Personalities | Cream | Sixties | Rock

The first and arguably most famous of hard rock’s much touted ‘supergroups’, Cream comprised Eric Clapton (born Eric Patrick Clapp, 30 March 1945) on guitar/vocals, Jack Bruce (born 14 May 1943) on bass/harmonica/keyboards/vocals and Ginger Baker (born Peter Edward Baker, 19 August 1939) on drums, a trio who achieved lasting fame courtesy of their technically virtuosic, jam-and-solo-laden concerts and four psychedelia-fueled blues rock albums during the space of less than two and a half years.

Producing and performing music that would have been inconceivable during the first half of the decade, Cream was very much a product of the late 1960s, when artistic innovation was continually extending the pop/rock envelope. That is why few outside the group could have foreseen the results when its members first got together in 1966.

Straight Blues And Jazz-Based R&B

Eric Clapton had been a member of the pre-fame, R&B/blues-based Yardbirds, quitting in early 1965 due to his dissatisfaction with the more commercial, pop-oriented direction that the band was taking with tracks such as ‘For Your Love’, and thereafter he had spent the better part of a year playing straight Chicago-style blues and establishing his reputation on the burgeoning British blues scene with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. However, while graffiti asserting that ‘Clapton is God’ began appearing on walls all over London, the man himself was ready to move on yet again, forming a band with multi-instrumentalist Jack Bruce – who had also been a brief part of the Bluesbreakers’ ever-evolving line-up – as well as with Ginger Baker.

Bruce and Baker had known each other since 1962, when the former had relocated to the English capital from his native Scotland to play bass with Alexis Korner’s seminal Blues Incorporated. Baker had replaced drummer Charlie Watts in that line-up, and by 1963 Baker, Bruce and Blues Inc. saxophonist/organist Graham Bond had teamed up with sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith to form the jazz-based, R&B-oriented Graham Bond Organization. Still, the musical compatibility that Baker and Bruce enjoyed never extended to their personal relationship, which was characterized by onstage fights and even damage to each other’s instruments, and it was after the drummer had ousted him from the group that Bruce joined The Bluesbreakers, and then Manfred Mann. All of which makes the two antagonists’ agreement to reunite as part of Cream quite remarkable. However, when Clapton and Baker decided to form their own group in early 1966, one that would hopefully provide them with a real outlet for their improvisational skills, the guitarist persuaded his new collaborator that it was worth overlooking personal differences in light of Jack Bruce’s undeniable musical talent. And for a time that turned out to be the case.

Virtuosity And Self-Indulgence

Signed to Robert Stigwood’s Reaction Records, the trio’s debut album Fresh Cream, recorded in the summer of 1966, made the UK Top 10 following its release that December. Clapton’s superb blues guitar was...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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