Song of the Day – Death Walks Behind You by Atomic Rooster

Atomic Rooster was a British rock band initially formed in 1969 when organist Vincent Crane & drummer Carl Palmer (Chris Farlowe’s Thunderbirds, ELP, Asia) left The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, best known for their highly theatrical performances & the hit single “Fire.” Atomic Rooster quickly added Nick Graham on bass & vocals on their first eponymous album. This band is historically not known for it’s radio hits, but did achieve a major single, “Tomorrow Night” off the second album Death Walks Behind You. Due to Vincent’s vision of what he wanted it to be, the band was to be plagued with multiple incarnations. Later, guitarist John Du Cann (Andromeda) was added, also providing lead vocals on the Death Walks Behind You album. Carl Palmer left after the first album to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Vocalist Chris Farlowe (solo, Colosseum) was on two albums including Made in England, 1972.

Vincent Crane, the groups’ co-founder was an extrovert, performing at school dances by age 14, after having learned the boogie-woogie & copying licks off his parents jazz 78’s. Later he got into Trinity College, London. But realizing he was a late comer to becoming a classical pianist, it became apparent that he had talent for writing & arranging music. Vincent wrote about 60% of Atomic Roosters’ songs. He played in various jazz bands. By the end of 1966 The Vincent Crane Combo were doing steady dates. He met school dropout Arthur Brown, who talked himself into appearing in one of Vincent’s shows. Vincent joined The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, later co-writing “Fire.”

During the first US tour with Arthur Brown in 1968 Vincent suffered a nervous breakdown, returning to the UK, spending three to four months in a mental hospital. He was in and out of hospital for bi-polar disorder. Vincent Crane died from a deliberate overdose of painkillers in 1989 at the age of 45. 

Vincent’s many collaborations include: Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) & Dexy’s Midnight Runners. 

Atomic Rooster recorded seven studio albums, the first four best exemplify them at their peak. One reason for their lack of popularity & acceptance is a blending of musical styles, unable to be pigeonholed into a genre. Influences include traditional jazz & classical music. 

Of the song Death Walks Behind You: The music is at once dark & brooding, unfamiliar, somewhat other worldly. Structure & repetition is paramount to the penetrating bass line. Lyrics invite self introspection. There are no guarantees for tomorrow. Be ever watchful…

Here is the title track from 1970’s Death Walks Behind You: