PETE BROWN ROCK’S POET LAUREATE
Poet, songwriter, band leader and former anarchist, Pete Brown was one of the great characters of the London hippie scene in the Sixties. He remains a vibrant force today and in 2009 his work is being celebrated by Repertoire with the release of three of his classic albums.
Brown came to fame as the distinguished co-author with Jack Bruce of many of The Cream’s greatest hits, such as ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love.’ But after the demise of Cream he went onto become a performer in his own right with such bands as The Battered Ornaments and Piblokto! He released a raft of records including A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark, The Art School Dance Goes On Forever and Thousands On A Raft under the Piblokto! banner.
The intriguing titles of these albums all have their origins and special meanings which Pete has revealed in interviews for the CD liner notes. Even more important is the music which features such splendid musicians as guitarists Chris Spedding and Jim Mullen. Pete himself is if courses the vocalist and his talent in this department has improved over the years, but candidly confesses it led to some problems in the past.
Peter Brown was born in London on December 25, 1940. Always a rebel, he defied family attempts to make him conform and instead became a beat poet. He much preferred engaging in poetry readings rather than selling shoes for a living. He was part of the underground scene that embraced jazz, folk, the blues and all kinds of fringe rock music. In the early Sixties he took part in the earliest jazz and poetry sessions, and became involved with top musicians of the day including Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. When the latter two formed Cream with Eric Clapton, Pete was recruited to help with the task of supplying material for Cream’s albums and singles.
He wrote spaced out, surreal lyrics that included the memorable ‘Politician’ and he later wrote for Jack Bruce’s debut album ‘Songs For A Tailor’. In 1969 he formed his first band The Battered Ornaments, which included Chris Spedding on guitar. The band’s name came from a clever phrase coined by the famed Dr. Johnson, describing the excessive use of adjectives.
A wild child and hell raiser in his youth, nevertheless Pete had given up all drinking and drugs by the time he was collaborating with Jack Bruce. So he was shocked to be sacked as leader of The Battered Ornaments, just before they were due to play a vital support gig with The Rolling Stones at their Hyde Park concert in London in 1969.
The Ornaments had just recorded ‘A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark.’ The title? Pete hints darkly, that it has unspeakable sexual connotations. After his abrupt departure from the Ornaments at the hands of his lead guitarist, who was apparently unimpressed by Pete’s singing, he defiantly formed Piblokto! with drummer Rob Tait, Scots guitarist Jim Mullen, Roger Bunn (bass), and Dave Thompson (organ). They unleashed a debut single ‘Living Life Backwards’/’High Flying Electric Bird’ on the Harvest label and in 1970 released their album ‘Things My Come And Things May Go But The Art School Dance Goes On Forever’ (SHVL 768).
This has been deemed the world’s longest album title and is fairly self explanatory. The meaning of Piblokto! is more interesting however and is something to do with Eskimo ailments prevalent in the Arctic, according to medical experts.
After another single ‘Can’t Get Off The Planet’/Broken Magic’ (HAR 5023), Roger Bunn quit the band and was replaced by Steve Glover in time for the next Piblokto! LP ‘Thousands On A Raft.’ There was one more version of Piblokto! with Phil Ryan (keyboards), and ‘Pugwash’ Weathers (drums), but after releasing a single ‘Flying Hero Sandwich’/’My Last Band’ the group broke up. Pete went off to work with his old hero organist Graham Bond during the early Seventies, shortly before Graham’s tragic death. In recent years Pete Brown has returned to singing, composing and touring, as well as writing film scores and working once again with his old Cream colleague, Jack Bruce. He is currently working on his autobiography and has a new all star album in the pipeline called ‘Road Of Cobras.’ More about that later!