Learn more about Cream (band)
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td colspan="3">Image:Creamband.jpg |
| Background information
<tr><td>Origin</td><td colspan="2">Image:Flag of England (bordered).svg London, England</td></tr><tr><td>Genre(s)</td><td colspan="2">Rock
Cream was a 1960s British supergroup which featured guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker. Celebrated as one of the first great power trios and supergroups of rock, their sound was characterised by a melange of blues and psychedelia. Cream combined Clapton's blues guitar playing with the airy voice and intense basslines of Jack Bruce and the jazz-influenced drumming of Ginger Baker.
Cream's music included songs based on traditional blues such as "Crossroads", "Spoonful", and "Born Under a Bad Sign", as well as more eccentric songs such as "Strange Brew", "Tales of Brave Ulysses", and "Toad". Cream's biggest hits were "I Feel Free", "Sunshine of Your Love", "White Room", "Crossroads", and "Badge".
Cream, together with The Who, made a significant impact upon the popular music of the time providing a heavy yet technically proficient musical theme that foreshadowed the emergence of bands like Led Zeppelin and Rush in the late 1960s and 1970s, and contributed to the emergence of later forms of heavy metal and hard rock. The band's live performances influenced progressive rock acts and other jam bands, including the Grateful Dead and Phish.
Cream's beginnings can be traced back to 1966. At this time, Eric Clapton had established a reputation for himself as one of the premier blues guitarists in England, one whose career began in The Yardbirds, and continued as a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Clapton's virtuosity and raw power with the instrument inspired one fan to spray paint the words "Clapton is God" on the wall of an Islington underground station; soon the words "Clapton is God" were being spray painted all over London. Clapton, however, found the stoic environment of Mayall's band confining, and sought to expand his playing in a new band.
In 1966, Clapton met Baker, then the leader of the Graham Bond Organisation, which at one time featured Jack Bruce as bassist. Baker too felt stifled in the GBO, and grew tired of Graham Bond's drug addictions and bouts of mental instability. Baker had met Clapton after a gig (during Clapton's tenure with the Yardbirds); both musicians were impressed with each other's playing abilities, prompting Baker to later ask Clapton after a Bluesbreaker's gig 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 of 1966; he and Clapton had also worked together as part of a one-shot band called Powerhouse (which also included Steve Winwood and Paul Jones). 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 were notorious for not getting along. While both were incredible jazz musicians and respected each other's skills, the confines of the GBO proved to be too small for Baker and Bruce's egos; their volatile relationship included on-stage fights and the sabotaging of each other's instruments. After Baker fired Bruce from the band, Bruce continued to arrive for gigs; eventually Bruce was finally driven away from Bond's band after Baker threatened him at knifepoint. Nevertheless, Baker and Bruce were able to put aside their differences for the good of Baker's trio, which he envisioned as collaborative, with all of the members contributing to music and lyrics. The band was named "Cream," as Clapton, Bruce, and Baker were already considered the "cream of the crop" amongst blues and jazz musicians in the exploding British music scene.
 Recording Years
Cream's debut album, Fresh Cream, was recorded and released in 1966. The album reached #6 in the UK charts and #39 in the American. It mainly consisted of blues covers including "Four Until Late", "Rollin' And Tumblin'", "Spoonful", "I'm So Glad" and "Cat's Squirrel", an instrumental. The rest of the album featured songs written (or co-written) by Jack Bruce, most notably "I Feel Free" (which was a UK hit single, but only released on the American edition of the LP) and a couple of songs written by Ginger Baker (one of which, "Toad", contained one of the earliest examples of a drum solo in rock music).
Cream's sophomore album, Disraeli Gears, was released in November 1967 and reached the Top 5 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York. "Disraeli Gears" is often considered to be the bands' defining effort, successfully blending pyscedelic British rock with American blues. It was also the first Cream album to consist primarily of original songs, with only three of the eleven tracks written by others outside the band. "Disraeli Gears" not only features hits "Strange Brew" and "Tales of Brave Ulysess", but also "Sunshine of Your Love", arguably Creams' most popular song.
