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come- Kingdom Come (1972)
The eponymous second Kingdom Come album is even more full of
weird and crazy noises, tic-tocs, psychotic screams and out-of-this
world breaks. Photos from this period show members of the band
dressed up as trees, with boats hanging from their shoulders, and even
as a traffic light (which in one song acquires a brain). Talk about
LSD. This entire album is a full-blown, 70's zeitgeist and works
brilliantly as a discussion subject or as the soundtrack to a drug-fuelled
life. It's mad! By the way, bass duties here were undertaken by
sensible married man Phil Sutt!
1. The Teacher: another Crane/Brown Number to begin with. A short
rap-styled vocal about the traffic light who gets a brain. Not really a
2. A Scientific Experiment Featuring "Lower Colonic Irrigation": this is the core of the album. A cool
70's number with heavy rhythm parts, spaced-out mellotron & organ sounds and the weird noises as part
of the song. All of a sudden a voice breaks in and the whole song changes, never getting back to the
original line until the end. There is even a Christmas-like jingle included. Arthur does it all, from little boy
voices to glowering dark tones or hearty light ones. This is a song that no cover band could even attempt!
3. The Whirlpool: my favourite number, as it has a fantastic groove, right after the "jungle" intro. The lead
guitar is brilliant here. The rhythm gets interrupted by noises once again and it's only by dint of sheer
madness that they manage to get back to the song. There were no Pro-Tools around in those days - now
it would be easier to do, but back then this was an insane bit of recording! In the chaotic breakdown with
which the song ends you hear water noises, presumably the whirlpool referred to in the title.
4. The Hymn: I prefer the alternate take, because it leaves out the whining vocals and just lets you groove
to the music. Arthur sings or reads a poem about his body being a home for his spirit and so on. The
chorus leaves the guitar out, with only organ and voice remaining.
5. Water: more of a noise piece, really. Lots of people talking, followed by some strange grunts and
tide-noises in the background.
6. Love Is (The Spirit That Never Dies): the best-known song on the album. A very heartfelt and soulful
ballad. Without any middle eight, I guess it was too delicate. Similar to "Sunrise".
7. City Melody: a stage-piece, I suppose. About the characters taken by each band member. Complete
with voices overlapping in the end.
8. Traffic Light Song: a faster song about our dear traffic light. Again a groovy beat and Arthur's voice is
different yet again. Included is a cool guitar solo
Some Of The Best: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come - Journey (1973)
What do you do if the drummer runs away with the bass player's
wife? You make sure that it will never happen again. Look for a ugly
drummer? No! For a drum machine? Yes!
Journey uses electronic drums throughout, and you know what? It
works very well on this album, and I guess they were one of the first
bands to do it (Ash-Ra and Kraftwerk being in their infancy at the
time). It totally fits the style of the album and gives the songs a touch
of eeriness and a real Space Rock feel. A real forgotten masterpiece
of the 70's (and rare until the remastered reissues) - timeless.
1. Time Captives (not Captains !!): the All-Time-Favourite-Song and
a classic. I got hooked on Arthur by this song (the rendition on his Live '93 album). This version has
nothing in common with HW's live 2002 effort - this is not a jam song, you have to build up slowly, very
slowly. The beat of the drum machine goes on for several minutes and is actually pure techno (I use this
song to scare my Heavy Metal friends off). The organ comes in with this majestic line. Arthur's verses
are powerful and glorious. Then there's total silence and just an "Ooh-ooh" line from Arthur, which builds
up again to the Grand Finale. 7-plus minutes of total mayhem. I kneel at the feet of King Arthur for this
2. Triangles: an instrumental number, where Andy tried to play only triplets on his guitar. Cool idea, try it
with trapezes! [Wot?!] A cool, meditative number.
3. Gypsy: again, another epic piece with a slowly building rhythm part. The second section of the song
features a intense melody line and dramatic vocals. A true original.
4. Superficial Roadblocks: this one is divided into three parts. The guitars are amazing and Arthur does
some good character-voices. Strange but very good.
5. Conception: a very odd beat to accompany Arthur's very different voice. Very wild.
6. Spirit of Joy: almost pop-like. The usual Soul Ballad (every album has one). But this one is up-tempo
and commercial. This one still gets played live. This is the most recognized song by the masses (not us).
7. Come Alive: Arthur singing, whining and screaming his lungs out in quest of the Meaning Of Life. A
heavy guitar solo in the middle. Interesting but nothing new here.
The three Kingdom Come Albums were remastered and re-released through Castle / Sanctuary Records in
2003. These are the versions I have, as they were very rare beforehand. The tracklists differ from the
original LP versions, which I don't have so I can't draw a comparison of old to new. But the newly
remastered CD's come with enhanced versions of the original booklets (with some interesting interview
snippets) and bonus tracks - but these are mainly different mixes. On "Journey" there are some BBC live
performances including "Slow Rock", but I think this may be a misinterpreted song title by the BBC and is
really a Kingdom Come medley or an improvisation.
Also worth getting is the 2003 Castle / Sanctuary best-of entitled "Fire - The Arthur Brown Story", which
includes rare singles (Devil's Grip / Give Him A Flower) plus the best Kingdom Come songs and the pick
of Arthur's side projects ( Song Of The Gremlin / Silver Machine Live 2001 ).
I can heartily recommend these albums as they are very much in the Hawkwind vein, musically and
spirit-wise. They are closer to the early "Space Ritual"-era sound, than any other band I've heard so far
(including original bands from the 60's / 70's).
So there, you go: Arthur Brown, God of Hellfire and the most underrated singer-songwriter in the world.
Pay homage, hairy-arsed Hawkwind fans!