RENOVATING THE BLUES

The Early Bootlegs

by Graeme Pattingale

Klooks Kleek, Hampstead, London
15th November 1966.

Cream began touring at the end of July, barely a month after beginning serious rehearsals. Initially the repertoire consisted of blues covers but by November they had added some originals and heavily adapted blues songs. Touring had expanded to almost nightly performances.

"Klooks Kleek" was a club in the "Railway Hotel", Hampstead, London. It was a popular venue on the performance circuit because of its blues aware audience. On Tuesday 15th November, Cream performed and was recorded there.

John Platt claims that it may have been an 'official' attempt to record a live album. Based on the available bootleg, it was an amateurish effort, if that story is true. The available bootleg is dubbed from an LP record with vinyl noise present.

It is reasonably recorded, considering the era, but the mikes were continuously 'clipping'. The engineer was also varying the volume controls to handle the volume. The stacks were turned up high! Balance is good with only the vocals slightly distant.

The recording appears to be of the end of their first set and the start of their second.

Eric's Les Paul/Marshall stack sound and playing is mature 'Bluesbreaker'. Jack and Ginger are relatively restrained, compared to later performances, and can be accurately described as a 'rhythm section' for this performance.

An important recording that shows that 'Fresh Cream' quite successfully captured their live performance of 1966.

Stepping Out (Bracken) 5.13

The opening number is close to the 'Bluesbreaker' album performance. The Les Paul/Marshall stack sounds magnificent even without the tonal density of the overloaded combo. The major difference is the lithe and flexible rhythm section.

Sweet Wine (Baker/Godfrey) 4.19

This shows how closely the studio version captured the live performance. Eric includes a feedback loaded passage in his fine solo.

Meet Me in the Bottom (Brownie McGhee) 4.25

Their only known recording of this blues. A clear example of their beat shuffling approach that could give a routine blues a unique tilt. Jack in shout mode.

NSU (Bruce)

Closes the 1st set and LP side. Well reproduced in the studio but, like Sweet Wine, more of a pop performance. During the guitar solo the nascent blowing elements are present.

Hey Lawdy Mama (Junior Wells) 3.03

Eric introduces it as a Junior Wells song and it follows his arrangement. Probably the best available version.

Sleepy Time Time (Bruce/Godfrey) 6.41.

This is given an extended work out. The 1968 live recording shows only a modest development of the arrangement. A fine performance all round with Jack still developing his vocal technique.

Crossroads (Robert Johnson/ arr. Clapton)

The LP opens with Clapton's Bluesbreaker opus and now closes with the song that was to become his Cream opus. The arrangement is complete and it was the technical development of the band, collectively and individually, that was to bring the masterpiece to finalisation.

paris66.jpg (33969 bytes)
Dec. 1966


Konserhusert, Stockholm, Sweden
7th March 1967.

This a radio broadcast performance recorded at the "Concert Hall" in Stockholm on Cream's short Scandinavian tour in March 1967. It established them in Scandanavia.

This has been promoted as an "excellent" quality recording. While it is good it does have major problems. Of the three "excellent' quality versions I have heard, all are sped up. The worst ranges from 7-15% over speed.

The performance includes the four songs that would become the closing elements of their extended improvisational sets later in the year.

NSU (Bruce) 4.06

Starts with Baker sounding like he's been slowed down but in fact he's marking time while Jack sorts out some hardware problem. EC joins in to fill out time and then jack joins in. Not a significant variation on the 'Klooks' or "Fresh Cream' versions except its harder and the solo starting to adopt the three way jamming elements.

Stepping Out (Bracken) 4.09

A brief performance but shows Eric's continuing growth and increased interaction between all three.

Traintime (Bruce) 5.55

The Graham Bond Organisation piece revived in a reasonably extended performance. Jack and Ginger have been doing this for years and its really a bravura piece for both of them.

Toad (Baker) 6.52

Short and close to the 'Fresh Cream' recording. The later extended versions were criticised as excessive but this lacks the excitement of the musical development of those versions. Baker was not a teller of short stories.

I'm So Glad (James) 4.58

This song was usually the frantic closer of their sets later in the year. This is a proto-rendition ending with the guitar feeding back as Eric leaves it leaning against the stack.


Ricky Tick, Hounslow, West London
22nd April 1967

This bootleg was originally dated as 15th January 1967. I recognised that this could not be correct and redated it as 22nd April which has now been confirmed by John Platt.

At the end of March/early April Cream had performed in New York on the Murray the K show. They had then moved to Atlantic studios to record a single. But what was probably of more significance was that they dropped Acid at the "Be-In" in Central Park on Sunday 2nd April. They were booked to record an album in New York during May. On their return to England they began working up more original material.

The "Ricky Tick" was a circuit of various venues (pubs, clubs, halls, and cinemas) around UK. This gig was well recorded a friend of the band. The balance is good with the bass relatively clear, though the drums are drowned on occasions. Volume levels are very high but the quality of the recording equipment was up to it.

A few interesting points: Eric swaps between Les Paul and 'SG', Jack is playing the Danelectro Longhorn and they are in very fine humour.

Sunshine of Your Love (Bruce/Brown/Clapton) 4.36

Clearly the arrangement is not yet completed: the drum pattern yet to be developed, the riff still raw and at a faster tempo. Still it's fascinating.

Hey Lawdy Mama (Wells) 3.31

Standard arrangement with no significant variation to the Klook's version. Shows why they ultimately dropped it - they couldn't do much more with it.

Sweet Wine (Baker/Godfrey) 5.24

This version is tougher and harder as it is gradually evolving into a heavy rock piece.

Rollin' and Tumblin' (Morganfield) 5.41

No significant variation from the studio recording.

Spoonful (Dixon) 7.40 - Incomplete

Already this number is stretching out. It probably went on for another couple of minutes. Jack starts with harp in the neck frame. EC uses extensive feedback and the tremelo arm. All the elements of the later very extended jams are here including some of the 'reference point' figures.

Sitting on Top of the World (Burnett) 4.20 - Incomplete

Of all their blues songs, this one kept evolving right until the final tour when the definitive version was recorded. The start is missed but not much of it.

Toad (Baker) 9.26 - Incomplete

The drumming extravaganza is beginning to appear - the full story is now beginning to be told. Probably went on for another couple of minutes, at most.


The Ricky Tick is the last of their "Renovating the Blues" period. From here on the impact of psychedelics and the burgeoning instrumental virtuosity was to lead them down a new path.

Availability of Bootleg

Graeme Pattingale, 1999