The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Arthur Brown (vocals) Vincent Crane (keyboards) Drachen Theaker (drums) (1966) January Arthur Brown (b. Arthur Wilton, 24 June 1942, Whitby, West Yorkshire, England) has been active on the music scene for about six months after graduating from Reading University with a philosophy degree in the summer of 1965. Brown has first become interested in pursuing a career in music while studying law at King’s College, London six years earlier. Exposed to traditional and modern jazz and art movies, he is also inspired by a Ken Colyer concert and picks up the banjo. While he never masters the instrument (nor completes his law degree), it leads him on a music path and he starts attending rhythm and blues evenings in Leeds. In 1963, he enrols at Reading University initially to study English, economics and social studies before switching to philosophy. While at Reading, he learns the rudimentaries of double bass and plays with The Yellow Dog Trad Band from Southampton who are playing the university circuit. However, after catching a Manfred Mann show at the university, he changes musical direction and becomes lead singer with his own R&B group, Blues and Brown. During this period, he issues his debut recording, a Rag week flexi-disc on Reading Rag Records in mid-1965, comprising two tracks: You’ll Be Mine by The Diamonds and You Don’t Know by Arthur Brown with The Diamonds. Brown subsequently relocates to Fulham, London and, after answering an advert in Melody Maker, joins mod group, The SW5, who include guitarist Paul Leggeter (later acoustic artist Paul Brett), bass player Rob Stacey, keyboard player Arthur Regis and sax player Tony Priestland. The SW5 record an unreleased album before changing name to The Arthur Brown Union. February Brown leaves to form The Arthur Brown Set with keyboard player Robin Short, guitarist Martin Kenny and bass player Barry Dean. Together with a young drummer, the band moves to Paris, France and takes up a lengthy residence at the Moulin Rouge where the musicians perform with strippers and naked transvestites! The drummer finds the whole experience too much and French drummer Christian Deveaux takes over. The Arthur Brown Set provides two tracks – Baby You Know What You’re Doing and Don’t Tell Me to Roger Vadim’s film, La Cure, which is released in the US as The Game Is Over. When The Arthur Brown Set splits up that summer, the singer moves to Spain for a few months to front a British R&B group before returning to the UK. October Brown organises a rehearsal at Marquee Studios with horn players Lyn Dobson and Henry Lowther with the intention of forming a new group to return to France to play club residencies. Brown invites Drachen Theaker (b. John “Drachen” Theaker; d. 1992), who he met in September after answering an advert that the drummer placed in Melody Maker. Theaker has previously played briefly with Manchester groups, The Measels and The Wheels before doing equally short stints with Jimmy Powell and Wynder K Frog. November (5) Brown’s group (billed as Crazy World of Arthur Brown) is advertised as providing support for The Herd at the Marquee in London. However, when the opportunity to play the promised gigs in France falls through, Brown and Theaker decide to go their separate ways, with the drummer gigging with Jimmy Cliff and then The VIPs. Brown meanwhile meets former Trinity College of Music graduate Vincent Crane (b. Vincent Rodney Cheesman, 21 May 1943, Reading, Berkshire, England; d. 14 February 1989) at a flat in West Kensington and talks his way into the keyboard player’s latest group, The Vincent Crane Combo, which has a steady residency at the Witches’ Cauldron in Belsize Park. Crane has been active on the
music scene for a number of years, having made his stage debut during an interval in a show by jazz player Humphrey Lyttleton at the Marquee in 1963 billed as “the loudest piano player in the world”. While at Trinity, he also plays with a short-lived piano jazz trio known as The Vincent Cheesman Trio and a blues band variously known as the Simon Magus Band or the Vincent Cheesman Blues Brothers. After leaving the music college in 1964, Crane and sax player Peter Gifford join Lew Hird’s Australian Jazz Band for a European tour and after returning that autumn, the pair form The Big Sound, which record some demos. Over the next two years, Crane (and his band) also work as a backing group for Crane’s old friend Paul Green and others in Word Engine (also known as Poetry Unlimited). In 1965, Crane plays with Mod/R&B outfit, J C & The Machine and then forms Vincent Crane’s Freedom Riders and latterly The Vincent Crane Combo, which comprises bass player Binky McKenzie, sax player John Claydon and drummer Gordon Hadlow. December Brown debuts with The Vincent Crane Combo at a gig in Brighton where Drachen Theaker is in the audience. Short of work, however, the band breaks up before the year is out. Intrigued by each other’s musical ideas, Brown and Crane forge plans to work together on a more ambitious project in the near future, but in the meantime, hook up with other groups in order to make a living. Crane joins ailing pop group Hedgehoppers Anonymous for a few months. (1967) January Brown hooks up with The Ramong Sound (which later finds fame as The Foundations), working with the group for a month before reuniting with Crane in the aptly named, Crazy World of Arthur Brown. February The ambitious new group is completed with the addition of Drachen Theaker and