Considering I’m beuf en croute, to coin a terrible play on words, to what may well be the psych event of the year, I probably should have made more preparations (making sure there was enough gas in the meter to run a bath, jumping in it before the missus, et al) prior to setting off: the typically unpredictable Bank Holiday traffic (tailbacks of cars or empty roads with less buses, but either way, you’re fucked) doesn’t help either. Ultimately, all of the above combines into a recipe for surefire disaster that means I miss all but the final notes of July’t set, particularly galling from my perspective as my good friend Alasdair Mitchell of the Hidden Masters is now the bass player. Drat!!
Fortunately, he doesn’t throw a wobbler when I tell him, and several hours later we’re still on the best of terms at a small informal post-NUTS gathering at a friend’s house in N1: frontman and head honcho Tom Newman also tells me there’s a DVD I can watch for notes, but that’s scarcely the point. My first NUTsMag feature and I’ve already managed to cock it right up. Whoop-see daisy.
Still, never mind, onwards and upwards, there are too many good mates here for me to be in a bad mood, so the best thing I can do is order a drink and ensconce myself at a premium vantage point from which to watch the CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN let forth the first ever complete end-to-end performance of “their” (i.e. his) debut 1968 platter. And what a performance! I’ve seen Arthur live somewhere between nine and twelve times (even promoted him myself once), including both a stint as a member of Hawkwind and as provider of spoken word introductions betwixt the musical numbers of the Pretty Things’ SF Sorrow (which we will touch on later) but this is something quite different. For a start, there are no dodgy U2 covers involved, and secondly, while with Arthur you’re always guaranteed a certain degree of quality, tonight he and his Crazy World exuded sheer class above and beyond our wildest expectations.
Some of us know all the material, others perhaps less so, but I don’t think anybody expected it to be so mouth-wateringly tight yet loose at the same time in the way that the best psych should be, full of such vigour and fire (OK, we did expect ‘Fire’, but not that kind) and flow so seamlessly from tune to tune as to still retain the original album’s cyclical feel. But it did, and while I’d wager that over half the room were well acquainted with the Brown schtick, that didn’t stop jaws falling to the floor in sheer wonderment at what was being witnessed. Of course, Arthur has always been the quintessential Shaman showman, the man whose image, vocal style and theatrics laid the foundations not only for psych and prog as we know them but glam, shock-rock and even black metal, but very rarely does he get the chance to remind us just how great those early albums were.
Tonight at LBB, all that was put to rights, with frenzied renditions of ‘Come and Buy,’ ‘Time,’ ‘Child of My Kingdom’ and ‘Spontaneous Apple Creation’ – but all in the correct order – sounding as fresh as they had the first time round. Sadly no other original members remain from the glory days, but the current lineup, with the swooping, Rita Tushingham lookalike high priestess of lysergia Lucie Rejchrtova (formerly of Instant Flight) on keyboards, and Samuel Walker ably thrashing the traps where both Carl Palmer and Drachen Theaker once sat, are instinctively, intuitively tuned in to the true Crazy World sound, ably aided by Nina Gromniak’s scything guitar and the interpretative dance of Angel Fallon (also of Space Ritual). The venue may be a little more grandiose, but there’s still that touch of the old UFO club about this band: haircuts aside, this is about as close as 2012 gets to the real thing.
And Arthur himself is undoubtedly the real thing. Any man of almost 70 who can still sing, nay, shriek, at that volume, in tune, and still decorate it with those dollops of soul and blues that, again, launched a zillion careers, deserves some kind of knighthood – a dark one, obviously, but he deserves it all the same. “I Put a Spell on You” is now as much his song as it was ever Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ or Alan Price’: here, as much as in any number, Brown and his band demonstrate the whole combination of primal soul, R’n’B and even Olde English Music Hall roots which, when combined with jazz, neo-classical keyboard work and a healthy ingestion of “magic squares” created that which we now define as “UK psych-prog”, his band members such as Vincent Crane and Nicolas Greenwood soon also going on to record groundbreaking classics of their own.
