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ATOMIC ROOSTER - Devil's Answer
Written for the sleeve notes by Arthur Brown, February 1998.

record2.jpg (86943 bytes)Mercurial Vincent Crane of the swift mind and the sharp humour, strolling with his dog, Merlin, or lounging with his 21 cats. Affable and light-hearted. On the other hand, hurling full cans of beer at members of the audience until driven back to the organ by the flaming heat of my fire-helmet thrust towards his face - or standing in front of a group of bikers hurling abuse at the band and saying straight into the mike "Go suck yourselves." A gentleman, trained in the art of classical music, with a degree from Trinity College, able to compose, arrange and conduct, wildly gyrating in his Transylvanian garb. He played where Graham Bond (launcher of the keyboard bands that became an English trademark) played - The Witch's Cauldron, and brewed a live sound unparalleled in any other keyboard based band for sheer excitement. He was influenced by Bond, but it was Vincent who was the first to separate the bass notes from the rest, and put them through a separate speaker. He also played tape-samples and sang He was an enigma - you knew him but you didn't. The man who desperately hitched through New York wearing only a knee length cape, beneath which he was nude (and the cape was open at the front.) Also, the man in a respectable suit, who lovingly taught music to kids at school. His was a journey into darkness, and all embracing, in his humour of much light. He would have been quite at home in the Monty Python team - and could keep the lyrics coming like an endless tidal wave. All his life he fought manic depression, enjoying the dizzy heights of its creative peaks and loathing the dark torpor of its lows. His testament is the love he inspired in those around him (not without its thorns) and of course his music. In the ‘Crazy World’, he and Drachen Theaker wwere great creative engines. When Carl Palmer joined on drums, he bonded with Vincent. They, together with John DuCann, went on to achieve success with Atomic Rooster. I remember the transition well. We had made friends in New York with an American band, Rhinoceros. One of their friends shut himself up in a cabin on a psychedelic quest and came out to declare his identity to the world. Yes! ‘The Atomic Rooster’. He used to wear a rooster suit and make the right noises. This was at the time when Carl Palmer was wooing the daughter of Buddy Rich, and he used to chat drumming to him while Buddy sat with tubes out of his nose into an inhaler to deal with his asthma. Vincent got heavily into rhythm. I fact, he appeared one day with an armful of James Brown LP’s which he used to listen to countless times. Many of their early pieces were things we had worked on in the “Crazy World” rehearsals, charged up for the new band. He reached a manic high peak in the “Crazy World” and went right over the top - right into Banstead Mental Hospital. It was here that he faced his demons, and began the slow climb from despair. Electric shocks to stabilise him, and lithium to calm his system. It was several months before he was able to play again. This was the experience he dealt with in the early Atomic Rooster records. He was not alone in deriving creative impetus from such a setting - Vivian Stanshall used to commit himself to the hospital and encounter sacred symbols under the heavy doses they used to administer to him. Bob Calvert of Hawkwind was another one. All three were driving forces with a penchant for zany humour. In the “Crazy World”, travelling by car to the gigs was always a tortuous event. Initially, Drachen would sit in the back. The windows would be open because he was in his ‘no wash’ phase and his feet smelt. Later, the seat was occupied by Carl Palmer, who would practise paradiddles and rolls with his drumsticks on the back of my seat. Next to him, Vincent had a wooden keyboard in which the keys were sprung. It made no tonal sounds, just taps and clicks. He would do his scales and rhythms for hours. Of course, when he got onstage, he changed into a sort of psychedelic D’Artagnan (of the Three Muskateers' fame) with feathered hat and cape, flailing the air as if he were in some constant duel with an unseen opponent. With Carl, who also had a flair for theatre and would enjoy playing an intricate solo whist taking his coat off, there was indeed a lot of visual appeal. It was in his manic flights that Vincent was his most scintillated, daringly pushing deep into groove and melody. His background in classical music was melded with modern jazz, soul, folk and funk. He could play straightforward rock and boogie woogie and shift effortlessly into a Scottish Lullaby or Celtic hymn. He travelled far in music, but one area was an anathema to him - synthesisers. For him, piano and organ were all you needed to enter the delightful and frightening kingdom of sound. It was these manic heights that made human relationships difficult for him. Not that he didn’t have friends and a devoted wife, but when he entered the frenzy flow, he could easily break off all usual bounds of affection, causing hurt and harm - about which he would later experience deep remorse. When he went through the low period, he would create nothing, and leave off music altogether. Then he would begin to make contact again with the keyboard until his confidence slowly returned. In some ways, it seemed to me that he was at his most comfortable, spontaneous and alive at the keyboard. He listened carefully and generously to the other instruments and responded fearlessly. On a bad night, Vincent was very good. On a good night, brilliant. The truth of this is attested by the fact that one of his fans, who at one time was going to form a band with Vince, was the guitar divinity himself, Jimi Hendrix. Vincent once said to me, “I’ve seen Reality and it scares me shitless”. This running from himself is evident in his music: but there was also a romantic honesty that drove him to face his own life until that final day when Reality eventually did become too much for him. He took his own life, saying, “All I can do is play the keyboards, and not very well at that” In fact, he made beautiful music and gave great pleasure to many. So listen to the tracks and remember - when the Atomic Rooster crows, the dawn is already here. It’s sound is given in the darkness at the sight of the great day which will surely and irresistibly come.

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ARTHUR BROWN, February 1998

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