Crane’s old friend, Peter Gifford, who departs early on. March The Crazy World of Arthur Brown debuts at the 7 ½ club in Shepherd’s Market, Mayfair, where they are spotted by producer Joe Boyd, who invites the group to appear at the underground club, UFO in London’s Tottenham Court Road. (31) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown make their debut at the UFO with The Alberts in support. April (14) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appear at the UFO club with The Social Deviants. (29) The newly formed band makes one of its first major appearances at 14-Hour Technicolour Dream event, held at the Alexandra Place in London. May (5) Returning to the UFO, they play on a bill with The Soft Machine. (19) Back at the UFO, they perform on a bill that also includes Tomorrow and The People Show. June (16) The group plays at the UFO with The Soft Machine and The People’s Blues Band. July (1) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at the 117 club with Apostolic Intervention. (9) They appear at Tiles in London. (14) Back at the UFO, the band is joined by Alexis Korner and Victor Brox. Joe Boyd expresses an interest in signing the band but instead it attracts the attention of Who guitarist Pete Townsend, who records some tracks at his home studio, which are subsequently used in the film, The Committee. Later in the month, Townsend encourages his managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert to sign the band to the Track label. August (13) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appears at the 7 th National Jazz Pop Ballads and Blues Festival, Balloon Meadow, Royal Windsor Racecourse, Windsor, Berkshire with Cream, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Jeff Beck Group, Denny Laine’s Electric String Band, The Pentangle and many others. Bass player Sean Nicholas (aka Nick Greenwood) joins the band for further concert dates and also appears on sessions for the
band’s debut album alongside drummer John Marshall, who is brought in to replace Theaker on some tracks. The resulting album is not released until spring 1968. (18) Another show at the UFO finds the group sharing the bill with The Incredible String Band. (21) The band makes its Marquee debut in London with The Studio Six in support. (27) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at Saville Theatre with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Tomorrow, Georgie Fame, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Denny Laine’s Electric String Band, Dantalion’s Chariot and others. August (11) The group plays at Tiles in London. September The band’s debut single, Devil’s Grip is released but does not chart. (1-2) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown participate in the UFO festival, held at the UFO club, with Pink Floyd, The Soft Machine, Tomorrow and Denny Laine’s Electric String Band. (2) The group performs at Pearce Hall, Maidenhead, Berkshire. (3) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown travel to Nottingham for a gig before returning to London. (4) Following the success of its Marquee debut, the band returns for another show with Ten Years After in support. (9) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at the Ricky Tick in Hounslow. (11) The group returns to the Marquee the following week for a show with The Nite People in support. (16) The band appears at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford, Essex. (18) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown make another appearance at London’s famous Marquee club backed again by The Studio Six. October (1) They appear at Middle Earth with Exploding Galaxy, Mabel Greer’s Toyshop and Kult. (3) With Ron Wood from The Jeff Beck Group on bass, the band records its debut show for John Peel’s BBC radio show. The session, which comprises recordings of Witch Doctor, Nightmare, Devil’s Grip, I Put A Spell On You and Time, is broadcast later that month. (1968) January (20) The group appears at the End of Rag charity event, held at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London with Fleetwood Mac, The Move, Fairport Convention and others. February (9) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown support Cream at Leicester University Arts Ball, Leicester. April (8) A second John Peel session is recorded with the tracks Fire, I Put A Spell On You, Child Of My Kingdom and Come And Buy captured on tape. (13) The band plays at the Marquee in London with Timebox. With Greenwood as permanent bass player, the band undertakes a brief Italian tour. May (3-4) On its debut US tour, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown open for Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East in New York. (5) Canadian Jeff Cutler (b. Rowland Jefferies Cutler, September 8, 1941, Toronto, Ontario), previously a member of Toronto R&B outfit, Jon and Lee & The Checkmates and New Yorkbased David Clayton-Thomas & The Phoenix, takes over from Drachen Theaker who is suffering from nervous exhaustion. Cutler has recently subbed for Spencer Dryden in Jefferson Airplane on some New Jersey area dates and was playing with that group when it headlined over The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at New York’s Fillmore East. Theaker leaves and heads for Los Angeles where he subsequently does session work for Love, appearing on Four Sail, before backing Warren Zevon. Theaker will return to the UK in mid-1969 and reunite with Arthur Brown in a new version of the group.