In such music, the pop melodies and the soulful exhilarations are there, but rather than relying on the harmonies and choruses of the Beatles, Stones and other deities, the Crazy World album always was, and still remains, a symphony: music in varying and constantly shifting degrees of colour and mood. Yet, despite all that, every Mod about town (and a few Rockers too, judging by the front rows) can still “freak their stuff” to it without difficulty, and duly did so. My only complaint is that being, as it was, a performance of an album, there could be no surprises or time left for an encore, but on the other hand, maybe any attempt to follow what we’d just seen would have sullied its power.
Except, that is, if you’re a different band altogether, and you happen to be the headline act: a grand fanfare by Master of Ceremonies Caspar De La Mare, resplendent as ever in titfer, whistle and kipper, heralded the arrival of the Pretty Things (for ‘twas they) who achieved the unthinkable in managing to surpass their old mate Arthur for sheer power and create possibly an even more otherworldly atmosphere. This, you see, was not just any old Pretties gig, but the Electric Banana set: those who know the films from which these tunes came will understand therefore just how special tonight is. Some, like “Alexander” and “I See You” (the latter of which also appears on the band’s magnum opus SF Sorrow) have been aired before: others like “Danger Sign,” “Love, Dance and Sing,” “Eagle’s Son” and in particular “It’ll Never Be Me”, which graced the soundtracks of at least four classic Brit exploitation flicks, don’t get aired enough, and the chill down the spines of those lucky enough to witness it, myself included, is palpably visible.
You see, without the Pretties, aka the Banana, and their unique take on British R’n’B, which then flowered into freakbeat and psych, festered into prog, hard rock and metal, even veered off into reggae in the early 80s (as anyone who ever saw the Monster Club will attest) and provided the aural finish to so many of the films which go hand in hand with that music, I almost definitely wouldn’t be here writing this, and it’s probably fair to say that a lot of us wouldn’t be at LBB every few months grooving to it. All the requisite ingredients of what could be defined as ‘psych’ were here tonight from the music to the crowd to the raven haired dancing girls: the price of the beers (always hiked up slightly when we come in as opposed to the venue’s usual student clientele) was a harsh reminder that it definitely isn’t 1970, but if you closed your eyes for a moment it smelt and sounded like it was.
With regard to the PTs themselves as musicians, it never ceases to amaze me every time I see them how powerful they sound – if anything, with encroaching age, Dick Taylor gets heavier, fuzzier and dirtier as a guitarist, yet still manages to ring those bell-like signatures that form the core of the trademark Pretties sound from his instrument with a sublime sense of melody. Phil May’s voice may be deeper, more spoken in places than in days of yore (days of my what? Bad Puns Ed), but he remains note perfect, even when the rest of the band, including the ever-capable Frank Holland (rhythm guitar) and Mark St John (percussion and backing vocals) manage to forget how the final stanza of “Walking Through My Dreams” goes. Sod’s Law, if they had to nadger one song up, it would have to be my personal favourite, wouldn’t it? But one glitch in an otherwise perfect evening is easily forgiven.
R’n’B roots are returned to with ‘Midnight to Six Man,’ ‘Get the Picture’ and ‘Come See Me’ but there could have been no better end than the final throbbing crescendo of ‘£.S.D’ (yes, spelt that way – it meant money then), which, segued into ‘Old Man Going’ is possibly the best condensed demonstration of their durability. Their Kentish brethren the Strolling Bones may have the fame and the millions, but the Pretty Things retain the credibility worldwide that no stadium rock act ever has – and they’re still building on it. How something as sublime ever managed to crawl from the utter arsehole of Sarf East London that is Erith is still beyond me, but I guess half the best art has always been created out of a need to find something of beauty in an ugly environment…
Post-gig, LBB splits into various rooms covering a wide spectrum of underground vintage sounds with me heading into the Psych and Garage den for more hedonist fun till closing time. However the most remarkable aspect of Le Beat Bespoke its friendliness and warmth. Faces both old and new co-existed in the spirit of appreciation for above all the music (and not just the fashions, although some of the finest hairdos, dresses and three-piece suits known to man were still sported) there were many participants that looked more likely to be readers of Classic Rock or Prog magazine than Shindig or Record Collector, and even our venerable founder Rob Bailey, normally as stressed as any man responsible for organising a four day event could be, was sauntering round the room with a cheerful demeanour and wide grin, particularly whilst Arthur Brown did his thang.
