Pete Brown

Dear Rick,

a few more headaches for you, though they could be amusing for a few of your readers.


1) I was never Welsh! The "Jewish Welsh Folk Soul" quote came from an interview when I had the all-Welsh Piblokto band (well nearly). I was being democratic, as the band wrote a lot of the music.

2) The chronology of the article is strange--why start with the Poetry Band?

3) The chase choruses in the Horovitz/Brown jazzpoems were much more modeled on Bird and Diz, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, or some of the Lionel Hampton big band feels.

4) The Crane Theatre shows in Liverpool were just two shows. The first was primitive. It may have been the first jazz/poetry show in Liverpool. The second was notable in that it featured Heckstall-Smith, Graham Bond, John Mumford with a local rhythm section and two amazing trumpeters, young Alan Downey, now a top London sessioneer, and Tommy Smith, his mentor, a British jazz legend who has worked with Ellingtonians, was in the Albert Finney movie Gumshoe and now has a nightclub act. Art Reid has vanished into obscurity, bless him.

5) Laurie Morgan and Jeff Clyne were the regular New Departures rhythm section. Jeff now leads the jazzrock band Turning Point (Gull Records, 2 Lps) Laurie is percussionist at the National Theatre. The New Departures lineup was first completed by H-Smith and G. Bond, saxes, but later by Bobby Wellins, saxes, and Stan Tracey, piano. It was occasionally augmented with hornmen like Mumford (tbn) and Les Condon (tpt). (Mumford later toured U.S. with Gallagher and Lyle (A&M Lps) and now co-leads a band called Ears (2 lps, Affinity Records).

6) I never worked with the Graham Bond Organization, on stage, not in its first two incarnations anyway. The Organization was probably the most important music band in England, but that's a long story and someone's now writing a book about it.

7) After I split with Mike Horovitz (in '64 basically, though there were reunions) I had many lineups doing one-off jazz/poetry gigs. The Vince Crane/Phil Seamen one only rehearsed, never left London. There are photos to prove it. The bands were called variously the Pete Brown Jazz/Poetry Group, Browns Poetry, and eventually in its McLaughlin incarnation, The First Real Poetry Band. The latter almost got a record deal with Mercury, and made a demo which I still possess of "The Art School Dance" . . . Neon Blacklist (G Bond, Davey Graham, Pete Bailey, Laurie Allan, myself) only played one gig, an Arts Festival in Sheffield. I also toured with Davey Graham on the folk/poetry circuit. The FRPB did a week at the Edinburgh Festival in '67 with Davey as guest . . .

8) The Huge Local Sun never played any gigs. It did my first ever demos, ("Week Looked Good on Paper," "Late Night Mental Tyre Service") which I supposedly wrote for Graham Bond but the Organization broke up before they could be recorded. The HLS lineup was: Heckstall-Smith, Mumford, McLaughlin, John Mitchell (keybds), Phil Lee (2nd gtr), Binky Mackenzie (Bass gtr), Danny Thompson (String bass), Graham Layden (ex-Liverpool Scene, vocs) and myself. It was called (in 1967) "a bunch of jazz has beens" by an A&R man. Subsequent history has proved him slightly wrong!

9) A very important influence on the Battered Ornaments was the Albert Ayler R 'n' B album New Grass (Impluse). Check it out. The second B.O.'s album, Mantlepiece, came out minus my voice, as I had by then been fired! There's a famous apocryphal story to similar effect about the McKinney of Cotton Pickers fame in the 1920's.

10) There was at least one instance of Jack Bruce playing (string) bass on a P.B. jazz/poetry show--at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre in London in about '66, I think. It was with John Surman, Pete Lemer, Laurie Morgan.

11) I stopped writing poetry in 1967, then did it again briefly in '73 when I also made the Not Forgotten Association album and toured on a tour of Deram label groups. That was during my spell as an A&R man.

12) The story of the word Piblokto! is amusing. A friend (not Mal Dean) used to use it as an exclamation. He had found it in the Ferlinghetti novel Her, I believe. He also used it to replace contents of a comic strip thought bubble blow up on his wall, showing a man leaping from a blazing P-51 thinking, Piblokto! (Someone later told me it meant a kind of sexual frenzy during the eclipse of the Arctic sun, among Eskimos. Later a learned person wrote in to Rolling Stone correcting this, saying it was the Eskimo word for a kind of skin irritation which can only be cured or alleviated by exposure to the Arctic cold . . .

