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Cream 1968, from left to right: Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton
Cream 1968, from left to right: Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton
General information
Genre (s) Blues , hard and psychedelic rock
founding June 1966
resolution November 1968
Last occupation
Jack Bruce († 2014)
Guitar , vocals
Eric Clapton
Drums , vocals
Ginger Baker († 2019)

Cream was a British rock band that existed from 1966 to 1968. Band members were Eric Clapton , Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker . Their sound was a mixture of blues , hard and psychedelic rock . Cream is considered the first supergroup in the history of rock music .

Band history

Eric Clapton , 1975
Jack Bruce , 1972
Ginger Baker , 1980


In April 1966, guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker , who were friends and played in different bands, discussed the possibility of putting together their own formation. Clapton brought up Jack Bruce as a possible bassist, a musician with whom Baker had already played a year earlier in the band Graham Bond Organization . There had been violent arguments between the two, which culminated in Baker throwing Bruce out of the band. Nevertheless, Baker agreed to joint sessions with the bassist, despite the tension between Bruce and Baker, both continued to respect each other's musical skills. Clapton, Bruce and Baker got together and played a first session. In later interviews and biographies they described that a “magic” unfolded immediately when they began to rehearse, and a sound was created that delighted the musicians.

At the band's second session, manager Robert Stigwood and reporters from Melody Maker were present. Even before Cream gave the first concert or published recordings, the merger of Clapton, Baker and Bruce was discussed as a sensation in the press, as they were already counted among the best instrumentalists in their field at that time. In the music press, the term "supergroup" was created for the newly assembled formation. The sound of Cream was a fusion of hard-played blues and jazz influences, the latter brought in by Bruce and Baker, which manifested itself in sweeping improvisations during their concerts. Cream also developed its own psychedelic sound. The group's first official concert took place at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in July 1966.

In October 1966 the musicians of Cream were introduced to guitarist Jimi Hendrix , as yet completely unknown, while they were playing a concert who had just entered England from the USA . Hendrix was managed by Chas Chandler , Animals bassist . Chandler had convinced Hendrix to travel to England, among other things with the prospect of meeting Eric Clapton, whom he admired. Just before Cream finished their performance, Hendrix asked to come on stage to jam with the band. Guitarist Clapton reluctantly agreed to this request. In his biography, Clapton describes how the band sang the song Killing Floor by Howlin 'Wolf , Hendrix joined in and he, Clapton, practically "played on the wall". Nevertheless, a lasting friendship developed between the musicians from Cream and Hendrix. Clapton says he was heavily influenced by Hendrix's style, while Hendrix often played the Cream song Sunshine of Your Love at concerts .

First recordings

In 1966 Cream published their first single Wrapping Paper under manager Stigwood, who founded the label Reaction. Wrapping Paper was mainly produced under Stigwood's demands to publish an original composition that should promise commercial success by leaning on the then current pop sound. However, the single did not bring the sales figures hoped for, especially as its sound and composition were in stark contrast to the new and heavy blues rock that Cream developed from then on. In December 1966 the single I Feel Free was released, which reached number eleven in the British charts in January 1967.

Fresh Cream

From July to September 1966 the first album Fresh Cream was recorded in London and released in December 1966 in Great Britain and in January 1967 in the USA. It positioned itself in the top 10 in the UK. The album features original compositions by Jack Bruce, who also sang most of the pieces, as well as cover versions of blues pieces. It also contains two instrumentals, one of which is Toad , which highlights Ginger Baker's drumming.

On recordings from that time, which are preserved on bootlegs , Cream can be heard with a much "tighter" sound than on the original album, which was partly due to the fact that the songs on the official album correspond to the radio-compatible timing of three-minute songs had to correspond. Two months later, Cream began to play profound improvisations of her pieces.

Disraeli Gears

In March 1967 Cream gave the first concerts in the USA. From May 11-15, 1967, they recorded their second album Disraeli Gears in New York . The producer was Felix Pappalardi , who later played for Mountain . Disraeli Gears was released in November 1967 and made it into the top 5 in the UK and US. The album was due to be released in the summer of 1967, but the record company decided to use a more contemporary psychedelic cover, the production of which delayed its release by several months.

Disraeli Gears is considered to be the definitive expression of psychedelic rock . The pieces on the album have a wider range than Fresh Cream , there's blues rock on Strange Brew , rock on SWLABR , psychedelic elements on We're Going Wrong and the folk- influenced Mother's Lament . Clapton was also one of the first guitarists, along with Hendrix (who was inspired by Frank Zappa ), to use the wah-wah pedal as a guitar effect (on Tales of Brave Ulysses ). With a few exceptions, most of the pieces were original compositions, with Bruce, Clapton and Baker having colleagues such as Pete Brown , Pappalardi and others as composers and lyricists.