Dashing Darius Drewe Shimon, aka just 'Drewe' 'Druid' or 'The Shim' to his mates, was born in East London in 1974. As a small child, both parents inflicted their musical tastes, from The Beatles and The Moody Blues to Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis, on him, and he was never the same again. Despite being born and bred a 'Cockney tosser', Drewe actually spent his teenage years in and around Birmingham, attending his first 60s/50s-themed nights there at The Ship Ashore, before "coming home" in 1993 to the South, where, with the exception of three years spent in Glasgow between 2007-2010, he has remianed ever since. In the almost two decades that have passed he has trod a strange meandering path from a shy 60s/70s-obsessed teen with no 'scene' to speak of to a Metalhead, sleaze-glammie, Goth, indie kid, glam-punker, garage-rocker, eventual Mod and psych freak (first attending Mousetrap in 2000) In that time he's also written for Shindig! Britmovie, DarkSide, Black Velvet and Get Ready To Rock, promoted various vintage and veteran acts at Camden Underworld, Glasgow Ivory Blacks and several other venues, DJed everything from psych, garage and soul to Metal at practically every well-known club in central London. Drewe is trying to build a time machine that will enable him to visit any period between 1960 and 1980 but still be able to use a mobile and Facebook. His ambition, aside from directing films and building said machine, is to morph into a cross between Jason King, Timmy Lea, Jerry Cornelius and Richard Hannay, and drift about the ether having adventures in a kipper tie, pinstriped flares and camel hair coat.
Arthur Brown: The Mind Beneath the Fire – Part One
What was your recent tour with Alice Cooper like? Where did you guys first meet, what were some of the greatest moments between you?
The recent gig with Alice Cooper was a one off. It was specially for the English audience and it was a wonderful experience for me. He showed how humble and generous he is. Everyone in my party was greeted and treated with respect and kindness. The band had great fun doing the ‘Fire’ song. They told me that they had played it at the sound check at the previous 10 gigs. That was their only rehearsal. I was told to get to Alexandra Palace at 3pm for rehearsal. I arrived and was taken upstairs to the dressing room. Mark St John, who negotiated the whole thing for me, said I would do my tune at the end of the sound check – between 4.00 and 4.30. But as I sat in the dressing room I heard the tell-tale rhythm and chords of ‘Fire’ belting out (it was the band doing there final run through before going through their own material). I was later told by them that it was the first time they had got it right all the way through. They had based their version on one from the Internet, where I sang with the SAS band featuring Josh Phillips on keyboards and Mark Bzezicki on drums. They had had to make changes, as they had no organ in Alice’s band.
I went down to the stage and was spotted by Shep Gordon, Alice’s manager. He said, “Come and meet Alice now.” Up on stage I went, just as the last chords were played. Alice smiled and clasped my hand. “Well,” he said to the band, ” might as well do it now with Arthur.” The band got ready – including his new gorgeous female guitarist.
I said to Alice, “In the press it says we will duet.”
He said, “no you sing it. I’ll just sing some ‘Fires’ in the background.”
” Wow! What about the fire helmet?”
“Oh Yeah!” he said.
“And what about the original make- up?”
Alice, of course, had borrowed this later for his own image and I didn’t want to have any awkwardnesses arising. “Yeah!” he said, “You just go out and perform it the way it is natural for you.”