In 1968 came Cream's third release, Wheels of Fire, which topped the American charts. It also featured three live recordings from the Winterland Ballroom and one from the Fillmore. The opening song, "White Room" became a popular radio staple. Another song "Politician" was reportedly written by the band while waiting to perform live at the BBC.
Cream's final album, the appropriately titled Goodbye, was recorded in late 1968 and released in spring of 1969, after the band had already broken up . It featured six songs; three live recordings dating from a concert at The Forum in Los Angeles, California on the 19th of October, and three new studio recordings (the most notable,"Badge", was written by Clapton and the late George Harrison, who also played rhythm guitar.
 Break up
Cream broke up in November 1968 due to clashing egos and divergent musical visions: Bruce and Baker's combustible relationship proved even worse as a result of the strain put upon the band by non-stop touring, forcing Clapton to play the perpetual role of peacekeeper. The fact that there was no "leader" of Cream could also be considered a contributing factor toward its demise: Clapton famously related how he once suddenly stopped playing in a concert without either of the others noticing. This story would later be recounted by Ginger Baker in the liner notes for the 1997 box set Those Were the Days, wherein he insists that he stopped playing along with Clapton, and it was only Bruce that carried on.
After the completion of Wheels of Fire in mid-1968, the band members had had enough and wanted to go their separate ways. As Baker would state in a 2006 interview with Music Mart magazine, "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."
Clapton had also fallen under the spell of Bob Dylan's former backing group, now known as The Band and their debut album, Music from Big Pink, which proved to be a welcome breath of fresh air in comparison to the incense and psychedelia that had informed Cream. Furthermore, he had read a scathing Cream review in Rolling Stone magazine, a publication he had much admired, where the reviewer, Jon Landau called him a master of "blues cliches." It was in the wake of that article that Clapton wanted to end Cream and pursue a different musical direction.
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. Initially another double album was planned comprising live material from this tour plus new studio tracks, but a single album, Goodbye was released instead with three live tracks taken from their performance at The Forum in Los Angeles on October 19, 1968, and three studio tracks, one written by each of the band members. 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." The band Yes, newly formed, played their first big show opening for Cream at the concert, receiving good reviews.
 Later years
Inspired by more song-based acts, particularly The Band, Clapton went on to perform much different, less improvisational material with Delaney & Bonnie, Blind Faith with Baker, Derek and the Dominos, and in his own long and varied solo career. Blind Faith came about immediately after the demise of Cream following an attempt by Clapton to recruit Steve Winwood into the band in the hope that he would act as a buffer between Bruce and Baker. However, Cream broke up before Winwood had the chance to accept (or reject) the offer. Bruce began a successful solo career with the release of Songs for a Tailor in 1969. Baker later formed a jazz-fusion ensemble out of the ashes of Blind Faith, Ginger Baker's Air Force, which featured Winwood, Blind Faith bassist Rick Grech, Graham Bond on sax, and Denny Laine of the Moody Blues, among others.
In 1993, Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and set aside their differences to perform at the induction ceremony. Initially, the trio was wary about performing, until encouraging words from Robbie Robertson inspired them to try. The end result was an incendiary set consisting of "Sunshine of Your Love," "Crossroads," and "Born Under a Bad Sign." Clapton mentioned in his acceptance speech that their rehearsal the day before the ceremony marked the first time they had played together in 25 years.
The performance spurred rumours of a reunion tour. Bruce and Baker went so far as to say that were interested in touring as Cream in later interviews. A formal reunion did not take place, however, and Clapton continued to pursue solo projects, as did Bruce and Baker, although the two did work together again in the mid-1990s as two-thirds of the power trio BBM with Gary Moore.
In 2004, it was officially announced that Cream would finally reunite for a series of four shows, May 2, 3, 5, and 6 of 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall, the venue of their final concerts in 1968. Even more surprising was that the reunion came at Clapton's request: although the three musicians chose not to speak publicly about the shows, 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. Scalpers were soon charging outrageous prices for what became one of the hardest-to-get tickets in rock and roll history. The performances were recorded for a live CD and DVD; in attendance were Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Brian May of Queen, Tom Hanks, Sean Penn, Jude Law, Christiane Amanpour, and Bob Kevoian.
