Arthur Wilton Brown was born in 1942 and attended the University of London studying philosophy and law. He loved music and formed his first band, Blues and Brown, in Reading while in the University there. After working with several bands, he went to Paris to study acting and with his theatrical contacts, found himself scoring songs for filmmaker Roger Vadim. He returned to London in late 1966 and joined an R&B/Soul band called The Ramong Sound which eventually became a soul band called The Foundations. During this time, he and the band became known for extreme and outrageous stage antics. He had a tendency to wear flaming helmets and elaborate makeup and these performances have gained him some noteriety as the father of 'shock rock'. He eventually formed his own signature band,'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown'.
Brown's music is clearly influenced by American R&B and Soul music. His vocal styles are obviously aimed at imitating the wilder and most primal of those artists.
Main Creative Force
There really is only one - Arthur Brown.
Most Likely To Be A Mainstream Rocker
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was never meant to be a part of the mainstream, though they did have a gold record for the single 'Fire' from the debut album, 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown'. He worked with a number of musicians on his albums, but most of them seemed firmly based in progressive rock and not terribly commercial at all. They include members of the Mothers of Invention and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. It is hard to envision anyone that was part of his band as a mainstream rocker.
First Hint of Prog Brilliance
The debut album, 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown' made it clear that this was not mainstream. In fact, it really isn't the music itself that wins him the prog label; rather it is the outrageous stage performances which obviously paved the way for tons of future shock rockers.
Brown never really won any more fame and noteriety than the one hit, 'Fire' which got performed a lot by every incarnation of his music. In the seventies, however, he formed his most progressive band musically which was 'Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come'. They recorded three albums and the third is allegedly the first album to use a drum machine.
Influenced By Them
You can cite Brown as a key influence over anyone who came out of the 70s with extensive use of makeup, stage theatrics and pyrotechnics. Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, George Clinton's Parliament Funkadelic, KISS, and Bruce Dickinson can all claim to have been influenced by Arthur Brown.
Brown has done a little bit of everything over the years and has continued to be involved in music. His stage performances are still remarkable and his involvement with classic rock tours wins noteriety and he will continue to be talked about as long as he is willing to take the stage, usually accompanied by flames and fireworks.
My Personal Take
I know Arthur Brown more as an influence than as an actual performer. I've seen very little of his stage performances and listened to very few of his recordings. Still, it is obvious that he opened a lot of doors for what could be done onstage as part of the world of rock and roll. For many artists in the 70s, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown defined what the world of rock and roll could be.