The run through was flawless, and there were smiles all round. “I see you still have that big voice” said Alice. When I got off stage, I asked Shep Gordon when in the show I would sing. He said, “You are the encore!” – the final song of the night. Alice was giving me the final song of the night! A supreme act of generosity from any performer. I said what a generous gesture that was. Shep said, “Whenever asked, Alice always says “Without Arthur Brown, no Alice Cooper.” In all my meetings with Alice across the years, he has always been approachable and human. In the middle of a high profile world tour, here again he proved to be considerate and generous, and, whilst aware of his own stature as an artist, entirely humble. In that regard, he reminds me of Peter Gabriel.
The whole night was thoroughly entertaining and a huge success, filmed in 3D?
A far cry from the early days, where I, already with the ‘Fire’ hit under my belt, was spending time with the GTO’s (Girls Together Only) a girl group in LA who were working under the tutelage of Frank Zappa. One of the band, Miss Christine, was my favourite. And we did have time together. Her other boyfriend was Alice Cooper, as yet without his later image. Strangely, another figure in LA. at that time was Kim Fowley, who, sporting a beard down to his waist, I met on a rooftop. A few years later, at a time when a certain band later named Kiss were wondering what to do, he said to them, “Take Arthur Brown’s image. he’s no longer using the make up.” And they did.
How would you describe what you are currently doing, what are your band like?
The current Crazy World is a young band. There are 3 guys in it and 3 women. We lift each other up when we’re down, we party, and we give each other space. When Z-Star, the great female vocalist did a guest spot with us at the Queen Elizabeth hall, she said what struck her most was the love we all have for each other in the band. So this spills over into the music and performance. The performance is musically disciplined, but this allows us a great deal of freedom when we want to let it all hang out.
The rhythm section is dynamic and powerful. Sam Walker is a wild man on the drums as well as being a solo singer in his own right, and Jim Mortimore is pulverising and melodic by turns on the Bass. Jim is also the MD, he is very direct and spots deviations from the arrangements instantly . Hawkeye is his other name.
Lucy Rejchrtova on keyboards is a dynamo. She plays exceptionally well, and also dances, gestures, and generally is a show-woman of the highest order.
Nancy Gromniak is the still mountain next to Lucy’s fire. But watch her blaze when it comes to a solo.
When we were deciding how to enlarge the line up, we were thinking of a sax. But we opted for a dancer instead. Angel proved to be a huge asset, with her exotic costumes and flawless dancing.
We wear masks sometimes and generally provide a spectacle. With this band, I enjoy dancing, with rhythms varying from soul, through dub reggae to folk and flamenco. And I can be crazy or just move aside a bit and let the others be crazy. On the larger gigs, we use projections custom made by Malcolm Dick. Expect the unexpected. We will be in the middle of recording a new lot of songs when we do this concert. There is also a vinyl only album of a live performance at The High Voltage Festival last autumn featuring this band. You can get it through the website arthurbrownmusic.com
Being an eccentric performer, even for the 60′s, do you get equally eccentric fans? What are some fan stories you can share with us?
One female fan had her boyfriend change his name by deed-poll to Arthur Brown – so she could truthfully say she was sleeping with Arthur Brown! One fan at a festival built his own fire helmet. It worked from a butane tank and could shoot flames eight feet into the air Two young girl fans booked an apartment for two weeks so they could have me to themselves. It was conditional upon me wearing my stage make-up when we went to bed. One fan works for the railway, but likes to come to concerts dressed as a psychedelic Bishop and sets himself up in the entrance on a podium, welcoming the crowd, and advising them. His advice, if taken, would ruin many people’s lives. I have one fan who took two cars, smashed the roof of one, the floor out of another, welded the two together, the floorless one on top of the other, and now lives in it. I have fans who live in nudist communities. You should hear what the women say about the size of men’s appendages. One nudist liked to dress himself as a salad, complete with a ring of Parsley round his whatsit.
