The Crazy World of Arthur Brown — “Nightmare”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — April 16, 2023


797) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown — “Nightmare”

The most demented (and greatest) music video ever made, from the crazy mind of Arthur Brown (see #783), for a song that actually hit #56 in the UK and #107 in the U.S. Don’t just listen to me. CosmikDebriis says it’s “[t]he best rock video on Youtube” and doccyclopz calls it “[p]ossibly the greatest music video in the history of music videos.” (both at Bert Spivey is spot on: “The parties back then must have been epic if someone walks into the room with his hat on fire and no one notices.” ( Oh, and Gery Hatrix recalls “I was a camp counselor in 1969 and would play this at night in my cabin to quiet down the campers after ‘Lights Out”. It worked every time!!! They were scared sh*tless.” (

As to the song, Jason calls “Nightmare” “a powerful piece of early progressive rock with crazed vocals, thundering drums and soulful organ via Vincent Crane – a true classic.” ( 23 Daves says:

“Nightmare” is even more threatening than “Fire”, consisting mostly of a determined, full-on organ riff topped off with Brown’s demonic screaming. It’s not a bad record at all, but had Radio One played this during the daytime, it would have terrified the wits out of most of the nation – gone is the almost groovy hook, and instead there’s a lot of terror and minimalism in its place. No horn section this time, I’m afraid.

And Abel:

[It has a] melodramatic horror-movie vibe, complete with funereal organ and what sounds like a psycho’s heavy breathing. . . . Sinister mood established, the rock trio bursts to life driven by the Hammond organ of Vincent Crane. The story appears to concern young Hieronymous and the gods who visit him in his nightmares. The subject is hell, sin and a search for salvation.

The video comes to mind when reading Perry Jimenez’s contention that:

If it wasn’t for this underrated one-hit-wonder we wouldn’t even have Shock Rock, That’s Right, as in No Alice cooper seducing snakes and Killing chickens, No Ozzy Osburne biting off the heads of Bats and turning into a werewolf, no Kiss and Gene Simmons Bleeding from his tongue and breathing fire, and no Marylin Manson turning into a demonic hermaphrodite, let’s take some time to truly appreciate the legacy this man had made, and to think he did it by singing with fire in his head, Thank Mr. Arthur Brown, you have changed Rock and Roll for generations.

As to Arthur Brown, Vernon Joynson writes that:

[He] 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 us some Crazy 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.)

The video is actually a scene from the British film The Committee, of which IMDb gives a brief synopsis — “A hitch hiker decapitates the man having picked him up while stopped by the side of the road to fix the car’s engine. A few day’s later he gets summoned to a committee, where he engages in different conversations, yet fears that his summoning is linked to the previous incident.” ( — and a fuller analysis:

This short experimental feature follows a young man (Paul Jones, vocalist for the band Manfred Mann) who is picked up by a successful but self-satisfied businessman (Tom Kempinski) while hitchhiking. Bored and exasperated with the businessman’s prattle, the young man succumbs to temptation while the mogul checks the engine of his Mercedes Benz, bringing the car’s hood crashing down on the man’s head. Feeling remorse later on, he sews the businessman’s head back onto his body, with the victim seeming no worse for wear. Years later, the young man is working with an architectural firm when he’s called upon to join a committee led by a powerful government official (Robert Lloyd). It soon becomes obvious that along with his other duties, the man is asked to account for his actions, which could easily have led to another man’s death. The Committee was shot on location at the London School of Economics, and features a musical score by Pink Floyd, which was composed and recorded shortly after Syd Barrett left the group. Influential theatrical rock combo The Crazy World of Arthur Brown also performs in the film. You’re probably expecting some silly, psychedelic curiosity (ooh, Pink Floyd and Arthur Brown!), but this film’s goals are surprisingly highbrow. The script’s dark, surreal satire is more likely to recall Camus, Orwell and Kafka than Timothy Leary. The heart of the tale involves a world where, similar to jury duty, people are called away to serve on philosophical committees for varying lengths of time. (One experienced participant remembers that his past group simply had to decide which of five oranges was the roundest.) Along the way, some vaguely drawn ideas about non-conformity and the individual’s place in society dart in and out of the frame. The film’s short duration doesn’t allow such themes to be fleshed out, but perhaps it’s just as well. Note that the lead character (credited only as “Central Figure”) is portrayed by Paul Jones, the ex-Manfred Mann singer who starred in the equally bleak, rock-star satire “Privilege” around the same time. The Pink Floyd aspect is minimal (some organ-led noodlings such as heard on Ummagumma and More), but you do get an outrageous, onscreen performance from Brown, complete with flaming helmet.

Here is the 45:

Here is some live footage (’68):

Here is The Committee:

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