(11) Cutler makes his debut with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan where the band appears with The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band and Jagged Edge. During the show, Crane attacks Brown and Cutler on stage and has to be restrained. (18-19) The group plays at the Miami Pop Festival, Gulfstream Racetrack with The Mothers Of Invention, Blue Cheer, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and others. (29-30) The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown appear at the Grande Ballroom, Detroit, Michigan. (31) – June (1) The band joins Love for a show at the Grande Ballroom. June (13) The group is supported by Big Brother & The Holding Company at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium. (14-15) The band performs at San Francisco’s Winterland with Big Brother & The Holding Company. (21-22) The group plays at the Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles with The Byrds and Fruminous Bandersnatch. Crane returns to England and British keyboard player Dick Henningham is drafted in to fulfil the remaining tour dates. (28-29) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown join The Who, Fleetwood Mac (and for the second night only) The Steve Miller Band for a show at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles. Brown breaks two bones in his foot after falling unexpectedly in the lighting pit and only plays one set. July While on tour in the United States, the group’s second single, Fire, tops the UK charts and subsequently hits #2 on the US Billboard charts. The band’s debut album, named after the single also tops the UK charts. (19-20) At the band’s final gig at the Kaleidoscope in Los Angeles, it shares the bill with Love and Rhinoceros (featuring Jeff Cutler’s former Jon & Lee and The Checkmates’ band mates, John Finley and Michael Fonfara). August The group returns to the UK where former Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds drummer Carl Palmer (b. 20 March 1950, Handsworth, Birmingham, England) takes over from Cutler. Palmer’s colleague from Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds, keyboard player Pete Solley (b. 19 October 1948, London) takes over from Henningham. Cutler and his New York partner Marvin Sylvor buy Brown’s contract following the US tour and together take on the task of representing, managing, negotiating, handling finances and booking gigs for the band. They also help visually develop, design and fabricate Brown’s North American tour later that year. The new line up begins work on recording a second album, provisionally titled, The Trials Of The Magician. (3) With Palmer on drums and Solley on keyboards, the band records a BBC session for The Saturday Club. (6) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at the Marquee in London with East of Eden in support. (10) The new line up headlines the second night at the National Jazz & Blues Festival held at Kempton Racecourse, Sunbury, Middlesex with The Nice and many others. (14) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown records another BBC session for The Parade of Pop. (17) The band performs at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London. Later that evening, it also appears at the Middle Earth club with The Writing on The Wall and Sam Apple Pie. (21) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, Middlesex. (24) They perform at Dunstable’s California Ballroom. (31) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appear at the Isle of Wight Festival, held at Fishbourne with The Move, T-Rex, Fairport Convention, The Pretty Things and many others. On the same day, the group records a live show for the German TV programme, Beat Club. September (7) The band returns for a show at the Roundhouse, sharing the bill with The Doors, Terry Reid, Jefferson Airplane and Blonde on Blonde.