During the Foundations years, what was your role, did you give creative input to shape their sound?
Well, it started as some kind of ‘peace intervention’ because when I walked into the audition, one band member had a spear at the throat of Tim the drummer, who was bent back over the coffee bar. They both stopped rather sheepishly when I announced I was there to sing. After that, I enjoyed singing with Clem Curtis. We had some good fun with the music and I loved soul. I learned quite a lot from Clem, as it was the first time I had done duets with a guy. I wasn’t with them long and I don’t know if I had any effect on their music or stage performance.
What motivated you to leave the Foundations and to create the Crazy World of Arthur Brown?
Well, at the time I joined them, The Crazy World was actually already going. But we only got about two small gigs a month. Then, during the time I was with the Foundations, the Crazy World was invited to play the UFO club. I really loved the atmosphere and creativity down there. The band were talented and all of them quite wild. So, when one day the Foundations manager walked in with a record contract which was for three years and would require me to focus on that for those years, I was faced with a choice. I loved singing soul and liked singing with Clem. But the Crazy World allowed me to explore artistically, musically, and develop my showmanship as a performance artist. So, although The Crazy World was still only earning 30 pounds a week – not enough to live on – I chose them. Four months later, the Foundations had their first big hit. The Crazy World were still paupers. But I never regretted it and within a few months we had signed with Track and were ourselves on our way.
What do you remember about the original ‘Technicolour Dream’ event at Alexandra Palace? Can you remember much about your performance and what songs you played?
I remember it as a vast event of which I was somewhat suspicious. It seemed like a lot of the bands were not really anything to do with UFO. The underground was becoming overground, and getting watered down. In retrospect it introduced new ideas of music and performance to lots of people – including John Lennon. There were the bands from the underground, but it was more of a treadmill than the very informal, though efficient, way things were handled at UFO. We did ‘Nightmare,’ ‘Give Him a flower,’ ‘Fire,’ ‘Witchdoctor (a theatrical rendering of the John Mayall number),’ ‘I put a Spell on You,’ ‘I got Money,’ and ‘Come and Buy’.
How true is the Italian legend which includes your hair being set on fire, stage nudity and deportation?
Well at the time, I had gone into my second theatrical period. I left behind the theatrics of The Crazy World and often did concerts that were totally improvised . So I was artistically naked. I improvised lyrics and melodies, and the band improvised often atonal avant-garde sounds. In order to be truly free from normal bounds I decided I would sing naked. I did this round Europe with varying effects. When I appeared naked at the Marquee club in London, one young woman fainted, but otherwise it was accepted as “Oh yes, Arthur Brown!” In Sicily, indeed, I was put in the maximum security prison, where I had many adventures, and caused a riot. I had a trial, which is reported elsewhere, and too lengthy for this interview. I eventually escaped because Dennis Taylor, who was tour managing me did a deal with the local mafia and gave them all our gig money to spring me out. It was chaos. There were people marching through the streets with huge billboards – cartoons depicting me naked – some suggesting I be thrown out of Sicily as being “Filthy Beast” and others saying “Set this hero free!” It stopped the whole festival while the police tried to restore order. The Palermo Pop Festival lasted for three nights, and featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Aretha Franklin, among others. That night I performed with Pete Brown’s Piblokto, and we did not improvise it all. In fact, we did ‘Fire.’ This was part of the contractual requirement. The promoter said he was counting on me for something unusual and exciting. I think it was both.
Where did you get the idea to start wearing heavy make-up on stage, that later influenced so many artists?
