08/07/07 - Cream

Tutelage Led By Vinny "Bond" Marini Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce & Eric Clapton.

The original super group "CREAM" was formed in 1966. It was short lived due to the pressure of being this huge entity and due to the animosity between Bruce and Baker which was a carry-over from their years together in the Graham Bond Organisation.

The music made by this trio stands up against any music recorded in the 41 years since their formation.

It is a long, winding road for all three of these musicians and today, we hope to give you a ride down this path.

Eric Patrick Clapton was born on March 30, 1945 in Ripley, Surrey, England, the son of unwed parents Patricia Molly Clapton (aged 16) and Edward Walter Fryer a 24-year old soldier from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Clapton grew up believing his grandmother Rose and her second husband Jack were his parents and his mother, his older sister. Their surname was Clapp, which let to speculation over the years that this was Eric’s real name. It was not, he was given his mother’s maiden name upon birth.

Shortly before Clapton’s birth, Fryer shipped off to war and later returned to Canada. A few years later, his mom married another Canadian soldier and moved to Canada, leaving Clapton with his grandparents. When he was 9, his mom returned home with his new half-brother who was 6 at the time.

It was then that Clapton found out the truth about his parentage and it affected him greatly. He began to stop working at his schoolwork and became moody and depressed.

When he was 13 he received an acoustic guitar and a marimba for his birthday. He struggled with both and almost put the guitar away for good. The influence of the blues and the black artists from America, Clapton buckled down and began practicing for hours upon end teaching himself the sounds of the artists he admired.

In 1962, Clapton one year foundation art course, but never went on to obtain a degree.

He began playing around Kingston, Richmond and the West End of London and joined “THE ROOSTERS” in 1963. Later that year he joined “THE YARDBIRDS”, and Clapton soon began to cause whispers around the British music scene. The Yardbirds, played a fusion of Chicago blues and music influenced by Buddy Guy and B.B. King, to name a few.

When the Yardbirds began to move in a more “pop” direction, Clapton began to get antsy and suggested they hire Jimmy Page as his replacement, but Page was, at that time, happy with the session work he was doing, so Jeff Beck took Clapton’s place.

Clapton joined “JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUESMAKERS” after leaving the Yardbirds. The reactions he received from their club dates and from the album “BLUES BREAKERS’ began to build and his name was talked about by people everywhere. This guitar player who could bring the sounds of the blues to his instrument with a intensity and fire rarely seen.

It was around this time that the ‘message’ appeared on a wall in the Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967. Unlike some reports, the slogan did not appear on wall all over London. The ‘message’ was captured in the famous photo of a dog urinating on a wall of the underground. The message was simple…three words…


In 1987, Clapton told "The South Bank Show", the message embarrassed him at the time.
"I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that's an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal." Clapton said at that time.

John Symon Asher "Jack" Bruce was born May 14, 1943 in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire, Scotland to musical parents who moved often.

This resulted in Bruce attending 14 different schools. He won a scholarship studying cello and composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; however, he left at the age of 17 claiming he knew more than the teachers

While still at college Jack Bruce played with orchestras in Glasgow music halls. After leaving college he toured Italy playing double bass with the "MURRAY CAMBELL BIG BAND". In 1962, Bruce became a member of the London-based band "ALEXIS KORNER'S BLUES INCORPORATED", in which he played the double bass.

He then joined the Graham Bond Organisation, which played bebob, blues and R&B and this is when Bruce switched from double bass to electric bass.

Also in the band was Ginger Baker and the two held extreme hostility towards each other. Baker eventually fired Bruce in 1965.

After that Bruce began playing with the John Mayall Bluesbreakers and this is where he met Clapton. He moved on to spend a short period with Manfred Mann, earning him his first commercial success.

Bruce’s background is heavy into the jazz movement. His work since Cream has been an eclectic mixture of music and musical partners.

In September 2003, he underwent a liver transplant, which was almost fatal, as his body initially rejected the new organ. He has since recovered.

Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker was born on August 19, 1939, in Lewisham, South London.

