Cream – in session for Top Of The Pops – BBC Transcription Service – 1967 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Cream in session for Top Of The Pops in 1967 and recorded for The BBC.
Cream were considered by many to be the first Supergroup; a band whose members had all achieved a goodly amount of success before joining forces. They were short-lived. As with a gathering of this much talent under one roof, it was bound to be some sort of train-wreck. And it was to a certain degree, at least as far as the oil-and-water combination of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce.
By July 1966, Eric Clapton’s career with the Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers had earned him a reputation as the premier blues guitarist in Britain. Clapton, however, found the environment of Mayall’s band confining, and sought to expand his playing in a new band. In 1966, Clapton met Ginger Baker, then the drummer of the Graham Bond Organisation, for which Jack Bruce had played bass guitar, harmonica and piano. Baker felt stifled in the Graham Bond Organisation and had grown tired of Graham Bond’s drug addictions and bouts of mental instability. “I had always liked Ginger”, explained Clapton. “Ginger had come to see me play with the Bluesbreakers. 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 agreed, on the condition that Baker hire Bruce as the group’s bassist; according to Clapton, Baker was so surprised at the suggestion that he almost crashed the car.Clapton had met Bruce when the bassist/vocalist briefly played with the Bluesbreakers in November 1965; the two also had recorded together as part of an ad hoc group dubbed Powerhouse (which also included Steve Winwood and Paul Jones). Impressed with Bruce’s vocals and technical prowess, Clapton wanted to work with him on an ongoing basis.
In contrast, while Bruce was in Bond’s band, he and Baker had been notorious for their quarreling. Their volatile relationship included on-stage fights and the sabotage 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.
Baker and Bruce tried to put aside their differences for the good of Baker’s new trio, which he envisioned as collaborative, with each 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. Initially, the group were referred to and billed as “The Cream”, but starting officially with its first record releases, the trio came to be known as “Cream”. Despite this, the band was referred to as “The Cream” on several occasions by promoters and disc jockeys, and even on occasion by the band members themselves. Before deciding upon “Cream”, the band considered calling themselves “Sweet ‘n’ Sour Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Of the trio, Clapton had the biggest reputation in England; however, he was all but unknown in the US, having left the Yardbirds before “For Your Love” hit the American Top Ten.
From its creation, Cream was faced with some fundamental problems that would later lead to its dissolution in November 1968. The antagonism between Bruce and Baker created tensions in the band. Clapton also felt that the members of the band did not listen to each other enough. Equipment during these years had also improved; new Marshall amplifier stacks produced more power, and Jack Bruce pushed the volume levels higher, creating tension for Baker, who would have trouble competing with roaring stacks. Clapton spoke of a concert during which he stopped playing and neither Baker nor Bruce noticed. Clapton has also commented that Cream’s later gigs mainly consisted of its members showing off.
Cream decided that they would break up in May 1968 during a tour of the US. Later, in July, the band announced that they would break up after a farewell tour of the US and after playing two concerts in London.
As a reminder of their early period, when things were relatively fresh and exciting, here is one of their BBC sessions from 1967 along with a short interview with Brian Matthew and Eric Clapton.