From Gears to Wheels

Pt 3: Burnin'


On February 10 1968 they returned to New York for an extended 10 day stay in the studio.  “Anyone for Tennis” and “Pressed Rat” were completed with new vocals/guitar overdub and guitar overdub respectively.  But it was academic as “Sunshine of Your Love” was released to considerable acclaim if not sales. The alternative single, “White Room” was largely completed.


Work began in earnest on the rest of the album with “Politician” largely laid down.  Other basic tracks were laid down “Passing the Time”, “As You Said”, “Those Were The Days” and “Deserted Cities of the Heart”.  This session was totally dominated by Jack Bruce and Felix Papallardi.  Eric contributed nothing more than his guitar and even this was absent on “As You Said” (“You can play that” – EC).  Ginger went to the bar though still got involved in the mixing – had to make sure the drums were clear.

Vocals for "Passing the Time" with  colliope

Jack was doing the arrangements with Felix’s support.  “Passing the Time” is a good example as it is a composite of two songs – “Passing the Time” and an instrumental planned to replace Toad aka “Scatterfaragus”.  Ginger had a basic organ melody but Jack put it together using a calliope with Felix on organ bass pedals to  produce a little gem.  “As you Said” was an almost total Jack Bruce solo performance and is based on Richie Haven’s guitar tuning and playing.  The album was largely in the bag with Felix continuing to overdub his parts and mix the album.


t some stage it was decided to record them live probably to have a live album as a follow up to the studio album, which was planned for release mid-year.  The Fillmore was chosen as the preferred venue but Cream were now huge on the West Coast and most of the gigs were played at the much larger Winterland. 

Tom Dowd organised two eight track tape machines in a truck trailer.  They were recorded on the 7th at the Fillmore, then the 8th, 9th and 10th at Winterland.  Whether they originally intended to record 4 nights is debatable as typical Jazz or Blues live recordings were captured on one night, two at most.  Tom Dowd had found them loud in the studio on half stacks - concert level was something again.


Tom Dowd struggled with the massive bleed into drum mikes and vocal mikes.  The latter could be solved in after mixing.  Tom had now achieved a great drum sound in the studio, beautifully spread over the two channels on the stereo mix-down.  The bleed of bass was acceptable as it boosted bass energy but the guitar was all over the sound stage.  Tpom was miking Baker as he had in the studio with 2 overhead distant condenser mikes.  Even the bass drum mikes were well back.


Early mixes show some experiments – “Sunshine of Your Love” from the 7th has the guitar panned centre when the solo starts and NSU from the 9th has guitar right-centre.  By the 10th Tom convinced Eric to drop back to one amp as he was not satisfied with what he had in the can.  The reality was that it didn’t really matter – there is a strong case that live rock is effectively a mono sound.  If you are in an optimum sound position you effectively just hear a wall of spatially undifferentiated sound.


Enough was available to produce 2 & half albums.  Unfortunately all the master tapes were lost in the Atlantic archive fire.  Only the two track half inch master mix downs exist of the released material. Enough material is now available in digitally remastered form to replicate a typical Fillmore/Winterland 2 sets.

Tubular Bells

Set 1

Tales of Brave Ulysses



Rollin’ & Tumblin’

Sweet Wine

Set 2

Sunshine of Your Love

NSU (from the 10th)

Sleepy Time Time

Stepping Out




Touring was not to end until June  On completion the album had to be completed and mixed.  Ginger went straight home. Eric did some final overdubbing, principally on Politician and Deserted Cities of the Heart and went home.  Jack and Felix finished the album.  A daring decision was made to release it as a double album –In the Studio and Live at the Fillmore.  The Live at the Fillmore was stretching the truth with only Toad coming from that venue.  ‘Wheels of Fire’ was released in the US in July and UK in August.  By November it had gone platinum in the US, actually gold album but platinum cause it was a double.


Cream officially disbanded except for a final tour and last album.

Unlike Gears there were some left over tracks from the Wheels sessions.  All the live material has been released except for Toad from the 9th.  The 7th Sunshine is available in good quality on bootlegs from the long unavailable sampler.  The studio left overs were the full version of “Passing the Time”, alternate mixes of “Sitting on Top of the World”, “As You Said”, and “Pressed Rat and Warthog”.  Sitting and As are in excellent quality unofficial circulation after inadvertent release on a limited number of the now out of print DCC Gold ‘Wheels of Fire’.  The sonic difference is not significant and for completists only – As has a lower cello mix and Sitting a thinner bass sound (Jack thickened the Dan Electro with an EB3 overdub) and Pressed is just the earlier single mix.

© Graeme Pattingale, 2004

Thanks to Manny G and Keith B for many rare  images