At concerts, Cream only played Tales of Brave Ulysses , Sunshine of Your Love and We're Going Wrong from the Disraeli Gears album . The reason for this was, on the one hand, that the musicians preferred to play songs live that could be used more easily as a basis for long improvisations, and on the other hand, when Disraeli Gears recorded a second guitar track that was often added the stage could not be reproduced.

After the recordings in May 1967, Cream went on tour. In August 1967 they headlined their first US tour and played at the Fillmore West in San Francisco . Some live versions of the pieces now lasted over twenty minutes.

During this time there were some changes in rock music, especially with regard to the course of live concerts. This development was shaped by Cream. On the one hand, the duration of a rock concert changed from the previously usual short appearances of no more than 30 minutes by beat bands like the Beatles to events lasting several hours. Instead of small guitar amplifiers , large systems for bass or guitar, often comprising several amplifier towers, were brought onto the stage to produce the desired sound. Clapton and Bruce played live partly behind three 100-watt Marshall amplifier towers. In addition, PA systems have now been used. All this was due to the insufficient volume of small amplifiers in halls full of screeching spectators, in which the bands could no longer hear themselves, and the new demands of the newer rock bands and their audiences for an appropriate sound at concerts.

Another major cultural change of that time was the advent of the hippies . The youth culture that has emerged since the 1950s , largely shaped and created by rock 'n' roll , developed from the 1960s, now expanded to include ideological standpoints ( beatniks , Bob Dylan ) and a skeptical to negative attitude towards the established culture of adults to an independent subculture with its own ideology. Rock music was the most important medium for the fans, the concerts were expression, demonstration, tribal meeting and sensual event at the same time. For musicians as well as the audience, cannabis and LSD were among the corresponding drugs that were consumed with music and during concerts. Eric Clapton reports in his autobiography how he felt when performing under the influence of LSD that he could change the mood of the audience with different chords on the guitar and that he felt connected to them.

Wheels of Fire

Cream achieved their greatest commercial success with their third album, the double LP Wheels of Fire , which contains the key songs White Room and Crossroads . White Room was recorded by Cream in 1967 and 1968 and stands out from the rock music of the time, not only because of the text, which uses surreal imagery to describe a drama that takes place on several levels. The piece also surprises with the repeated changes from 44 to 54 time and is - just like the Mike Taylor songs Passing the Time and Pressed Rat and Warthog on the album - an example of the experimentation of the time Rock music.

White Room once again showed Clapton's skills as a guitarist. In addition, Baker partly took over the tasks of a solo instrument with his fill-ins on the drums. The song Crossroads , originally a blues classic by Robert Johnson , reproduces how Cream understood how to translate an acoustic blues song into the format of the electrically amplified rock band. This time Clapton took over the vocals. This version shows how the musicians handled the dynamics between the vocal and solo parts. The second part of the album documents with concert recordings the long improvisational passages of the instrumentalists, which were new to rock music at the time and inspired by jazz. Cream took it to number one in the US charts and finally established itself as a supergroup whose live performances could fill any hall.

Cream toured continuously since the summer of 1966, and engagements grew with success. The group was exposed to great stress from concerts, recordings in the studio and constant travel. All three musicians describe in their biographies that their drug use soon no longer served solely to relax or expand consciousness, but to stimulate them to be able to fulfill their quota of obligations. In addition, this climate favored the ongoing conflict between Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, who increasingly fought disputes that were not limited to verbal attacks. Clapton, who tried to mediate, ultimately failed to counter the potential for conflict between Baker and Bruce. The internal climate deteriorated so much that in 1968, in the second year of Cream's existence and at the height of their success, the musicians stayed in various hotels during the touring and only arrived on site shortly before the performances, in order to make themselves as possible long to go out of the way.

Ginger Baker described in a later interview how the quality of her concerts deteriorated. The same thing was said by Clapton (“we didn't listen to each other anymore”), who at one point during a performance simply stopped playing without Bruce or Baker noticing. Clapton felt that it was mostly about showing yourself off. In 1968, Clapton and Bruce played on stage with several Marshall towers, and Ginger Baker struggled with his drums to hear himself at all. He complained that Jack Bruce had purposely turned up his amps to drown out Baker.

Goodbye and the breakup of the band

In the summer of 1968, Cream announced the dissolution after a farewell tour of the USA would be given in the fall. At the same time Cream began recording her last album Goodbye . In October and November 1968 the farewell tour through the USA took place with 22 performances in 19 locations. In the opening act for Cream Deep Purple played at three concerts, but was then removed from the program because they received unfavorable reviews for Cream and the musicians of the two bands couldn't get along. The other concerts were given by The Taste with the young Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher and the English band Yes . Both support bands got - like Cream - good reviews for their performances. After the farewell tour there was the last concert announced on November 26, 1968 in London's Royal Albert Hall . The official reason for the dissolution of Cream said that her superstar existence was contrary to her actual musical stance and ambitions.