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. For reasons unknown, Cream chose to play at only one venue, Madison Square Garden in New York City from October 24 - 26, 2005. The shows were marred by some controversy in regards to tickets: the show's promoters had made a deal with credit card company American Express to make tickets available to American Express customers only in an unprecedented week-long pre-sale; all three shows were sold out by the time tickets went on sale to the general public. Again, scalpers charged high prices for tickets; nevertheless, the shows were a financial success and received critical praise.
Fans of Cream hoped for a full-scale tour, but a statement from Cream's publicist days after the last performance put the nail in that particular coffin, when it was announced that Cream would not tour the United States. In an interview with Jack Bruce in the December 2005 issue of Bass Player magazine, Bruce hinted that he would like to see Cream continue in one way or another, possibly in the form of a new album, but that a tour was out of the question: "it would be quite a challenge to try to create music that would stand up to the classic songs. I've got a few ideas already--in fact, I wrote a song yesterday that I think would work. I just don't know if it will happen, because we all feel the band is so special we don't want to do it that often, if we go on. We've had offers you wouldn't believe - I didn't believe - for long world tours, and it's tempting. But none of us wants to accept because it would take away from the rarity and special nature of getting together. I'd like to do it every now and again and just play somewhere, but we could do an album amidst that, and I'm going to suggest it."
 The Future
Cream's future is uncertain: in February of 2006, Cream received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of their contribution to, and influence upon, modern music. That same month, a "Classic Albums" DVD was released detailing the story behind the creation and recording of the Disraeli Gears albums. On the day prior to the Grammy ceremony, Bruce made a public statement that more one-off performances of Cream had been planned: multiple dates in a few cities, similar to the Royal Albert Hall and Madison Square Garden shows. He would not state when or where those shows would occur, claiming that he "would get chopped" if he said anything.
However, this story was rebuffed by both Clapton and Baker, first by Clapton in a London Times article from April of 2006, when asked about Cream: "'No. Not for me. We did it and it was fun. But life is too short I've got lots of other things I would rather do, including staying at home with my kids.' The thing about that band, he says, was that it was all to do with its limits. 'Here were three people who were essentially in disagreement with each other. You latched on to those rare moments of cohesion and made the most of them. But they were rare. It was an experiment.'"
However, in an interview regarding the release of a DVD of Blind Faith's 1969 performance in Hyde Park, Baker's made comments to the United Kingdom-based magazine Music Mart about his unwillingness to continue the Cream reunion. These comments were far more specific than Clapton's, and explosive; his reasons stemmed from Jack Bruce's behavior at the Madison Square Garden performances: "When he's Dr. Jekyll, he's fine... It's when he's Mr. Hyde that he's not. And I'm afraid he's still the same. I tell you this - there won't ever be any more Cream gigs, because he did Mr. Hyde in New York last year."
When asked to elaborate, Baker replied: "Oh, he shouted at me on stage, he turned his bass up so loud that he deafened me on the first gig. What he does is that he apologises and apologises, but I'm afraid, to do it on a Cream reunion gig, that was the end. He killed the magic, and New York was like 1968... It was just a get through the gig, get the money sort of deal. I was absolutely amazed. I mean, he demonstrated why he got the sack from Graham Bond and why Cream didn't last very long on stage in New York. I didn't want to do it in the first place simply because of how Jack was. I have worked with him several times since Cream, and I promised myself that I would never work with him again. When Eric first came up with the idea, I said no, and then he phoned me up and eventually convinced me to do it. I was on my best behaviour and I did everything I could to make things go as smooth as possible, and I was really pleasant to Jack."
"The Albert Hall gig was like 1966... Wonderful. And the first night in New York, Jack became Mr. Hyde and metamorphosed into Bruce Springsteen. He sort of took over, and he played so loud it was fucking ridiculous. My first reaction was I wanted to throw a fucking stick at him, which is what I used to do with the Graham Bond band. It ruined the gig, and ruined the next two gigs as well."
It was also apparent that other aspects of their rivalry were still prevalent to Baker: "Between you and I, a lot of what comes out - particularly on Cream - is completely untrue you know. Jack Bruce and Pete Brown just tell lies all the time. They have reinvented history. On that Classic Albums thing, they're both lying through their teeth. It just pisses me off when I see it."