His career began playing with big bands and then he eventually moved on to be the leader of the Graham Bond Organisation. This is where he met Jack Bruce and their volatile relationship began.

Baker's drumming attracted attention for its flamboyance, showmanship, and his pioneering use of two bass drums instead of the conventional single 'kick' drum. He is also noted for using a variety of other percussion instruments and for his application of African rhythms to much of his drumming.

Around 1966, Baker began growing tired of the drug usage and instability of the GBO and was ready to move to a new group. It was at just this time that he met Clapton.

Baker had met Clapton after a gig (during Clapton's time with the Yardbirds). "I had always liked Ginger," explained Clapton. "Ginger had come to see me play with John Mayall. After the gig he drove me back to London in his Rover. I was very impressed with his car and driving. He was telling me that he wanted to start a band, and I had been thinking about it too."; each was impressed with the other's playing abilities, prompting Baker to ask Clapton to join his new, then-unnamed group. Clapton immediately said yes, but only on one condition: that Baker hire Jack Bruce as the group's bassist.

Clapton had met Bruce when the bassist/vocalist did a short stint with the Bluesbreakers in March 1966; impressed with his vocals and technical prowess, Clapton had wanted to work with Bruce on an ongoing basis.

What Clapton did not know was that while Bruce was in Bond's band, he and Baker had been notorious for their quarreling, the confines of the GBO had proved too small for their egos. Their volatile relationship included on-stage fights and the sabotaging of one another's instruments.

After Baker fired Bruce from the band, Bruce continued to arrive for gigs; ultimately, Bruce was driven away from the band after Baker threatened him at knifepoint.

For this new group, Baker and Bruce planned to put aside their differences for the good of the new trio.

The band was named "Cream," as Clapton, Bruce, and Baker were already considered the "cream of the crop" amongst blues and jazz musicians playing the British scene at that time. Before deciding upon CREAM the band considered calling themselves "Sweet 'n' Sour Rock 'n' Roll."

Shortly after the band's formation in 1966, CREAM received an invitation to perform at the July 1966 "Winsdor Jazz & Blues Festival". The band did not have any original material yet, but Clapton’s workings of blues standards and the energy of the rhythm sction was greeted with enthusiasm of the crowd. They also got a chance to jam with Jimi Hendrix.

It was during the early organization that it was decided Bruce would serve as the group's lead vocalist. While Clapton was shy about singing, he occasionally harmonized with Bruce, and as he grew as a singer, would take lead vocals on some notable CREAM tunes including "FOUR UNTIL LATE," "STRANGE BREW," "CROSSROADS," and "BADGE."

CREAM'S debut album, "Fresh Cream", was recorded and released in 1966. The album reached #6 in the UK charts and #39 in the United States. The album consisted of blues covers, songs written by Jack Bruce and a couple of songs by Baker, including “TOAD” one of the earliest drum solos in rock music. It also included this gem, "I'M SO GLAD"

Their second album “DISRAELI GEARS” was released in 1967 and this album reached the Top 5 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Recorded in New York, this album is considered the defining moment in the band’s life. It consisted of 8 original tracks and 3 written by others. Besides “STRANGE BREW” and “TALES OF BRAVE ULYSESS” , it also contained the popular “SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE”

“WHEELS OF FIRE”, their third album was released in 1968 and topped the American charts. It included three live recordings from the Winterland Ballroom and one from the Fillmore. This album contained the radio staple, “WHITE ROOM”. Believe it or not, this was one of the songs we sang lead on in our bands...

In the spring of 1969, the final album “GOODBYE CREAM” was released. It hit the shelves after the band had broken up the previous November and contained six songs; three live from The Forum in LA and three studio recordings, including “BADGE” co-written by Clapton and George Harrison (who also played rhythm guitar on the track).

Non-stop touring by the band contributed to the heated tension between Mr. Bruce and Mr. Baker. Clapton was constantly put into the ‘peacemaker’ role and this put much strain on him.

