The Inflammatory Mr. Brown

The Guardian has a delightful article on Arthur Brown and his efforts to aid musicians affected by the pandemic. He’s even recorded a new homebrew version of “House of the Rising Sun” with a group dubbed Arthur Brown’s Crazy World of Lockdown as a fundraiser.

I interviewed Brown in 1985 when he was living in Austin and earning his living as a house painter. I don’t have the transcript of my phoner with him, but here’s the short piece that came of it:

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown shocked music fans in 1968 with a hit
single called “Fire” and a stage show that climaxed with singer Brown igniting the specially-rigged helmet he wore. After the Crazy World ended, Brown pursued other musical avenues in a group called Kingdom Come and had a small role in the movie of Tommy.

In 1980, he says, “I was wanting to move to America, and Robert Fripp — from whom I’d been taking guitar lessons — suggested Austin, Texas. He said I would earn money quickly in California or New York, but life would expand in Austin.” A good call? Brown chuckles. “It’s expanded in a different direction from the one I thought.” He doesn’t elaborate.

Brown left London for Austin, planning to continue his musical career. “When I first came to Austin, there was supposed to be a nice big record
deal, but as often happens, that fell apart.” Instead, he has released
albums of synthesizer music on two independent labels, including his own Fig Productions. He also took up carpentry, and currently runs a house-painting business with original Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black.

Brown notes a helpful relationship between his two careers. “We’ve gotten a lot of jobs because of the music,” but adds, “I charge extra for lighting my head on fire.”

Now 41 and the father of a young son by his Texas-born wife, Brown performs occasionally in the area with a couple of synthesizer players. “I just did a track on the Austin Christmas album; it also features Willie Nelson.” He’s working on a new album and has hopes of touring the US and Europe this year.