Peter Ronald Brown (born 25 December 1940) is an English performance poet, lyricist, and singer best known for his collaborations with Cream and Jack Bruce. Brown formed the bands Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments and Pete Brown & Piblokto! and worked with Graham Bond and Phil Ryan. Brown also writes film scripts and formed a film production company.
Brown was born in Ashtead, Surrey, England. Before his involvement with music, he was a poet, having his first poem published in the U.S. magazine Evergreen Review when he was 14 years old. He then became part of the poetry scene in Liverpool during the 1960s, and in 1964 was the first poet to perform at Morden Tower in Newcastle. He did poetry and music events, including a tour with guitarist Davey Graham.
Brown formed The First Real Poetry Band with John McLaughlin (guitar), Binky McKenzie (bass), Laurie Allan (drums) and Pete Bailey (percussion).
The First Real Poetry Band brought Brown to the attention of the band Cream. Originally, he was seen as a writing partner for drummer Ginger Baker, but the group quickly discovered that he worked better with bassist Jack Bruce. Of the situation, Bruce later remarked: “Ginger and Pete were at my flat trying to work on a song but it wasn’t happening. My wife Janet then got with Ginger and they wrote ‘Sweet Wine’ while I started working with Pete.”
Together, Brown and Bruce wrote many of Cream’s songs, including the hits “I Feel Free”, “White Room” and “SWLABR” and (with Clapton) “Sunshine of Your Love”
After the break-up of Cream, Bruce and Brown continued to write songs together. Brown wrote the lyrics for most of Bruce’s solo albums.
Brown formed Pete Brown and His Battered Ornaments in 1968, and in 1969 the band recorded two albums: A Meal You Can Shake Hands With in the Dark and Mantlepiece, with a line-up including Pete Bailey (percussion), Charlie Hart (keyboards), Dick Heckstall-Smith (sax), George Kahn (sax), Roger Potter (bass), Chris Spedding (guitar) and Rob Tait (drums). Brown then suffered the ignominy of being thrown out of his own band, the day before they were due to support the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park. His vocals were subsequently removed from Mantlepiece and re-recorded by Chris Spedding, and the band was renamed The Battered Ornaments.
“Piblokto!” was formed after Brown’s dismissal from the Battered Ornaments, and was active between 1969 and 1971. The original Piblokto! members were; Brown on vocals, Laurie Allan on drums, Jim Mullen on guitar, Roger Bunn on bass and Dave Thompson on organ. Most of their releases were for Harvest Records.
Allan left to join The Battered Ornaments and was replaced by their drummer Rob Tait. They released their first single “Living Life Backwards” / “High Flying Electric Bird”, (the A-side later covered by Jeff Beck), followed by the album Things May Come and Things May Go but the Art School Dance Goes on Forever (1970). Bunn was replaced by Steve Glover for their second single, “Can’t Get Off The Planet” / “Broken Magic” and the LP Thousands on a Raft (1970).
Mullen, Thompson and Tait left, so Brown and Glover were joined by Phil Ryan on keyboards, John “Pugwash” Weathers on drums (both formerly from The Eyes of Blue) and Brian Breeze on guitar. This line-up only recorded one single, “Flying Hero Sandwich”/”My Last Band”. Weathers and Breeze both departed, to be replaced by guitarist Taff Williams (also formerly in The Eyes of Blue) and drummer Ed Spevock, before finally disbanding in Autumn 1971, and Brown went on to work with Graham Bond. Both albums, all three singles and several bonus tracks were reissued on the double album CD BGOCD522 in 2001.
The band’s name was taken from the Inuit word for “Arctic Hysteria”, Piblokto, with symptoms including hysteria (screaming, uncontrolled wild behaviour), depression and echolalia (senseless repetition of words).
After Piblokto!, Brown started to work with Graham Bond, with input from Jack Bruce and Bond’s wife, Diane Stewart. In 1972 they recorded one album, Two Heads Are Better Than One, a single, “Lost Tribe”, and much of the soundtrack to the short experimental documentary film Maltamour, before Bond left to form Magus in 1973.
Brown then formed Brown and Friends, and Flying Tigers, though neither group got beyond producing demos. In 1973, he recorded an album of his early poems, The Not Forgotten Association, before recording with members of Back to the Front, including an album, Party in The Rain, which was recorded in 1976 but not released until 1982.
On the rise of punk, he left the music scene in 1977 and wrote film scripts. He then wrote a film score for a BBC TV film, with Phil Ryan, who had been in a late Piblokto! line-up. They collaborated for 12 years, and Brown formed his own label Interoceter, which issued two Pete Brown/Phil Ryan albums: Ardours of the Lost Rake and Coals to Jerusalem. They began touring in 1993, and a compilation of the two albums was issued on CD as The Land That Cream Forgot (Vintage, VIN 8031-2). In the 1990s Brown also appeared with The Interoceters, performing his earlier material.
A new Brown/Ryan album Road of Cobras, including Maggie Bell, Arthur Brown, Mick Taylor and Jim Mullen, was released in 2010.
In 2004, he formed Brown Waters, a film production company, with Mark A. J. Waters and Miran Hawke.
In 2010, he published his autobiography White Rooms and Imaginary Westerns (JR Books, London).
Pete Brown partnered with Gary Brooker writing lyrics for songs in Procol Harum’s 2017 album, Novum. (wikipedia)
Thousands On A Raft is the second album by Pete Brown and Piblokto!, released in 1970 on Harvest Records.
The album was the second one on which Brown and guitarist Jim Mullen collaborated. The album was the first to be released in the US in January 1972 on Blue Horizon.
The album cover shows a model of the Mauretania and Concorde sinking into water alongside beans on toast. (wikipedia)
Thousands on a Raft is remembered as much for its cover as anything else — a picture of a model Titanic and a model Concorde sinking in a puddle, as rafts of toast ferry thousands of baked beans to the shore. Musically it was some good jazz-rock, with the emphasis not always on Brown’s vocals and elliptical lyrics, as Jim Mullen’s “Highland Song” offered an inventive, lengthy instrumental as the disc’s centerpiece. The title cut has a Pink Floyd edge, surprising given Brown’s predilection for jazz and blues, but it works well in the context. Guitarist Mullen is co-writer throughout, while the rhythm section of Rob Tait and Steve Glover swing rather than plod. “Station Song Platform Two” employs Mellotron to full prog rock effect, while “Got a Letter from a Computer” seems eerily ahead of its time for the early ’70s. This was the last gasp of this incarnation of Piblokto!, but there’s no doubt they went out on a high note. (by Chris Nickson)
Pete Brown (vocals, talking drum, percussion)
Steve Glover (bass, percussion)
Jim Mullen (guitar, bass on 02., percussion)
Dave Thompson (keyboards, saxophone, mellotron on 02., percussion)
Rob Tait (drums, percussion)
01. Aeroplane Head Woman 6.45
02. Station Song Platform Two 3.43
03. Highland Song Mullen 17.05
04. If They Could Only See Me Now, Parts 1–2 Mullen 12.08
05. Got A Letter From A Computer 5.52
06. Thousands On A Raft 7.08
The official website: