THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
783) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown — “Give Him a Flower”
The Crazy World’s ’67 B-side proves that even the god of hellfire can be won over by flower power and give a flower to the eight stone bully who kicks sand in his face, pours suntan lotion into his lemonade and takes his girl.
David Wells calls “Give Him a Flower” a “fabulous flower power send-up” (Record Collector 100 Greatest Psychedelic Records: High Times and Strange Tales from Rock’s Most Mind-Blowing Era) and notes that the New Music Express’ Charles Shaar Murray described the song as “possibly the only recorded example of British psychedelic stand-up comedy” Hey, what about Peter Cook’s and Dudley Moore’s “The L.S. Bumble Bee” (see #60)?
Brown himself recalls that “Flower” “became the anthem for the hippies — they would all sing the chorus”, and that “the studio version was scaled down from the live show, where ‘it would go on for like twelve, twenty minutes — there would be all these jokes, little skits.’” (liner notes to the Real Life Permanent Dream CD comp)
Arthur Brown, Vernon Joynson writes, “was undoubtedly one of the memorable figures of British psychedelia. . . . [The Crazy World] had become a very popular attraction around London’s underground clubs, like the UFO . . . . They had a flamboyant stage act which often involved Brown appearing in a flaming helmet with bizarre facial make-up. Indeed, their act was so expensive to stage that Brown eventually [went] broke.” (The Tapestry of Delights Revisited)
Mark Deming gives some World history:
Arthur Brown burst out of obscurity in 1968 with “Fire,” an energetic and forceful fusion of blues, jazz, psychedelia, and embryonic hard rock . . . invoking the dangers of the dark side. . . . [I]t was the defining song of his career, but Brown’s oeuvre was impressively diverse. . . . The common thread that ties [it] together is his big, booming voice, over-the-top vocal theatrics, and a willful eccentricity that boosts the power of his music. . . . He was a member of the Ramong Sound [later to become the Foundations of “Build Me Up Buttercup” fame] . . . . [E]ager to launch a project that would match his outsized stage persona, he left the band to form the Crazy World of Arthur Brown . . . . Kit Lambert and Peter Townshend were part of the production team for their self-titled debut album. . . . [and] captured a grandiose sound full of drama and menace . . . . “Fire” . . . became a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The[ir] live show, which featured Brown wearing a helmet that spit fire and occasionally taking the stage naked, help spread the word about the group, and Brown became one of the most talked-about characters in British rock. In the wake of the success of their debut, [they] cut a second album, Strangelands. It was originally slated for release in 1969, but executives at Atlantic and Track felt it was too experimental for mainstream listeners, and it was shelved. (It received a belated release in 1988.)https://www.allmusic.com/artist/arthur-brown-mn0000510278/biography
Here are some live snippets of “Flower” and”Fire” at UFO:
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