"Sometimes they hurl bottles" - watch rare BBC footage of a wild-eyed Arthur Brown being interviewed after catching fire in 1967

Arthur Brown being interviewed by a BBC reporter in 1967
(Image credit: BBC)

The 1967 National Jazz and Blues Festival, held between August 11 and 13 at the Balloon Meadow at the Royal Windsor Racecourse, west of London, was a landmark event. 

Headlined by the Small Faces, The Nice (who'd replaced Pink Floyd, as Syd Barrett's demons prevented him from appearing) and Cream, the weekend also saw the first ever performance by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, and a debut UK show from Chicken Shack. 

It was also the year Arthur Brown caught fire. Playing on the second day of the festival – in between Zoot Money and Paul Jones – the eccentric singer was delivered onto the stage via a crane. Brown was originally meant to arrive wearing his traditional flaming headgear while performing his iconic hit Fire, but BBC film of the event shows that things were not going to plan.  

"I was backstage and saw the whole thing," James Higgins told the UK Rock Festivals website. "His headgear was overfilled with lighter fluid so when the crane started to lift him up his head tilted and his head and shoulders caught fire. 

"Several people including myself doused him with the beer we were holding, I don’t remember if anyone ever came with a fire extinguisher but by the time the fire was put out he wasn’t able to wear the headgear so they lifted him up, over and onto the stage doused with beer and singing a different tune!"

Rare footage shot at the event has just been added to the BBC Archive's YouTube channel, and features an interview with a wild-eyed Brown filmed in the wake of his performance. 

"Music on the stage is a bit dead," says Brown. "We're trying to introduce theatrical techniques, any technique that evokes a response"

Asked if a dancing audience is the sort of response he's after, Brown adds, "Yeah, or if they sit there enthralled, or if they hurl bottles, which they sometimes do, I must admit. This isn't for me a good response, but at least it's a response. It indicates that they've come up against something which is strongly against what they're usually confronted with, that they must respond in a way which is the most violent. And which is, for me, the most stupid."

The BBC footage also features several interviews with Brown fans, at least one of whom appears to be enjoying a somewhat altered state of consciousness. Watch the clip below.  

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.