In 1965, when I was performing in Paris at a club called the Bus Palladium, which for a while was the epicentre of the new wave of music in France, one night a mother brought a seven year old child into the dressing room. He said “You should black out your teeth. The next night, when I performed, I blacked out all my front teeth. The audience loved it. I also occasionally dressed as a woman and wore a little Mascara. I also found my first fire helmet – a crown with candles on it – in the corridor of the hotel. The combination of flaming crown and blacked out teeth really struck the audience. Then, when it came to UFO, one night both Drachen, the drummer, and I decided to wear make up. The Death’s Head idea came out of conversations with Mike Reynolds, an artist living in the same lodgings as me. I later changed the outline slightly away from the original skull pattern. It was a product of feeling. I needed to really take the audience into a different dimension than was usually offered in concerts. And the songs were about mystical things – so the possibilities were opened up image wise.
You were an inspiration to many acts from the 60′s beyond, you also worked with a plethora of them, what are some of your favourites?
Of course, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. Alan Parsons. Alice Cooper, Kula Shaker. Van der Graff Generator, Mothers of Invention, Peter Gabriel and the Prodigy
What was it like working with Pete Townshend as a producer?
Pete Townsend came to see us play at UFO. Track records had dithered about signing the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and lost them. So Pete, as talent scout for the Track set up, took me for a drive in his swank American car. The band decided that Track seemed the only company – out of the dozens that wined and dined us – that would allow us to go artistically where we wanted to go. Pete took us to his studio, and we set about demos. He was a useful creative force, particularly as the band had almost no experience of recording. When I said I was working on something that was incomplete, Pete asked what it was. We did a rough version of Spontaneous Apple Creation. He asked what was incomplete about it. I said I hadn’t come up with a melody for the song. He said, “I think it’s complete as it is.” We listened again, and agreed – it did sound good spoken. A lot of our performance in those days were improvised and often I would end up chanting or speaking in rhyme – so Pete’s idea was not out of keeping with our performances. Pete played rhythm guitar on some tracks but later it was decided to keep the basic unit as the band. We worked in pretty much harmony to produce the demos. The actual album was produced by Kit Lambert and Pete gave his input between Who gigs. So, Pete was pretty definite when he needed to be but did not attempt to dominate the band. He was excited with the ‘concept’ idea, which at that time was something new. I went to his house, and became aware of the scope of his imagination, which would later lead to Tommy. People claim to have been the first to develop the concept album but the truth is, it was in the air, and no one can say for certain who first had the idea. He was for me the opener of a door to the possibilities of realising things as yet unheard in popular music.
What are your memories of Track Records?
My memories of Track are that it employed more criminals than any other company I know. I remember two dynamic guys – Lambert and Stamp – who wanted to be film directors. They directed the High Numbers towards op art and drum smashing, and the band became The Who. Lambert was outrageous. Stamp was cool. Lambert was a creative force and was responsible for Hendrix’ rock hits. But they both succumbed to the lure of drugs. They nevertheless put me to the top. They were brilliant promotion men with artistic flair. They were bright and unstoppable in the beginning. But when my ex drummer sued them they became bankrupt as a company. Track’s office might have in it Jim Morrison, Hendrix, Ritchie Havens, Jonathan King, Thunderclap Newman, Marsha Hunt, Terence Stamp, (Chris’ brother.), John Fenton (publicist for Brian Epstein and manager of a Third World War and who at one time had 6 records in the top ten as a publisher); all manner of people to do with The Who – Wiggy, their tour manager was a favourite – and of course all the Who band members were in and out. There were beautiful women, Linda Keith for one, and journalists and radio figures. It was like a who’s who of the rock industry. Lord Sutch was a favourite of Lambert’s. I met David in Track’s office. Of course while the Bosses were partying, the accountants were siphoning off the money. So to me, a newcomer to the rock industry at that time, it was a revelation of what business was like in those years.
What was the intent behind ‘Kingdom Come’ do you feel you took it to where you felt it belonged? Also, please tell us your more recent memories of the 2005 performance that afforded you Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Showman of the Year’.
