The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s Incendiary ‘Fire’

Share This:

“I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you fire!”

If you followed rock music in the heady late ’60s, you undoubtedly remember those words as the opening line of “Fire,” credited to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. The psychedelic single, released in the United States on Atlantic Records, catapulted to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart October 19, 1968, after which the band (which at one time included Carl Palmer, later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and its eponymous leader never had another hit. Ditto their debut album, also titled The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and produced by Kit Lambert, manager of the Who—it managed its way up to #7, then flamed out.

Brown, from London, originally studied philosophy and law but music took hold and he performed with a few bands, including one that later morphed into the Foundations (“Build Me Up, Buttercup”). In 1967, he formed The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, which also included  Vincent Crane (Hammond organ and piano), Drachen Theaker (drums) and Nick Greenwood (bass). With his four-octave vocal range and flamboyant stage show, Brown was a quick success in the U.K. and when “Fire” was released in 1968 it rocketed to the top of the charts in his home country, while faring well in several other countries.

The live performances became more outlandish: Brown was known to set various items on fire while wearing them on his head, wore garish face paint (years before Kiss) and occasionally stripped naked onstage. (Italy didn’t approve and deported him.) But the novelty was short-lived. Brown—who nicknamed himself the God of Hellfire—disbanded the group in 1969 and joined a commune for some time. He later fronted a band called Kingdom Come and has worked as a solo artist in the years since his sole hit, reforming Crazy World in 2000. Their most recent release is 2013’s Zim Zam Zim. He toured the U.S. in 2017, and again in 2019 (with Palmer), reportedly as wild as ever.

Several acts, notably Alice Cooper, have cited Brown as an influence, but he and his Crazy World remain classic one-hit wonders.

Related: Arthur Brown was born in 1944

Watch The Crazy World of Arthur Brown perform “Fire” in 1968

Best Classic Bands Staff

8 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. Deadguy
    #1 Deadguy 1 March, 2018, 06:50

    Had the experience to see Brown in both a small club and a rock festival. He was rather wild and crazy both off and on stage. I believe the impaired normality of those days was his downfall for lackluster performances. I still have the vision of him hanging on a lighting scaffold tossing his clothing into the crowd while screaming “Fire Fire Fire” sorta like a prehistoric Bevis.

    Reply this comment
    • RoundHouse
      RoundHouse 22 October, 2023, 00:41

      I too saw Arthur Brown in both outdoor as well as at small club shows. The first was at the August 1967 7th National Jazz & Blues Festival, when he arrived on the stage at night descending down from above via a tall crane. I later saw his show(s) in small locations in London where other bands shared the same stage during the night. The locations of those psychedelic smaller clubs would frequently change their names for a particular night from “The Electric Garden”, to “UFO”, etc. mostly around the West End, Covent Garden, or at the large and more famous location during Friday & Saturday nights at the “Round House” in Chalk Farm.

      Reply this comment
  2. Laudy
    #2 Laudy 1 March, 2018, 09:02

    Screaming Lord Sutch was an inspiration for Arthur Brown and Alice Cooper !

    Reply this comment
    • Gnidrolog
      Gnidrolog 20 October, 2018, 01:37

      Extremely doubtful in the case of Arthur Brown. His biggest influences were James Brown and Screamin Jay Hawkins.

      Reply this comment
    • Kimosabbe
      Kimosabbe 26 January, 2019, 17:00

      I just looked-up Screaming Lord Sutch … I agree, had to be an inspiration for Brown. Thank you.

      Reply this comment
  3. Gym Blogs
    #3 Gym Blogs 20 October, 2020, 08:50

    I saw Crazy Arthur the week that single was issued, at The Kursaal, Southend. The band were tyrememndous, as was his powerful voice. They both opened and closed with “Fire!”. How he escaped injury with that incendiary rig on his head, I really don’t know! He inspired one of my short stories, “Flame Red”

    Reply this comment
  4. Scottydog
    #4 Scottydog 20 October, 2021, 00:37

    A right classic of a band with a hot performance of Fire from back in good old 1968

    Reply this comment
  5. DrFonk
    #5 DrFonk 20 October, 2023, 10:29

    One of the wilder shows I saw at The Fillmore East May 1968 The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.