25 December 1940 |
Ashtead, Surrey, England
Pete Brown & Piblokto!
The Battered Ornaments
Best known for his collaborations with Jack Bruce, Brown also worked with The Battered Ornaments, formed his own group Pete Brown & Piblokto!, and worked with Graham Bond and Phil Ryan. Brown also writes film scores and formed a film production company. Comedian and actor Marty Feldman was Brown's cousin.
Brown was born in Ashtead, Surrey. Before his involvement with music, he was a poet, having his first poem published in the US magazine Evergreen Review when he was 14. He then became part of the poetry scene in Liverpool during the 1960s and in 1964 was the first poet to perform at Morden Tower in Newcastle.
The First Real Poetry Band brought Brown to the attention of Cream. Originally, he was seen as a writing partner for drummer Ginger Baker, but the group quickly discovered that he worked better with bassist Jack Bruce. Of the situation, Bruce later remarked "Ginger and Pete were at my flat trying to work on a song but it wasn't happening. My wife Janet then got with Ginger and they wrote 'Sweet Wine' while I started working with Pete."
After the breakup of Cream, Bruce and Brown continued to write songs together for Bruce's solo career. Brown wrote the lyrics for Bruce's albums Songs for a Tailor, Harmony Row and Out of the Storm.
Brown formed Pete Brown and His Battered Ornaments in 1968, and in 1969 the band recorded two albums; A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark and Mantlepiece, with a line-up including Pete Bailey (percussion), Charlie Hart (keyboards), Dick Heckstall-Smith (sax), George Kahn (sax), Roger Potter (bass), Chris Spedding (guitar) and Rob Tait (drums). Brown then suffered the ignominy of being thrown out of his own band, the day before they were due to support The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. His vocals were then removed from Mantlepiece and re-recorded by Chris Spedding, and the band was renamed The Battered Ornaments.
Piblokto! was formed after Brown's dismissal from the Battered Ornaments, and was active between 1969 and 1971. The original Piblokto! members were; Brown on vocals, Laurie Allan on drums, Jim Mullen on guitar, Roger Bunn on bass and Dave Thompson on organ. Most of their releases were for Harvest Records.
Allen left to join The Battered Ornaments and was replaced by their drummer Rob Tait. They released their first single "Living Life Backwards" / "High Flying Electric Bird", (The A-side later covered by Jeff Beck), followed by the album Things May Come and Things May Go but the Art School Dance Goes on Forever (1969). Bunn was replaced by Steve Glover for their second single, "Can't Get Off The Planet" / "Broken Magic" and the LP, Thousands On A Raft (1970).
Mullen, Thompson and Tait left, so Brown and Glover were joined by Phil Ryan on keyboards, John 'Pugwash' Weathers on drums (both formerly from The Eyes of Blue) and Brian Breeze on guitar. This line-up only recorded one single, "Flying Hero Sandwich"/"My Last Band". Weathers and Breeze both departed, to be replaced by guitarist Taff Williams (also formerly in The Eyes of Blue) and drummer Ed Spevock, before finally disbanding in Autumn 1971. Pete Brown went on to work with Graham Bond. Both albums, all three singles and several bonus tracks were reissued on a double album CD BGOCD522 in 2001.
The band's name was taken from the Inuit word for "Arctic Hysteria", Piblokto, with symptoms including hysteria (screaming, uncontrolled wild behaviour), depression and echolalia (senseless repetition of words).
After Piblokto!, Brown started to work with Graham Bond, with input from Jack Bruce and Bond's wife, Diane Stewart. In 1972 they recorded one album, Two Heads Are Better Than One, a single, "Lost Tribe", and much of the soundtrack to the film Maltamour before Bond left to form Magus in 1973.
Brown then formed Brown and Friends, and Flying Tigers but neither group got beyond producing demos. He recorded an album of his early poems, The Not Forgotten Association, in 1973 before recording with members of Back to Front, including an album, Party in The Rain, which was recorded in 1976, but not released until 1982.
On the rise of punk, he left the music scene in 1977 and wrote film scripts. He then wrote a film score for a BBC TV film, with Phil Ryan, who had been in a late Piblokto! line-up. They collaborated for 12 years, and Brown formed his own label Interoceter, which issued two Pete Brown/Phil Ryan albums: Ardours of the Lost Rake and Coals to Jerusalem. They began touring in 1993, and a compilation of the two albums was issued on CD as The Land That Cream Forgot (Vintage VIN 8031-2). In the 1990s Brown also appeared with The Interoceters, performing his earlier material.
References in popular culture
- "Pete the Poet", a track on guitarist John McLaughlin's debut album Extrapolation (1969), is named after him.
- "Get", a song by Blurt about him and his model aeroplane collection.
- "Student Susan", a track on Japanese guitarist Saiichi Sugiyama's album So Am I (2004), which Brown wrote with Sugiyama, is named after the former girlfriend of Stuart Sutcliffe of the Beatles whom Brown went out with in the Liverpool poetry scene in the early 1960s.
- Few Poems (Migrant Press, Birmingham, 1966)
- Let 'Em Roll, Kafka (Fulcrum, London, ISBN 0-85246-014-7, 1969)
- The Old Pals' Act (editor; Allison & Busby, London, ISBN 0-85031-016-4, 1972)
- The Not Forgotten Association (album of Brown reading his early poems, 1973)
- A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark (Harvest 1969)
- Things May Come and Things May Go but the Art School Dance Goes on Forever (Harvest, SHVL 768, 1970)
- Thousands On A Raft (Harvest, SHVL 782, 1970)
- Two Heads Are Better Than One (1972)
- My Last Band (Harvest, SHSM 2017, 1977)
- Party in The Rain (1982)
- Curly's Airships (2000) (with Judge Smith)
- Ardours of the Lost Rake (2003)
- Coals to Jerusalem (2003)
- The Land That Cream Forgot (Vintage, VIN 8031-2, 1996)
- Larkin C 'Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music' (Muze UK Ltd, 1997) ISBN 0-7535-0149-X p80
- Joynson, Vernon (2006). The Tapestry of Delights Revisited (1st ed.). Telford: Borderline productions. pp. 126–127. ISBN 1-899855-15-7.
- Eder, Bruce. "The Battered Ornaments". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- Kellman, Andy. "Biography of Pete Brown". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- Sleeve notes to The Land That Cream Forgot
- http://www.brownwaters.com/ Brown Waters film production
- Brown Waters production