Kingdom Come sprang from a decision to go inwards and find myself. At the time, I felt this would be achieved either by going to study at the Samye Ling monastery in Scotland, or by a band. In the end, I chose the band, an active route. The name came when Dennis Taylor and his wife Astrid, and Jeanette, my first wife, and I were walking in Glastonbury by the Tor. I said, “Well, let’s name it according to the legend that King Arthur will return – let’s call it Kingdom.” Dennis said, “Why not Kingdom Come?” so Kingdom Come it was. It seemed to tie in nicely the Pagan element with the Christian who co-opted the Pagan mythology. My thinking was coloured by my time in the US. Hippie philosophy had dared come up against money, greed, and had to encompass the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Timothy Leary publicly manifested a gun. The war in Vietnam gave an object lesson in how money and power can change both invader and invaded. So the forces of change and inertia were gathered against each other. Ronald Reagan proposed putting hippies in a concentration camp. Many of those who aspired publicly to a spiritual realm were seduced by money, power and security.
Kingdom Come was financed by German Polydor, and English Polydor, who had refused us, did their best to block every move. I wanted, with the band, to represent the feelings that the above mentioned confrontation brought up in me on my journey towards myself. I wanted also to see how far my body could go in terms of drugs and alcohol etc.. It was a balance between discipline and fun. We did musical exercises – for instance a game much like musical chairs, but swapping musical phrases round every member of the band instead of chairs. At the same time, I wanted to explore multimedia presentation. So we had muslin screens, and costumes. And a lightshow and lightsman. We recorded Galactic Zoo, and in a conversation with Manager Mark Radcliffe, the idea arose of crucifixion as the theme of the piece . Some people take it as specifically Christian. But that was not it. Where the timeless meets the timebound events of this world is maybe a good starting point for that image. We were experimenting with non-traditional management structures, and seemed to consequently suffer from lack of money. But in the end that line-up received glowing reports, and played alongside Alice Cooper at the Rainbow, a major London venue. He referred to what we were doing as “true psychodrama.” A couple of years later and after much soul searching the band morphed into its electronic configuration, where synthesisers replaced the Hammond and I personally played the first robot onstage, when we used a drum machine instead of a drummer. It was the first time a band had been based on beats instead of a drummer. And the response varied from utter astonishment, to disbelief. The idea was for the band to have the simplicity of a string quartet. It also gave equal importance to all the instruments, as opposed to being based around a lead figure backed by others. I wanted to explore music as an objective expression as opposed to being a diary of personal feelings. We had projections on a screen – but now they were Yantra, geometric patterns and some of the great master paintings that transcended the personal. We were reaching for a multimedia presentation that would satisfy all the senses. I am still aiming for that, and will one day take it to its next level. That said, though we had no commercial success, we were liked in Europe, and opened for Duke Ellington amongst others, at cultural events. We were revolutionary, but we couldn’t quite make it into the heights controlled by the major financial league. We experimented with group living, drugs, sex, music, art, and life itself, and produced what are now regarded by many as two Classic albums. A worthwhile journey! In the end, I decided I had gone as far as I could go with a band form in the quest to find myself. So we disbanded.
This concert arose out of a series of concerts I did in the Brighton area where various artists did short sets before I came on. I remember our promoter losing faith three weeks before the gig, so we had to put in a completely new team. Billy Jones and Phil Rose took the Helm, and we managed to get a large crowd. My personal memories were that at 2.30 in the morning of the day, I found my then girlfriend naked downstairs with the carpenter. I had only just recovered from flu and my voice was extremely questionable. In the end, it was fine. Bruce Dickenson did the DJing because he wanted to, but his manager didn’t want that fact advertised. I did three sets with three different line-ups, and didn’t actually see any of the other artists. I didn’t get to chat with any of them. But they were great. They all did it basically for expenses. Howard Marks did a superb job of MCing the whole two and a half hour event. Everyone on the bill did it out of love, and I am still overwhelmed at their response. A DVD of the event is finally coming out this summer.