(23) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appear at the Rhodes Centre, Bishop’s Stortford. October (12) They appear at Sheffield University with The Who. (18) They appear at Brunel University with The Who, Alan Bown, Elmer Gantry and Skip Bifferty. November Vincent Crane returns to the line up replacing temporary fill-in, Pete Solley who joins Terry Reid’s group. (6) The reshuffled line up plays at Eel Pie Island with July and Proteus in support. (8) The band kicks off a UK tour supporting the Who alongside The Small Faces, Joe Cocker and The Mindbenders at the Granada Cinema, Walthamstow, London. (9) The tour takes in Slough Adelphi, Slough. (10) The Who tour moves on to Bristol for a show at Colston Hall. (15-16) As part of the tour, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play the Middle Earth at the Roundhouse. (17) The group plays at the Birmingham Theatre as part of The Who tour. (18) The tour moves on to Northeast for a show at Newcastle City Hall. (19) On the penultimate night, the package tour arrives in Glasgow for a show at Paisley Ice Rink. (20) The final night of the tour is a show at the Liverpool Empire. December (15) Back Stateside for the second US tour, the group joins Fleetwood Mac for a show at the Music Hall, Houston, Texas. (23) The band plays at Olympia Stadium, Detroit, Michigan with MC5, SRC and The Rationals. (27-28) The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown appear at New York’s Fillmore East with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield’s Supersession and Sweetwater. (1969) February (4-5) The group appears at the Saugatuck, Michigan with The MC5, The SRC, The Stooges, Procol Harum and others. March (23) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appear at Mothers, Birmingham. May (31) The band appears at the Rock Pile in Toronto with Raven. June (28) While on the third US tour, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown join Rhinoceros for a show at the Wollman Skating Rink, Central Park, New York, as part of the Schaefer Music Festival. Crane and Palmer leave the band separately in New York but meet on the plane home and decide to form a new group, Atomic Rooster, named after the nickname given to Peter Hodgson, the bass player in Rhinoceros and Jeff Cutler’s former band mate in Jon and Lee & The Checkmates. Brown is forced to continue the tour using whatever local band he can recruit that “fits the bill”. On one occasion, the singer arrives in Canada to find the musicians hired have learned all of the numbers he usually plays in the set but he tells them to forget all of it and after improvising the whole set, the group is rapturously received. July (4) The band appears at the Saugatuck Pop Festival in Pottawattaimie Beach, Saugatuck, Michigan with Procol Harum, MC5, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, The Stooges, The Amboy Jukes, Bob Segar, The Rotary Connection and many others. August (1-3) The group performs at the Atlantic Pop Festival with Chicago, Iron Butterfly, The Mothers of Invention, The Grateful Dead, The Byrds and many others. October (31) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown play at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Michigan with The Amboy Jukes, The Stooges, The Bonzo Dog Band, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Bob Seegar, Teegarden & VanWinkle and many others. November Back in the UK, Brown reunites with former member Drachen Theaker, who has been working with High Tide since leaving the US. Through Cream lyricist Pete Brown, the pair meet sax player George Khan and synth player Jonar Mitchell, who are recruited for a new version of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown alongside bass player Dennis Taylor, a
former roadie for the group during Vincent Crane’s tenure and then band lightsman during the same period. The new line up, which is completed with guitarist Andy Rickell, records the album, Strangelands, which is not released at the time. (1970) February (28) The band supports Love at London’s Roundhouse during that group’s debut UK tour, along with Matthews Southern Comfort, Jody Grind and May Blitz. June (23) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown appear at Commemoration Ball, St Johns & Trinity Colleges, Oxford with The Moody Blues, Family and Fotheringay. The group tours France under the managerial guidance of Giorgio Gomelsky but it is a riotous affair and after returning to the UK, Brown, Theaker and Rickell leave. The trio rent a farm in Dorset and joined by keyboard player Roy Sharland, they play various concerts, including the Maryland in Glasgow, using the name The Puddleton Express. Soon afterwards, Brown leaves to form Kingdom Come with former member Dennis Taylor while Theaker and Rickell continue with the name briefly before splitting. SOURCES: Art Of Rock - Posters From Presley To Punk, by Paul D Grushkin, Artabras, Cross River Press Ltd, 1987. Mark Paytress unravels The Crazy World of Arthur Brown – Creators of Fire, article at: www.godofhellfire.co.uk/altbiog.htm London Live by Tony Bacon, Balafron Press, 1999. Mothers 1968-1971 by Kevin Duffy, Birmingham City Council, 1997. Strange Brew – Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom 1965-1970, by Christopher Hjort, Jawbone Press, 2007 The Castle - Love #2, by David Peter Housden, 1993. The Castle - Love #9, by David Peter Housden, 1995. The Peel Sessions, by Ken Gardner, BBC Books, 2007. Urban Spacemen and Wayfaring Strangers, by Richie Unterberger, Miller Freeman Books, 2000. White Bicycles by Joe Boyd, Serpent’s Tail, 2008 Disc and Music Echo, 31 August 1968, page 2 Variety, July 2, 1969. Many thanks to Arthur Brown for his personal recollections. I would also like to credit Olaf Owre for his work on Drachen Theaker’s early career with Manchester bands and specially thank Paul Green for his input on Vincent Crane’s pre-Crazy World of Arthur Brown career. Thanks also to Danny Hardman, Pete Solley and Miguel Terol. Thank you too Jeff Cutler for your personal insights to the band. Copyright © Nick Warburton, 2009, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author I have tried to ensure the accuracy of this article but I appreciate that there are likely to be errors and omissions. I would appreciate any feedback from anyone who can provide any additions or corrections. Email: Warchive@aol.com Visit: www.nickwarburton.com