Clapton would later expand on his reasons for ending the reunion: Ginger's response to Jack's attitude on the first night of the New York shows. Believing that the two would never see eye-to-eye almost forty years after the break-up of Cream, he chose to return to the path of solo artist. Bruce has not spoken openly about the responses to his announcement. Fans of the band are still hoping that Clapton, Bruce, and Baker will reconsider and perform once more, in either London or Los Angeles (where a series of shows at Hollywood Bowl was rumored to take place), giving the Cream the happy ending that they deserve.
- Fresh Cream - 1966
- Disraeli Gears - November 1967
- Wheels of Fire - 1968 (double album - In the Studio and Live at the Fillmore.)
- Goodbye - 1969
- Live Cream - 1970
- Live Cream Volume II - 1972
- Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6 2005 - 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" / "S.W.L.A.B.R." - 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
- 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
- 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
- Before deciding upon "Cream," the band considered calling themselves "Sweet 'n' Sour Rock 'n' Roll."
- Shortly after the band's formation in 1966, they jammed with Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was a big fan of Eric Clapton, and wanted a chance to play with him onstage.
- Although Wheels of Fire was released as a double album including the disc Live at the Fillmore, only "Toad" was recorded there. The other tracks were recorded at the Winterland Ballroom.
- Goodbye was their only #1 album in the United Kingdom.
- "I'm So Glad" (originally by Skip James in 1931) was the only song to appear on both Cream's first and last albums.
- None of the band's four studio albums contained title tracks.
- "N.S.U." and "SWLABR" were the only two songs released by the band whose titles were acronyms. Respectively, they stand for "Non-Specific Urethritis" and "She Was/Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow".
- "Toad" is Cream's only musical composition that had no lyrics.
- Even though the song title is spelled correctly on their studio albums, "Tales of Brave Ulysses" is misspelled "Ulysees" on the compilation album Strange Brew: The Very Best of Cream.
- The late George Harrison, former Beatles guitarist, wrote a guitar riff for the song Badge, as well as most of the lyrics. He also played guitar on the track, credited on the Goodbye album under the pseudonym "L'Angelo Misterioso" (Italian for "The Mysterious Angel").
- When George Harrison briefly walked out on the Beatles during the Let it Be sessions, John Lennon made the suggestion that the band could recruit Clapton to replace him.
- Cream's support (opening) act at their Farewell Concerts in 1968 was Yes.
- When Cream played their final shows at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, Clapton became the first person ever to smoke a cigarette on its stage.
- The band's reunion at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005 was the first time Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker had played together since their 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Prior to the band's reunion at the Royal Albert Hall, they had played neither "Badge" nor "Pressed Rat & Warthog" live. However, as a solo artist, Clapton has played "Badge" live.
- Ginger Baker currently resides in South Africa.
- Cream's White Room replaced Joe Cocker's Woman To Woman in the Xbox and PC Versions of popular videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which first appeared on the Playstation 2.
- "Tales of Brave Ulysses" was the first song to use the guitar effect known as the wah-wah pedal. Clapton supposedly bought this while recording in New York at Manny's Music. Some may argue that Jimi Hendrix was first to use the effect on "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" but in reality it was only released before "Tales of Brave Ulysses".
- The late Felix Pappalardi, (producer and later member of Mountain), sometimes called the 'fourth member' of Cream, is featured heavily on the Disraeli Gears album, notable for its striking design by Martin Sharp. The British poet Pete Brown wrote the lyrics to many of the band's songs.
- In a live setting Cream did extended improvisations, which gained them a reputation (along with The Grateful Dead) as one of the early jam bands. That practice followed in the tradition of jazz musicians competitively trading improvised solos, although the content of Cream's playing was mostly blues-based.
 External links
- Official site created around the reunion concerts.
- Cream discography, news and infos from Music city.
|Ginger Baker - Jack Bruce - Eric Clapton|
|Fresh Cream - Disraeli Gears - Wheels of Fire - Goodbye|
|Songwriters covered by Cream|
|William Bell - James Bracken - Howlin' Wolf - Tony Colton - Willie Dixon - Skip James|
Robert Johnson - Booker T. Jones - Blind Joe Reynolds - Ray Smith - T-Bone Walker - Muddy Waters