The first time I heard this – age 14 or so – I thought it was hilarious. My friend and I kept playing the opening seconds again and again. “I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE AND I BRING YOU -” brought up on massive 80s productions we expected Armageddon and we got a gamely bopping goblin. Twenty years on and more used to 60s music, “Fire” still sounds distinctly weedy.
It is possible to be uptempo and scary, but the Crazy World couldn’t manage it. A curse of the underground is that what melts brains onstage (“Unfortunately it is not possible to describe the performance without endangering the galaxy” said one reviewer) becomes tinny and preposterous in the studio glare.
Still, there’s masses to enjoy here. Even without his flaming-head visuals, Brown has real vocal presence, particularly on the chanted “oh no! ohhhh no!” section. And no matter how it’s aged, this was an unusual number one: a big crossover for British psychedelia in fairly unfiltered form. But coming to it from this distance Arthur Brown isn’t terribly devilish – he’s a showman, straight out of the Victorian music hall, and “Fire” is all rather jolly.