Baker recounted, during a 2006 interview with "MUSIC MART" magazine that; "It just got to the point where Eric said to me: 'I've had enough of this,' and I said so have I. I couldn't stand it. The last year with Cream was just agony. It's damaged my hearing permanently, and today I've still got a hearing problem because of the sheer volume throughout the last year of Cream. But it didn't start off like that. In 1966, it was great. It was really a wonderful experience musically, and it just went into the realms of stupid."

Their management persuaded them to do one final tour to promote their new album. This "farewell tour" consisted of 22 shows at 19 venues in the United States between October 4 and November 4, 1968, and two final farewell concerts at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968.

The final United States gig was at the Rhode Island Auditorium, November 4th, 1968.

The two Royal Albert Hall concerts were filmed for a BBC documentary and released on video (and later DVD) as "FAREWELL CONCERT".

Both shows were sold out and attracted more attention than any other CREAM concert, but their performance was regarded by many as below standard. Baker himself said of the concerts: "It wasn’t a good gig ... Cream was better than that ... We knew it was all over. We knew we were just finishing it off, getting it over with."

In 1993, CREAM was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and set aside their differences and performed live at the ceremony.

The end result was an incredible set consisting of "Sunshine of Your Love," "Crossroads," and "Born Under a Bad Sign"

In 2004, it was announced that Cream would finally reunite for a series of four shows, May 2, 3, 5, and 6 of 2005 in England at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the venue of their final concerts in 1968.

Clapton would later state that he had become more "generous" in regards to his past, and that the physical health of Bruce and Baker was a major factor: Bruce had recently undergone a liver transplant for liver cancer, one that almost cost him his life, while Baker had severe arthritis.

Tickets for all four shows sold out in under an hour. The Royal Albert Hall reunion proved a success on both a personal and financial level, inspiring the reformed band to bring their reunion to the United States.

CREAM chose to play at only one venue, Madison Square Garden in New York City from October 24 - 26, 2005.

In February of 2006, Cream received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their contribution to, and influence upon, modern music.

CREAM…three men with an enormous amount of talent. A whirlwind three years of touring, fighting and making music that holds up, even today.

There have been many ‘power trios’ over the years, but none ever had the talent, the energy or produced the music of this original band.

* Fresh Cream - December 1966
* Disraeli Gears - November 1967
* Wheels of Fire - July 1968 (double album - In the Studio and Live at the Fillmore.)
* Goodbye - March 1969
* Live Cream - April 1970
* Live Cream Volume II - March 1972
* Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 - October 2005

* "Wrapping Paper" / "Cat's Squirrel" - October 1966
* "I Feel Free" / "N.S.U." - December 1966
* "Strange Brew" / "Tales of Brave Ulysses" - June 1967
* "Anyone for Tennis" / "Pressed Rat and Warthog" - May 1968
* "Sunshine of Your Love" / "SWLABR" - September 1968
* "Spoonful part 1" / "Spoonful part 2" - September 1968
* "White Room" / "Those Were The Days" - January 1969
* "Crossroads" / "Passing the Time" - January 1969
* "Badge" / "What a Bringdown" - April 1969
* "Sweet Wine" / "Lawdy Mama" - June 1970

* Best of Cream - 1969
* Heavy Cream - 1972
* Strange Brew: The Very Best of Cream - 1983
* Creme de la Cream - 1992
* The Very Best of Cream - 1995
* Those Were The Days - 1997
* 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Cream - 2000
* BBC Sessions - 2003
* I Feel Free - Ultimate Cream - 2005
* Cream Gold - 2005

Videos / DVDs
* Farewell Concert - VHS, DVD, recorded Royal Albert Hall, November 1968
* Strange Brew - largely a re-edit of Farewell Concert plus some outtakes
* Fresh Live Cream - VHS, DVD, documentary filmed just after the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame reunion in 1993 containing band interviews and previously unreleased material
* Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 - DVD, recorded Royal Albert Hall, May 2005
* Cream: Disraeli Gears (2006) - DVD, a reflection on what went into making Disraeli Gears, and the impact it had on the 60s.
* Cream: Classic Artists - DVD + CD, recorded before and after the Madison Square Garden reunion concerts; features interviews with band members, along with an audio CD containing five previously unreleased tracks from Swedish radio.