Saturday, 29 January 2011

75: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, “Fire” (no.1, 1968)

One of a couple of great one-hit wonders that bear the hand of Pete Townshend in a producing capacity. (Presumably, he’s had to stop in recent years because he’s been busy “researching his book”.) No guitars, you’ll note; just a demonstration of the inflammatory capabilities of one Hammond organ and a powerful brass section, and yet it’s an anomaly that remains more influential than might have been expected upon its first release. The horrors of prog rock are instantly detectable in those grandiose organ riffs - hell, a cover version even found its way onto a later ELP album entitled “The Return of the Manticore”, which is about as prog as it gets - but the more sonically extreme elements of black metal are never too far away, either. (It’s also been covered by Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson and, I’m assured, “Dutch death metal band God Dethroned”.) With its tattooed and posturing frontman, could we not equally hear The Crazy World of Arthur Brown as forerunners to the Prodigy - who sampled “Fire” on their 1992 album Experience, and themselves went on to frighten very small children, not to mention start fires of their own?

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