After the dissolution

In early 1969 the album Goodbye Cream was released , which again consisted of a mixture of live and studio recordings. Then two live albums were released, Live Cream I & II , which consisted of cuts of previously unreleased recordings. Clapton was able to maintain and even expand his status as a superstar in the years to come, while Baker and Bruce - at least in commercial terms - never again achieved such success.

Ginger Baker played with Blind Faith in 1969 (with Clapton and Steve Winwood, among others ) and founded the afro-rock big band Ginger Baker's Air Force in 1970 , which was disbanded in the spring of 1971. Baker went to Nigeria , where he ran a music studio, restaurant and nightclub. He made music with Fela Ransome Kuti ; LP Live (1971). In 1974 he joined forces with the brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz to form the Baker Gurvitz Army .

After Cream broke up, Jack Bruce worked with various musicians, including John McLaughlin , Larry Coryell , Michael Gibbs , Jon Hiseman , Dick Heckstall-Smith and Ian Carr . In 1972 he founded the Trio West, Bruce & Laing .

Reunion concerts

In 1993, Clapton, Baker and Bruce re-appeared as Cream when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame , but it stayed with the one-time event for the time being. Bruce and Baker formed the band BBM together with Gary Moore in 1994 and released a studio album under this name.

Tour 2005

On May 2, 2005, Cream gave the first concert since the breakup 36 years ago. The now 60-year-old Clapton is said to have agreed to the reunion mainly because of the poor health of his colleagues: Jack Bruce, then 62, had recently survived a liver transplant and the now 66-year-old Baker suffered from arthritis . It was the prelude to four appearances in London's Royal Albert Hall . There is a representative film cross-section of the four Reunion Concerts with current interviews on DVD . From October 24th to 26th, 2005, the group also gave three concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York .

According to Jack Bruce, there were financially very lucrative offers for possible further tours in the following years, but the band turned them down. Ginger Baker described in interviews how he was yelled at and rebuked by Bruce on stage during a reunion appearance in New York in 2005, whereupon Baker was no longer able to work with Bruce. Jack Bruce died in 2014, Ginger Baker in 2019.

Style and Influences

Bruce and Baker originally came from jazz and already knew each other from the Johnny Burch Octet , where they played together in 1962. They later both performed with the Graham Bond Organization , which Bruce co-founded and which played blues and jazz. The first guitarist in this band was John McLaughlin . In this band, improvisation was a common part of musical expression.

Clapton, on the other hand, had started with the blues. At a young age he became a member of the band Yardbirds and became known as an outstanding guitarist in London. Clapton was known among musicians as a blues purist who rejected the commercial sound that the Yardbirds soon hit. In 1965 he therefore switched to John Mayall's Blues Breakers , of which Jack Bruce was a member of the band for some time. At Cream, Clapton usually played a Gibson Les Paul at the beginning , then a colorful Gibson SG ; He can be seen in film recordings from 1968 with a red Gibson ES-335 . Clapton played live through Marshall amplifiers.

Jack Bruce began with jazz, Scottish folklore, classical music (including Johann Sebastian Bach ) and learned the cello . In his early jazz years he played the double bass , as was common in jazz formations of the time. At Cream he performed with a red Gibson EB-3 bass over Marshall amplifiers and established the electric bass as an equal solo instrument alongside the lead guitar.

Ginger Baker's first instruments were the piano and trumpet before switching to drums in the mid-1950s. His first experience in bands was in the London jazz scene in more traditional jazz formations. At the end of the 1950s he made contact with the London blues scene and in 1962 replaced Charlie Watts , who had joined the Rolling Stones, from Alexis Korner . At Cream, Baker played Ludwig drums with two bass drums .

In addition, a large number of other instruments were used in the studio and during rehearsals; For example, Bruce played the piano on some recordings. The resulting style was mainly shown to advantage in their many live performances, where they incorporated expansive improvisation parts from the individual musicians. For the first time in pop and rock history, all instruments involved - guitar, bass, drums - played side by side in solos on an equal footing.

The music magazine Rolling Stone listed the band at number 67 of the 100 greatest musicians of all time .


Studio albums

Live albums


  • Best of Cream (1969)
  • Heavy Cream (1973)
  • Cream Off the Top (1973)
  • Strange Brew: The Very Best of Cream (1983)
  • The Very Best of Cream (1995)
  • Those Were the Days (1997)
  • 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection - The Best of Cream (2000)
  • Gold (2005)
  • I Feel Free - Ultimate Cream (2005)
  • Icon (2011)
  • The Alternative Album (2013)

Web links

Commons : Cream  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ginger Baker, Hellraiser 2009.
  2. Eric Clapton, The Autobiography 2008.
  3. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Cream in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  4. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In: Rolling Stone . December 2, 2010, accessed August 8, 2017 .