Fifty years since he scored the sizzling 1968 chart-topper, “Fire,” Arthur Brown celebrated his 76th birthday on Sunday, June 24th as a pioneer of shock rock and progressive rock, and heavy metal influencer, with his rock ‘n’ roll sideshow, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
Jimmy Ryan of THE HIT MEN, who played bass on The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s 1969 tour shortly after his own band, The Critters, had folded, can still feel the heat, remembering the adventure of “living up to the ‘Crazy'” as a new member of a band whose flamboyant leader was often referred in the press as “The God of Hellfire.”
Just how crazy – and hot – was it? Let’s just say Ryan got a crash – and burn! – course in “Arthur Brownology” on his first date with the band at the famous Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park.
“I had read that on a previous gig, Arthur had performed dressed up as the Pope, screaming, ‘I am the God of Hellfire,’ and for his finale, exposed himself – an interesting teaching moment for young Catholics, the world over!,” recounts Ryan now lead guitarist of THE HIT MEN, the popular “real deal” musicians who each have helped deliver dozens of hits to the superstar artists of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.
“For our gig with Arthur, he simplified his attire with magician’s robes, war paint and a burning lyre headdress/helmet, and we were made to wear warlock cloaks and hoods, but we were forgiven the face paint. We began our show, and with a little difficulty, I managed to keep my floor length, flowing cloak from interfering with my bass strings.
“Did I mention, Arthur liked to light his head on fire? As we cranked through our dark, distorted organ, pounding and pulsing bass-and-drums set Arthur, in a moment of screaming, psychotic reverie, forgot I was behind him, and hurled his lighter fluid-fueled, blazing headdress up and backwards, where it came to rest beneath my cloak. I was looking at (keyboardist) Paul Glanz at the time and only realized what had happened when I felt some red alert heat creeping up my bare legs and private parts (it was summer – no pants under my cloak). I began to spew four letter words in rapid fire, screaming and leaping around the stage, initially dragging the burning helmet with me under the cloak, unable to kick it free. Arthur thought I was ‘performing,’ absorbed in his insane, hell fire thing and was cheering me on. I thought I was about to meet the real God of Hellfire and go up in flames like a suicidal monk, right on the stage in front of 3,500 people! The stage crew was on it and came racing at me with a fire extinguisher, but Murphy’s Law of burning robes fortunately did not kick in. I managed to leap free before ignition/immolation, and they hosed the helmet instead of me. The irony was that Arthur kept going, unaware that anything was out of the ordinary, and the cheering crowd, pumping their two-fingered, metal head fists in the air, was treated to what they believed was me being possessed by demons, and doing the burning (literally) psycho hell dance.
“With that I’d like to wish my old boss, Arthur Brown a very Happy Birthday, and many happy…hell fires?”
After decades of helping deliver dozens of hits with the likes of Paul McCartney, Elton John, Rod Stewart, and Carly Simon, THE HIT MENhave taken their next major step toward stardom on their own terms, with the release of their first original music video from their first original single, “You Can’t Fight Love,” off the new album, DON’T STOP.
From transistor radios, vinyl, 8-track tapes and cassettes to the Sony Walkman, CD’s, digital downloads and the Apple iPod, THE HIT MEN ―Ryan (lead guitar/vocals), Lee Shapiro (keyboards/vocals), Jeff Ganz (bass/vocals), Russ Velazquez (vocalist/keyboardist/percussionist), andSteve Murphy (drummer/vocalist) ― have seen and heard it all. And they have the stories to go with it! The Don’t Stop U.S. Tour, having already criss-crossed the U.S. with an all-new production featuring the most recent chapters in THE HIT MEN’s “Hits-tory,” resumes in August.
What the Wrecking Crew meant to the pop music revolution of the ‘60s, THE HIT MEN have meant to some of the most indelible hits of the ‘70s and beyond. It’s only now that the evolution of THE HIT MEN’S story – fueled, in part, by their countless first-hand experiences as eyewitnesses to rock history – has become a revelation.
As the Associated Press recently noted, “Nostalgia Fades but the ‘Hit Men’ Play On.”
THE HIT MEN continue to recreate their classics while proving again and again that you absolutely can teach old dogs new “tracks.”
THE HIT MEN “DON’T STOP” 2018 TOUR DATES
August 9: Clayton Opera House, Clayton, NY
August 15: Cape May Convention Center, Cape May NJ
August 18: West End Cruise Night & Classic Car Show, Long Branch, NJ
September 29: Friends of the PAC, Middleton, WI
October 12: Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
October 13: State Theater, Easton, PA
October 20: Vinegar Hill Music Theater, Arundel, ME
October 27: Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN
October 28: The Holland Theater, Bellefontaine, OH
November 10: GSU PAC, University Park, IL
November 15: Cox Performing Arts Center at Dixie State Univ., St. George, UT
December 2: Katherine Hepburn Theater, Old Saybrook, CT
More dates to come!
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*Photo Credit: Bobby Bank