What were the songs like that you created for ‘Healing Songs Therapy’, is it possible to listen to some?
A healing songs session was where a friend of mine, an excellent counsellor, would talk to a client about their problems and I would listen, just picking up the threads and feelings that were undercurrents and often not stated. I would then take the guitar and improvise – I mean not like make new words for an existing tune but rather totally improvise both words and melody in the moment – and we would record it. The client would take away the result on a tape. We had glowing reviews, and Life magazine did an article, ‘From God of Hellfire to Singing Shrink.’ We got excellent reviews from psychologists and counsellors as being a potent new avenue for counseling. This was in Austin,Texas. When I got back to England, I called Pete Townshend about the method and suggested he might want to do some counseling of others in his AA program. He said he was not ready for that. But I heard a year or so later he developed his own variation of the Healing Songs method. Not improvising in a session but getting people to write in their problems and then creating a song which he sent them. Because it was poetry, people found the images fruitful for a long time. I think my counseling buddy, Jim still has some of the song tapes.
Do you have any mystical/occultist influences, what are they, in terms of writers and books?
Well when it comes to mystics there are many. Rumi, Gurdjieff, Ibn Arabi, Hallaj, Meister Eckhart, William Blake, Tennyson, Etc. A book for the occult is by Manly P Hall (who was Elvis Presley’s Guru). It is called Secret Teachings of all Ages. The Urantia Book is quite a volume. Books by Alice Bailey can be revealing of the occult. Bhagavad Gita is beautiful. To know what is really hidden, and what hides it, look at ‘I Am That’ by Nisarghadatta Maharaj. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
Did Robert Plant tell you why he invited you to work with him? What was that partnership like?
When I was contacted by Robert Plant’s management to do a tour supporting him with my acoustic trio, I was very flattered. It was during a period when I was also doing a tour with The Pretty Things. Miraculously, the two tours only conflicted on two concerts. Although it was only four weeks to the tour, everything was soon sorted out. Robert proved to be a very good host, and we had lots of laughs. He had just come off a stadium tour with the Who in the US. He took his cooks and three long trailers on the road for this tour. One night he joked that he would disband his line-up and work with a trio like mine. That way the expenses were kept down. He struck me as someone who had kept his integrity in the face of great fame and wealth. We never discussed why he wanted me on the tour, we were more likely to discuss the necessity of fisticuffs if necessary, or the place of magic in life. But his personal secretary said he had called from America, and said, “I want someone like Arthur Brown.” It may have been because his band at that time gave the music a psychedelic slant. I must say, he was well known for doing whatever he wanted to musically. When his success with Alison Krause came, I for one was well pleased that he had found a new niche for his talents. He is currently living in my old home town in Texas, Austin.
What have you got prepared for us for Le Beat Bespoké 8 2012 performance?
It’s what I haven’t got prepared that will thrill people -the unexpected in the moment happenings that are the hallmark of creativity. Of course it will be a full show with costumes, Fire helmet and such. I think it will above all be good fun. And danceable!
Brazilian polymath Eron Falbo came to London in 2009 after leaving his band ‘The Julians’ to pursue a solo career and become a cosmopolitician. Falbo began writing at the age of 11 for the school newspaper. By the age of 16 he had got his first job as a journalist. His experience in other magazines stretches from film critic to travel writer, passing through much but never leaving the culture spectrum. Apart from writing, Falbo is also an emerging singer. He was invited to record an album in one of the best studios in Nashville, Tennessee by none other than legendary producer Bob Johnston, who recorded the best material by the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash (all acclaimed writers). As of yet he’s only released one single, ‘Beat the Drums’ which was featured on Dermot O’Leary’s “Go Buy Monday” (single of the week) for BBC Radio 2, among other media. Currently, Falbo fronts the band ‘the Kyniks’ in venues in London and around the UK and can be occasionally spotted prowling the scene of the New Untouchables taking notes.
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