Cream: The World’s First Supergroup.

By Dave Thompson

 

This a likeable and easy reading narrative.  It’s well researched but really doesn’t bring anything new to the table.  There’s an insert of b&w photos, all previously published.

 

Thompson tries to puncture one widely accepted incident: Robert Stigwood’s rejection of an appearance at Monterey Pop Music Festival.  This story is based on statements from Eric and Jack.  I’ve never read any statement about it from Ginger, though Thompson claims he believes it as well.  The case he puts is strong but flawed.  Mitch Mitchell’s recollection was that Cream were wanted and as The Who, Hendrix and Cream shared the same booking management, at this time, a package booking was a definite option.  However I believe Stigwood didn’t try or rejected it on the basis that Ginger would not agree to a free gig. But it’s really a mute point – they didn’t play there and went on to conquer America, on their own terms, a few months later.  Unlike The Who and Hendrix who had to, initially, endure pop-packaged tours with Herman’s Hermits and The Monkees respectively.

There is a major error in his discussion of their initial appearance at the Fillmore.  Thompson says that Cream were the number 2 act “sandwiched between the opening Electric Flag, and the Paul Butterfield’s Butterfield Blues Band.”  This is incorrect -they were equal billed for the 1st week (22-27 Aug) with “Paul Butterfield Blues Band”, which was insurance by Bill Graham, but they went on as the headliner after Butterfield, who was preceded by “South Side Sound System” as opening act.  On the second week (Aug 29- Sept 3) they were clear headliners preceded by “The Electric Flag: an American Music Band” with Gary Burton opening.  I also just noted that Chris Welch got that wrong as well, even though the posters are on my website and this is what appears in the Bill Graham Fillmore giglists. 

On good thing is that Thompson does describe Cream’s impact on the music scene.  Hendrix had impressed everybody at Monterey by his playing and stage performance.  Cream’s absolute virtuosity blew everyone away.  Jorma Kaukonen succinctly remembered their impact on the Airplane…”lots of practice, lots of rehearsing”, Steve Swallow moved to electric bass, double drum kits started appearing etc etc.

The demise is looked at with rose coloured glasses.  The antagonisms are played down but it should have told about the separate limos, separate hotels, the aborted rehearsal that resulted in the way under done Oakland show etc.  Also Clapton’s increasing dependence on heroin and the difficulties of scoring high grade in the US (Baker injected, EC snorted). 

Another solid tome to add to the book shelf.  Not essential but well worth having.

© 2005 by Graeme Pattingale