Part of me wishes I could say I had a proper introduction to Arthur Brown, one that began with either The Crazy World of Arthur Brown or Galactic Zoo Dossier. I think both of those albums are miles better than Journey, which is a little over-reliant on electronics.
But of course we can't choose how we first hear an artist, and in my case the first exposure to Arthur Brown consisted of Journey.
If you read the last Albums That Changed My Life, you'll know that my brother and I were fond of sitting in my grandparents' den (actually they called it a "sun room"), where we listened to the LPs gathered there. These LPs were left there by my dad, who'd left them in a certain cabinet when he lived in that house.
Again, this was back in the early 80s, before CDs. My brother and I listened to the records on a half-destroyed turntable, and I'm sure that in doing so we added even more scratches to those already well-loved vinyl discs. I never got the feeling that my dad worried about these scratches, probably because these records were already somewhat warped/damaged and also because he had other copies elsewhere.
Next to our copy of the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack was Arthur Brown's Journey, which Wikipedia tells me was first released in 1973. I'm sure it was an obscure album back then, and it's an even more obscure album now, but my dad had a fondness for anything British, progressive, or both.
I spent a long time staring at the cover of that album. On our version there was an old man standing inside a tunnel of stars, with a ribbon bearing the title of the album (Journey) and the name of the band (Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come). I often wondered what kind of being the old man was, and what place the tunnel of stars was leading to.
In all honesty, I can now say that Journey is far from the best thing that Arthur Brown (or his "Kingdom Come") ever did. It's somewhat inventive, and it's got that early 70s trippiness, but it wasn't as good as either his breakthrough album or the two that followed it. It's certainly better than its own follow up, Dance, but I imagine that anyone following Arthur Brown in the early 70s would have been somewhat disappointed by Journey.
Not that my brother and I knew this at the time. We were content to study the album cover, and to enjoy the weird noises present in the music. We liked singing along to "Time Captives" more than anything, in part because this song reminded us of Time Bandits, a film released around that time.
Of course I was very young then, and didn't renew my acquaintance with Arthur Brown until much later, but I think that what I initially got from his music was the idea that weird music wasn't just ok - it could also be great. I knew, even at the age of seven or so, that what I was hearing in Journey wasn't the same as what I was hearing on the radio, and that this difference was a good thing. I was of course too young to be pursuing exoticism for its own sake, but I was old enough to appreciate that what I was hearing was an attempt to create something new, something that stood apart from other music. Now that I'm older, it would be easy to say that Arthur Brown and the other contributors to Journey were trying to create art, but I'm sure that in the early 80s I wouldn't have understood the term "art" in this way.
Given that it's 2019 now, I can easily look up Arthur Brown on Wikipedia. But even if I couldn't I could still tell you that his music influenced heavy metal, progressive rock and glam rock, and that his hit single "Fire" was a kind of organ-driven, prototypical heavy metal anthem before the term "heavy metal" was in widespread use. I can also tell you that he's appeared in both The Who's Tommy and a video for The Darkness. I can tell you he was one of the first people to use a drum machine, and that this drum machine, the Bentley Rhythm Ace, appears on Journey. I can tell you that the guy has led quite a life, and even now he shows no signs of slowing down.
But all of that is after the fact. Back in the early 80s, back in that den, we were all about the music, and all about the sounds being created. We didn't really know what we were listening to, we didn't know how it was made, but we knew that it was weird, and we knew that we liked it.
Albums That Changed My Life 1: Conan the Barbarian
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