Arthur Brown Reheats Fire

The God of Hellfire returns with a new, all-star version of his classic hit song.

There comes a time, it would seem, when popular artists of old start to become tribute acts to themselves, reliving past glories in a series of decreasingly exciting new renditions of their classic tracks – or classic track, as many of these acts tend to be known for just the one song, the popularity of which has ensured a career longevity that bands with a more consistent output can only envy.

Arthur Brown’s best-known track is his 1968 hit single Fire, a slice of theatrical psych-pop and proto-metal that has ensured a place in rock history for a man who – unless you are a fan – probably hasn’t recorded anything else that you know. There’s a blessing and a curse to being a one-hit-wonder – you might be able to dine out on repeated royalties and TV appearances for the rest of your life, but no one will ever care about anything else that you do, and that has to be frustrating. Arthur Brown actually had a long and significant career, but you’ll never hear anyone talking about that.

Perhaps in the spirit of ‘if you can’t beat’em, join ’em’, or possibly because, at the age of 79, Brown no longer feels the urge to be on the cutting edge, the God of Hellfire has just cut a new version of his big hit, which feels a bit pointless as long as people can still listen to the original. For a 1968 recording, the original version of Fire still has a surprisingly contemporary feel – it’s funky, groovy and trippy, and also such a unique recording that it almost defies duplication – the world is not awash with cover versions of the song.

The new version is a curious mishmash – it rocks out more than the original, yet somehow seems less urgent, and the curious mix of updated sounds and old-fashioned pumping organs feels a bit of a mish-mash. The organ-pumping is courtesy of Brian Auger, one of three fellow rock legends joining Brown on the track. The others are James Williamson from the Stooges (who has some form with this sort of thing) and Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice.

Now, let’s be fair – Brown is on good form for a man who is almost eighty, and at this point in his life, he’s probably earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants. Who are we to judge? If he wants to cash in on past glories, fair enough. But this new version simply reveals what a cracking record the original was – if you had any doubts.

The video features scenes from the 2017 horror film The Black Room and is certainly lively.

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