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Pete Brown

+ {Pete Brown And His Battered Ornaments} + {Pete Brown And Piblokto!} + {Pete Brown & Ian Lynn} + {Pete Brown & Phil Ryan} + {Pete Brown & The Interoceters}

Known primarily for his poetic compositional prowess and links with CREAM, JACK BRUCE, GRAHAM BOND, PHIL RYAN et al, singer/trumpeter/percussionist PETE BROWN was an integral part of the 60s blues-rock revolution before stamping his authority on the burgeoning jazz and prog-rock scenes at the turn of the 70s. One wonders how CREAM would’ve managed without PB’s lyrics to classics `I Feel Free’, `Sunshine Of Your Love’, `SWLABR’, `White Room’, `Politician’ and many, many more: he was indeed a 4th member to Messrs CLAPTON, BRUCE and BAKER.
Born Peter Constantine Brown, 25 December 1940, Ashtead, Surrey, Pete’s interest was always in poetry since having one piece published in the Evergreen Review (a counter-cultural US magazine), when he was just 16. As beatnik power spread to Britain in the early-to-mid 60s, BROWN found sustenance within the Liverpool scene, whilst also making his mark as the first performance poet to appear at Newcastle’s Morden Tower. Music had also played a part in Pete’s constitution at this stage in his life; founding tour combo “The First Real Poetry Band” alongside the mighty JOHN McLAUGHLIN (guitar), Binky McKenzie (bass), Laurie Allan (drums; later to GONG) and Pete Bailey (percussion). But CREAM were waiting in the wings.
Paired off with Jack B when a writing flow between himself and Ginger B didn’t materialise fully, Pete was happy enough to take the going-rate percentage of the songwriting credits from their sets, `Fresh Cream’ (1966), `Disraeli Gears’ (1967), `Wheels Of Fire’ (1968) and the post-obit `Goodbye’ (1969).
Quickly back in his stride as PETE BROWN AND HIS BATTERED ORNAMENTS (backed by guitarist CHRIS SPEDDING, organist Charlie Hart, bassist Butch Potter, alto saxophonist George Khan, drummer Rob Tait and the aforementioned Pete Bailey), Harvest Records were behind him on his debut LP, A MEAL YOU CAN SHAKE HANDS WITH IN THE DARK (1969) {*7}. A pretty inventive title for an avant-garde artist yet to become a household name, the SPEDDING pairings `Station Song’ and `Morning Call’ were arguably its most accessible, whilst the hit-or-miss prog-length pieces were best served by `Sandcastle’ and the tongue-twisting `Travelling Blues (Or The New Used Jew’s Dues Blues)’; that aside, the sprawling `The Politician’ had learned some traits from the BONZOs or the Magic Band.
As Battered Ornaments segmented into a tighter component with SPEDDING at the helm (there was no sign of our rock’s poet laureate on follow-up, `Mantle-Piece’), PETE BROWN AND PIBLOKTO! conjured up their own take on prog-rock through the exhaustively-titled THINGS MAY COME AND THINGS MAY GO, BUT THE ART SCHOOL DANCE GOES ON FOREVER (1970) {*7}. Featuring two back-to-back tracks penned with non-affiliate SPEDDING (`Then I Must Go And Can I Keep’ and `My Love’s Gone Far Away’), the group deserved a bit more attention. Augmented by the aforementioned Tait, plus guitarist Jim Mullen, bassist Roger Bunn and saxophonist/keyboardist Dave Thompson, the set was certainly a permeated group affair, as tracks such as `High Flying Electric Bird’ (a B-side to the exclusive 1969 single `Living Life Backwards’), `Golden Country Kingdom’ and the opening title suggested. It was indeed more FAMILY or JOE COCKER, than CREAM.
Bunn would move aside for Steve Glover on quick-fire follow-up, THOUSANDS ON A RAFT (1970) {*7}, a cosmic trip into bluesy jazz-rock. Glasgow-born Mullen, who would later team up with another jazz-orientated muso Dick Morrissey (of IF) in the MORRISSEY-MULLEN fusion, was the nub behind the set’s lengthy, instrumental exercises, two of which, `Highland Song’ and `If They Could Only See Me Now (parts 1 & 2)’, clocked up nearly a half-hour playing time. BROWN was afforded some emotional vocal leg-room on `Aeroplane Head Woman’, `Station Song Platform Two’ and the title track. Released in the same month as the album, with Brown and Glover adding a new line-up of lead guitarist Brian Breeze, keyboardist Phil Ryan and drummer John `Pugwash’ Weathers (the latter two ex-EYES OF BLUE), `Flying Hero Sandwich’, closed the PIBLOKTO! chapter once and for all.
Before he duly paddled away on his raft to poetry pastures new, never attaining his true potential, BROWN’s swansong was to combine with the ill-fated GRAHAM BOND on the woefully-underrated `Two Heads Are Better Than One’ (1972); the pair also recorded for the film, Maltamour’; BOND died in mysterious circumstances in ’74.
Meanwhile, musical accompaniment was rare on PETE BROWN’s spoken-word LP, THE “NOT FORGOTTEN” ASSOCIATION (1973) {*5} – `Sad Is The Man’ a dreamy highlight. A subsequent collaboration with Back To The Front’s pianist Ian Lynn on the 1976/77-recorded PARTY IN THE RAIN {*5}, was belatedly delivered in 1983. Although script-writer Pete was not interested in a comeback any time soon.
Then in 1991, the first of a string of PETE BROWN & PHIL RYAN collaborations saw the light of day as ARDOURS OF THE LOST RAKE {*4}. Soothing jazz or back-to-basics soft-rock/hard-pop, the pair also unfettered the Voiceprint Records-sanctioned COALS TO JERUSALEM {*5}, in 1993.
Missing in action for a decade or so, PETE BROWN & THE INTEROCETERS – with guitarist Mo Nazam, keyboard-player David `Munch’ Moore, bassist David Hadley Ray and drummer Simon Edgoose – proved unflappable on a 2004-released LIVE {*6} album, recorded at the Borderline, London, 17th December 2002. A run-through of Pete’s best-loved tracks, its highlights were indeed back-end CREAM/BRUCE opals, `White Room’ and `Theme For An Imaginary Western’.
Subsequently reconvening with his long-time buddy PHIL RYAN, albums ROAD OF COBRAS (2010) {*6} – featuring guest spots for guitar legends MICK TAYLOR and CLEM CLEMPSON on `Flag A Ride’ and `13th Floor’ – and PERILS OF WISDOM (2013) {*6}, kept up septuagenarian Pete’s reasonably high profile.
© MC Strong 1994-97/GRD series // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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