13) Arf Arf Music was Blackhill's, not mine. It still owes me bread. My company is and probably will be Toneshire (county of song), formerly a Laundromat company.

13) The famous Transatlantic songwriting incident wasn't "White Room"--it was "Doin That Scrapyard Thing," from Goodbye Cream. The lyrics were never lost--I was played the music over the phone from L.A. to London and wrote the lyrics (with contributions from Jack) to it. It wasnt about life on the road, it was a kind of potted surreal biography of Jack, as is the later "You Burned the Tables on Me." "White Room" (silver horses, by the way!) was a long poem which Jack saw and liked, and I precis'ed it down into a song. "The Consul at Sunset" didn't predate Cream. It was an instrumental Jack wrote for Dick H-S's band at the time, which I liked and wrote words for during or just after the Cream period.

15) There is, at long last, a book of Mal Dean stuff on the way.

16) Horovitz, Libby Houston, and Spike Hawkins (The Lost Fire Brigade) were and are my favourite English poets, apart from Old Master Basil Bunting. Libby's got a new book on the way, from Alison and Busby.

17) The Modern Tower is the Morden Tower.

18) The cover of Thousands on a Raft is explicable thus: Thousands on a Raft was our roadies (Cockney) slang for baked beans on toast. So in the song the toast (drifting out to sea) represents the overcrowded music world, and, by expansion, The World--and the beans are the people. As the toast gets waterlogged, it sinks, more and more people dropping off the edges. The Concorde and the Titanic represent the failures of various technologies to help, and we shot the picture in a puddle on a derelict site instead of the sea, to make it more miserable, less romantic, like life.

19) All good movements claim my sympathy as long as they keep moving.

20) I feel that Harmony Row, if it has any underlying themes, is about innocence and what happens to it. Sometimes.

21) There are no lyrics at all on the Things We Like album. "Arthur" is Heckstall-Smiths son.

22) The West-Bruce-Laing tracks shouldnt be dismissed. I never liked the band live but "Out into the Fields" and "Like a Plate' (2nd album) are two of my favourite Bruce/Brown songs. "Plate" is very apocalyptic, and is nearly all Jack, including the 72 backing vocals!

23) Graham Bonds magical involvements go back long before Bond and Brown--there was the actual band called Magick (2 Mercury LPs)--see the forthcoming Bond book. I am (hopefully) producing a Bond memorial album in the near future.

24) Recent History: since the poetry album, I've done two more or less complete albums with Jack, Out of the Storm (his masterpiece) and Hows Tricks (both on RSO). Had two more bands, first Flying Tigers (74-5) then Back to the Front (76-7) which although no more, a live band, is currently making an album called Party in the Rain. I have written a feature movie for BBCTV, which they may never produce cause theyre broke. Recently in Hollywood, am working on film treatments and intend to spend more time there. Also completed stage play (A mad tea party in 1963). Have five lyrics on Jacks new album Jet Set Jewel (RSO). My main project is to obtain a record deal with my current partner Phil Ryan (ex-Eyes of Blue, Piblokto, Man), who I enjoy working with most. Yes hes Welsh . . . .

Theres also a faint possibility of a lyrics book and a book of unpublished poems.

[Brief Editorial Intrusion: Pete added this little addendum when I asked him how he felt about the lyrics he wrote for Dick Heckstall-Smith's 1972 solo album, Dust in the air suspended marks the place where A Story Ended, on Warner Brothers Records.]

"Yes I'm very fond of the H-Smith album. In particular of my piece of literature-onto-rock lyric "Crabs"--it was part of a poem by none other than T.S. Eliot himself. Dick asked permission to set it to music but they wouldn't let him so I kind of "translated" it. I also like still the feel of "What the Morning Was After." I see quite a bit of Dick--he has a (unintelligible) at one of the local pubs. He plays a little on Jack's new album. Which may be delayed. He is a full-time sociologist and is writing theses intensively--in between the gigs.

My own album is progressing apace--it might be ready sometime in January.

Circa 1979


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