In Gear

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"The Lost Sessions" had been recorded during a short break after Cream's 1967 European Tour. For promotional purposes for the upcoming US visit, Clapton organised a new look for the band. 'The Fool' were a collective of Danish artists and were friends of Eric's and George Harrison. They painted the guitars and drum heads, designed 'way-out' clothes and carried out a rushed photographic session - all in psychedelic mode. A new image was born even though Ginger and Jack, in particular, were never comfortable with such frippery.

On March 21st they performed a gig at the Marquee as a warm up. Then on 22nd they flew to New York for rehearsals on the 23rd and 24th for Murray the K's "Music in the Fifth Dimension Show". Murray (Kauffman) was a nationally influential DJ and carried some weight with promoters. His Easter show was a combination of self promotion, personal profit and keeping his young dancer wife happy.

The only reason Cream got this gig was because Stigwood had become the booking agent, via a deal with the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, for The Who, and Epstein had a deal with US booking agent Frank Barsalona. Murray wanted, the now solo, Mitch Ryder to headline and Barsalona was his booking agent, but the problem was Mitch hated the show. Murray agreed to the excessive fee, painting the dressing room a certain shade of blue, so in desperation to avoid the gig, Barsalona demanded he include The Who for an additional $7,500. Problem was Murray, the self-titled "The 5th Beatle", knew Epstein, who passed him onto Stigwood. Stigwood agreed to a reduced fee of $5,000 for The Who but it had to include Cream (70:30 split respectively) - he just wanted the US exposure for both of them. Barsalona was outflanked and now feared losing his major act. The irony was that he continued to be The Who's US booking agent and they became one of his major acts.

This was a shit gig that everyone hated - it is now legendary with lots of anecdotes  from many of the participants. Its importance for Cream was that it introduced them to the New York music cognoscente, who spread the word, especially after the late night jams. But for Cream it was basically depressing as the expectation of doing some recording remained uncertain. For once Stigwood came up with the goods when Ahmet Ertugen agreed to a few days in the studio to record a single.

Atlantic Studios

Atlantic was a 'race' record company ie it recorded African-American music (jazz, blues, soul, r&b) and supplied that market. The Ertugen brothers, Ahmet and Nesuhi, were trying to widen their business by moving into the pop field. Ahmet had heard and seen Eric Clapton when he visited the UK in 1966 and was impressed by the blues playing of the young white Englishmen and loved the Bluesbreaker album. Eric Clapton's band seemed a comfortable crossover option - a white British band that played the blues that Ahmet knew so well.

When Cream arrived in the studio on April 3rd, Ahmet didn't quite get what he expected - Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce with their guitarist. Ahmet deferred to Clapton, much to Ginger's annoyance, and was not interested in Jack's original compositions - "psychedelic hogwash". To this day he refers to Cream as "Eric Clapton's band"! What he wanted was a blues cover so they obliged with "Hey Lawdy Mama". Initially their standard Junior Wells/Buddy Guy arrangement and then another take heavily influenced by the Atlantic artist (via Stax), Albert King. During the session Eric listened to Albert King records to ensure the right feel.

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Ahmet Ertugen was producing this session with Arif Mardin as engineer. A young producer, Felix Pappalardi, had dropped in to check out this English band he'd been hearing about. Clearly what was coming out was somewhat less then satisfactory - a rather mundane cover of a routine blues song. Felix offered to do some work on it to and see if he could come up with something better. On the 4th they returned to the studio with Felix devising a new melody and his wife new lyrics over the top of the basic recording tracks. Ahmet must have been satisfied and left the production to Felix but brought in his No.1 engineer, Tom Dowd. The 4th was spent overdubbing the basic "Lawdy Mama" with new vocals, lyrics and guitars  for its conversion to "Strange Brew". Jack appears to have been excluded, as he didn't even get the opportunity to redub his bass line, which still rankles today.

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As the available studio time ran out they only had the 'A-side" of the single completed. The Junior Wells version of " Lawdy Mama" was also completed under the superior production control of Felix and logged as "Ooh Lawdy Mama". Using this as the B-Side may have been considered but at this stage Atlantic had 'Fresh Cream' to market with "I Feel Free" at least touching the charts. Another longer session was scheduled in May, to record an album.

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Touring UK and Europe

They returned to England unsatisfied, to say the least. Jack worked on shaping up his book of songs including working up "Sunshine of Your Love" in performance (April 22nd at least). Eric made a contribution to that song by providing the turn around and the line "In the sunshine of your love", which Pete hated but accepted that it provided the needed lyrical hook.

Eric tried serious song writing with his flatmate, Martin Sharp, an artist from Australia. The problem for Eric was that he couldn't read or write music, contrasting to Jack who would turn up with fully written out arrangements. Ginger just wasn't turning out any songs that were appropriate which was odd as he had some very real, and lucrative, success as a writer and arranger.

The touring over April brought a clear recognition that times were changing.  Hendrix was producing dynamic blues based songs that were increasingly non-bluesy.  Pete Townshend was also toughening up his songs and the Yardbirds become increasing experimental under Beck/Page.  Above all the Beatles were moving on and producing serious, less pop oriented music.  The times were in-deed a changin'.   Whether the record company could accept that was to be another matter.

Recording Gears

Copyright 2001 Graeme Pattingale