Cream

CreamFrom: London, England

Cream were a 1960s British rock supergroup power trio consisting of Jack Bruce (bass, vocals), Ginger Baker (drums), and Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals). Cream’s sound was a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock. Clapton’s blues style, along with Bruce’s operatic voice and Baker’s jazz drumming made for a great combination. Often regarded as being the world’s first successful supergroup, selling over 15 million albums worldwide.

Cream first came together in the summer of 1966. Clapton’s career with both The Yardbirds and John Mayall & The Bluesnreakers earned him a reputation as the premier blues guitarist in Britain. Finding the environment of Mayall’s band confining, Clapton sought to expand his playing in a new band. He soon met Ginger Baker who, at the time, was the leader of The Graham Bond Organisation, which also at one point featured Jack Bruce on bass, harmonica, and piano. Growing tired of Graham Bond’s drug addictions and bouts with mental instability, Baker was looking to go in a different direction. Baker and Clapton jammed together, and each was impressed with the other’s playing abilities. Baker then asked Clapton to join his then-unnamed group, which Clapton immediately agreed to, on the condition that Baker hire Bruce as the bassist. Clapton met Bruce when the bassist/vocalist briefly played with the Bluesbreakers in 1965. The two also played together in the short-lived project Powerhouse, which also included Steve Winwood and Paul Jones. However, while in Bond’s band, Bruce and Baker had been notorious for their quarrelling. The two had on-stage fights and would sabotage one another’s instruments. Even after being fired from the band, Bruce would show up at gigs; this eventually stopped when Baker threatened Bruce at knifepoint.

For the good of the band, Bruce and Baker put aside their differences. Baker envisioned the project as being a collaborative effort, with each member contributing to the music and lyrics. They took the name Cream as Clapton, Baker, and Bruce were seen as “the cream of the crop” amongst blues and jazz musicians. Cream’s unofficial debut was at the Twisted Wheel on July 29, 1966. Their official debut came two nights later at the Sixth Annual Jazz & Blues Festival, where they played mostly blues reworkings that thrilled the audience and earned them a warm reception. The band got the chance to jam with Jimi Hendrix in October, soon after Hendrix arrived in London. A fan of Clapton’s, Hendrix wanted the chance to play with him onstage. They were introduced through Hendrix’s manager Chas Chandler. During the early days of the band, they decided that Bruce would serve as the lead vocalist. Clapton was shy about singing, but would occasionally harmonize with Bruce and eventually took on lead vocals on several songs.

In 1966, Cream released their debut album, Fresh Cream. The album reached number 6 in the UK and number 39 in the US. There was an even split between self-penned originals and blues covers. “I Feel Free” was a hit in the UK but was only released on the American edition of the album. The song “Toad” contained one of the earliest examples of a drum solo in rock music. The early Cream bootlegs showcased a much tighter band with more songs. On their debut album, the band combined a number of these shorter songs to make longer compositions.

Cream’s first visit to the United States was in March 1967, when they played nine dates at the RKO Theatre in New York. The band made little impact, as impresario Murray the K placed them at the bottom of a six-act bill that performed five times per date. Eventually, Cream’s set was reduced to one song per show.  Cream returned to New York in mid-May to begin recording their next album. Disraeli Gears was released in November 1967, and reached the Top 5 in the charts in both the UK and the US. The album was produced by Felix Pappalardi (who later co-founded the band Mountain) and engineered by Tom Dowd. It was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York and is often considered the band’s defining effort, effectively combining British psychedelic rock with American blues. Highlights of the album include “Strange Brew,” “Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” and “Sunshine Of Your Love.” In August 1967, Cream played their first headlining dates n America, with the first being at the famed Fillmore West in San Francisco.

The band released their third album, Wheels Of Fire, in mid-1968. The record topped the American charts and is still considered a relative novelty. The double album featured both studio and live material, and was well suited for extended solos. The studio recordings on this album show Cream moving slightly away from the blues and more towards a semi-progressive rock style. Still, there are some blues numbers, most notably their covers of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sitting On Top Of The World” and Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Other songs of note off Wheels Of Fire include “White Room,” “Politician,” and “Crossroads.” By the time Wheels Of Fire was completed, the band members were beginning to have had enough of each other. Clapton told Baker that he was ready for things to be over. Bruce and Baker’s relationship proved even worse as a result of the strain of non-stop touring, forcing Clapton into the role of peacekeeper. At the beginning of the band’s farewell tour on October 4, 1968, in Oakland, the set was almost entirely comprised of songs off Wheels Of Fire.

After much deliberation, Cream was persuaded to record one final album. Recorded in late 1968 and released in early 1969, Goodbye came out after Cream had already broken up. The album featured six songs, three live recordings and three new studio recordings. Included in the studio recordings was “Badge,” which was written by Clapton and George Harrison.

Post-Cream, Clapton and Baker went onto form Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and Rick Grech. Clapton then went onto work with Delaney & Bonnie and Derek And The Dominoes, along with his solo career. Bruce began a successful solo career in 1969 with the release of the alum Songs For A Tailor. Baker would form the band Ginger Baker’s Air Force, which featured Winwood and Grech, as well as Graham Bond (saxophone) and Denny Laine (guitar). In 1993, Cream was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. On October 25, 2014, Bruce, who was suffering from liver disease, passed away at the age of 71.

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

  • Sunshine Of Your Love [Live On Glen Campbell Show 1968]

From the 1966 album Fresh Cream
Fresh Cream

  • Cat’s Squirrel
  • Dreaming
  • I Feel Free [US Release]
  • I’m So Glad
  • N.S.U.
  • Rollin’ And Tumblin’
  • Sleepy Time Time
  • Spoonful [UK Release]
  • Sweet Wine

From the 1967 album Disraeli Gears
Disraeli Gears

  • Blue Condition
  • Dance The Night Away
  • Outside Woman Blues
  • Strange Brew
  • Sunshine Of Your Love
  • Swlabr
  • Take It Back
  • Tales Of Brave Ulysses
  • We’re Going Wrong
  • World Of Pain

From the 1968 album Wheels Of Fire
Wheels Of Fire

  • As You Said
  • Anyone For Tennis
  • Born Under A Bad Sign
  • Crossroads [Live At Winterland]
  • Deserted Cities Of The Heart
  • Passing The Time [Alternate]
  • Politician
  • Pressed Rat And Warthog
  • Sitting On Top Of The World
  • White Room

From the 1969 album Goodbye
Goodbye

  • Badge
  • Doing The Scrapyard Thing
  • What A Bringdown

From the 1972 album Live Cream, Vol. II
Live Cream, Vol. 2

  • Deserted Cities Of The Heart [Live At Oakland Coliseum Arena 1968]
  • Tales Of Brave Ulysses [Live At Winterland 1968]

From the 1997 compilation Those Were The Days
Those Were The Days

  • Falstaff Beer Commercial
  • Hey Now Princess [Demo Version]
  • Lawdy Mama [Version 2]
  • The Clearout [Demo Version]
  • The Coffee Song
  • Those Were The Days
  • Wrapping Paper