In July of 1966, Eric Clapton was earning his reputation as the premier blues guitarist in Britain. His career with The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was quickly soaring, though Clapton felt creatively confined by the music of taste and craved the attention of a new, self-organized band. Earlier in the year, he had met drummer Ginger Baker, who was leading The Graham Bond Organisation, and was impressed by his playing. Baker, also wanting to move past Bond’s band, asked Clapton to join his new, unnamed group, and Clapton accepted under the condition that bassist Jack Bruce (who had previously played in GBO) would also join the new band.
While he accepted the offer, Baker initially resisted the idea of bringing Bruce into the fold because of some previous quarreling between the two during their tenure with the Graham Bond Organisation. Their tensions had risen so high that Baker once threatened Bruce at knifepoint.
Putting all this aside, the three musicians became a band—although short-lived—and called themselves “The Cream” because they were considered the “cream of the crop” amongst blues and jazz musicians in the exploding British music scene. Eventually, the “The Cream” became just “Cream.” To this day, considered one of the most influential rock bands of all time.
After a few weeks to get organized, the band made its unofficial debut at the Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Cream’s official debut came two nights later at the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.
Primarily active for all of two years, with minor reunions in 1993 and 2005, the eccentric sound of Cream is defined through a blues-rock/hard rock hybrid that combines the psychedelic themes of the late ’60s with Clapton’s unique guitar playing, the bass-thumping notes and vocal extremities of Jack Bruce, and the jazz-infused percussive snaps of Ginger Baker. They came out with songs like “Strange Brew”, “Crossroads”, and “Badge” in their first year together, and went on to continue their fame with tunes like “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Feel Free”, and “White Room”.
With ongoing tensions between band members, Cream performed their “Farewell Concert” on BBC-TV in 1968, which went on to be included in their final album Goodbye. While the band was as good as they’d ever be, this performance was not definitive of their best abilities. However, it tells of an interesting time in the band’s career. Let’s relive some of the magnificent sounds that the trio came up with during their brief lifespan in the love-binding times of the 1960’s:
“Strange Brew” (Live)
Crossroads (Live in 1968)
Sunshine Of Your Love (Official Music Video)
White Room (Farewell Recording in 1968)
[Originally published 7/16/16]