RIP Mick Brown: the great curry in the sky
RIP Mick Brown
The curry inspector is no more, no more Lord Drainlid either.
RIP Mick Brown, Cambridge music archivist, painter, cartoonist, satirist and Pink Floyd’s enemy number one, whom we all loved to hate.
There is this thing called Pink Floyd on the Interweb. It is pretty big. So big that it has intersections between different divisions. There are many crossroads so to speak. There is this five-lane Pink Floyd motorway that has a Syd Barrett exit. It leads to an A-road that still is pretty busy. If you go further down the line you have to take a B-road. I call it the Cambridge connection. Not a lot of Pink Floyd fans will ever go there, but those who do are in for a surprise. It takes some effort though.
The Cambridge beatnik scene of the late fifties and early sixties has been extensively described in several Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett biographies, but these mostly hover around the three Cantabrigian Floyd members and their friends: Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett, David Gilmour and Roger Waters. (Actually, Fred and Roger affectionately called Barrett: Sydney.)
There was a group of youngsters who wanted to find fame and fortune in London and who stayed in the Pink Floyd slipstream once that band became famous. David Gilmour jokingly called them The Cambridge Mafia. It is believed the last hangers-on were surgically removed decades later by Polly Samson.
Pink Floyd became a successful band by throwing their R&B shackles away and diving into the swampy London Underground. But they weren’t the only band with Cambridge roots. Enter Warren Dosanjh and Mick Brown.
The Music Scene of 1960s Cambridge
In the meticulously researched The Music Scene of 1960s Cambridge Warren Dosanjh describes the many bands and venues in town. Some are known to the Floyd fan, like Jokers Wild, Hollerin’ Blues or Those Without, others not (see also: Warren Dosanjh, Syd Barrett's first manager).
Mick Brown edited, did the layout and added plenty of pictures from his archive for this book. He was also one of the contributors to the 'young’ David Gilmour biography High Hopes, written by Warren Dosanjh and Glenn Povey (see also: Guitar Hero). That book describes him as follows:
Mick Brown went to the Perse preparatory and senior schools until 1963 when he was asked to leave. He attended the CCAT until 1965 and then lived in London between 1967 and 1972. His contribution to the 1960s counterculture was being jailed for two months in 1968 after the anti-Vietnam War protest in Grosvenor Square.
While Brown was in London he carefully avoided the psychedelic hippie and acid scene. Brown worked in the print industry and after his retirement produced satirical cartoons, movie clips and posters for local community rock and jazz groups (High Hopes, p. 120).
While Mick Brown is virtually unknown to the average Floyd fan he was regularly consulted for his encyclopedic knowledge of Cambridge bands. Yes, even Pink Floyd asked him for information once. He was also the man who claimed to know who Arnold Layne was.
The real 'Arnold Layne' was John Chambers who came from Sturton Street. He was well known around Cambridge in the early 1960s and often used to hang about at the Mill Pond.
The Arnold Layne name was simply a typical Barrett parody of the Beatles' Penny Lane that was recorded at the same time.
Mick Brown was a regular at Birdie Hop where he liked to contravene uncritical Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd fans. He relentlessly contradicted those self-proclaimed Barrett specialists begging for the attention of the Syd anoraks. It didn’t always make him friends, quite the contrary.
When a Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd event was organised in Cambridge he described it, pretty accurately, as 'a load of old toffs stuck in a lava lamp'. He was also the one whispering in my ear that The Syd Barrett (charity) Fund was conned by 'useless PR men and bullshitters'. When The City Wakes festival took place they promised to publish a Cambridge bands coffee-table book, but it never materialised. It may have pissed him off.
Mick Brown made many movies he published on his YouTube channel. Some are political observations, under the alter ego, Lord Drainlid. As 'curry inspector' he documented day trips he made with his friends to the seaside or other places.
He also documented several 'Roots of Cambridge Rock' festivals. In one of those, there is a jam between Rado Klose and Jack Monck. That should sound familiar to early Pink Floyd fans.
It was his opinion that a small exclusive group of former students and public schoolboys claim to have been the sole innovators of alternative culture in Cambridge since the early 1960s. He was not very happy with middle-class so-called artists saying to have been Syd Barrett's best friend. In other words: gold diggers.
To quote him:
The Mill was the place to gather at weekends. Originally the scene of elite students' merry japes, it was taken over by Mods, Rockers and 'Beats'.
Unfortunately, a hard drug habit spread in the city from the 1960s onwards, helped inadvertently by a prominent GP with university connections over-prescribing heroin and cocaine.
The small elite group who claim to have originated the alternative or counter-culture in Cambridge – and indeed London – seem not to recognise the existence of a local community.
Apart from patronising one or two 'clowns', they ignore the fabric of the city. Their only contribution to life here has been to hawk their self-published works with the help of press releases in the local papers.
Mick Brown remembered the gigs Syd Barrett had with Those Without but was more impressed by a concert from Thelonius Monk, whom he called a great musical genius of the 20th century. The first album he bought was from Charlie Parker, at Millers Music Shop. He was a jazz lover for the rest of his life, pretending that Pink Floyd never happened. But despite his criticism, he did have a soft spot for Birdie Hop and joined their 2013 and 2015 Cambridge gatherings.
Link for recalcitrant browsers: Birdie Hop's Second Trip.
Uncle LX, headmaster from Birdie Hop has the following to say about him:
The smartest, funniest and most humble person in all of England. What a loss.
Lee Wood (see also: Lee Wood, the man who knows everything):
A true one-off and lovely human being. I will remember him often, and always with a smile on my face. If ever there was a need for a national day of mourning, this is it.
Farewell, you absolute legend. ❤ ❤ I am so privileged to have met him. He wasn't only incredibly polite, but freaking hilarious, a class-A joker but also disarmingly clever at times and made me proper belly laugh on more than one occasion!
Mick Brown was a great grumpy man, whose heart was with the local bands.
Many thanks: Warren Dosanjh, Rich Hall, Peter Alex Hoffmann, Lisa
Newman, Glenn Povey, Antonio Jesús Reyes, Eleonora Siatoni, Abigail
Thorne, Lee Wood and the many, many members of Birdie Hop.
♥ Libby ♥ Iggy ♥
Sources (other than the above mentioned links):
Dosanjh, Warren & Povey, Glenn: High Hopes, David Gilmour, Mind Head Publishing, 2020, p. 120.
Dosanjh, Warren: The Music Scene of 1960s Cambridge, Cambridge, 2015.
A video memoir 1960s Cambridge Rediscovered (complete) - https://youtu.be/YupUWoDSoCs
Cambridge in the 1960s (Music: Jokers Wild. Pictures: Mick Brown) - https://youtu.be/9SYVUbyr_v8
Mick Brown Art: Mick Brown
Some Church articles:
Birdie Hop: wasn't it the most amazing meeting?
Iggy Rose in Cambridge
Distorted Views: the Arnold Layne story
Life Is Just...
Warren Dosanjh, Syd Barrett's first manager
RIP Clive Welham: a biscuit tin with knives
Tumblr links for Mick Brown:
Mick Brown: https://iggyinuit.tumblr.com/tagged/mick%20brown
Birdie Hop meeting 2013: https://iggyinuit.tumblr.com/tagged/june%202013
Birdie Hop meeting 2015: https://iggyinuit.tumblr.com/tagged/june%202015