Fifty years ago this month, the word heavy became tangible. It achieved purpose and meaning, became a living, breathing creature. Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton joined together to form one of the greatest bands ever, Cream. All apologies to Page and Plant but they couldn’t hold a candle to this powerhouse trio. The Cream were that good and they damn well knew it, too. Superman may have been faster the a locomotive but Clapton, Bruce and Baker were three stations ahead.
Formed in 1966, Bruce, Clapton and Baker ran in the same circles in London. They were all dedicated to the blues and played in different bands, sometimes together. Clapton was a charter member of the Yardbirds and later moved onto John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. At the same time, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were making music and war with each other and the leader of the Graham Bond Organization, Graham Bond.
Things began to come together when Ginger Baker grew tired of GBO and looked to form a band of his own.. Eric Clapton noted, “I had always liked Ginger. 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.” They need a bassist and Clapton thought who better than Jack Bruce?
The Scottish born Bruce was, in 1966, if not the greatest bassist in rock, then he was pretty damn close. Classically trained, Bruce began to gravitate towards jazz. From there, the blues, given time and place, was an obvious jump. Having played with Baker in GBO, the bad blood between the two was long and storied. Still, both decided to make a go of it.
On stage, it worked, mostly. Well, let’s just say the music helped Bruce, Baker and Clapton along. Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce still weren’t sending each other Christmas cards, however. The old war between the two burn hotter than ever. Eric Clapton, in between channeling the spirit of Robert Johnson through his guitar, played peacemaker. It did very little good. Clapton –
“Ginger and Jack were dynamic characters and pretty overwhelming. It felt like I was in a confrontational situation 24 hours a day.”
Fifty years ago, a band formed and created a chaos that was and remains poetry at its finest. They were loud and freewheeling and were goddamn good. Time waits for no man. It does, however, immortalize those select few too talented to ignore. Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, the Cream.