Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Jack Bruce – Part Two

The formation of Cream in conjunction with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker was Bruce’s ticket to the big time, finally realising some good income from music (though not as much as was expected due to yet another manager rip off story) but more importantly giving him the opportunity to play and reach out to so many new fans without compromising his musical beliefs.

Their sound was characterised by a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock,combining Eric Clapton’s blues guitar playing, the psychedelia-themed lyrics, voice and blues bass playing of Jack and the jazz-influenced drumming of Ginger Baker.

The anticipation had been that the band would give Eric Clapton the conduit to become a band leader and major star, as it turned out initially it was Jack Bruce that emerged as the leader and driving force of the band, however, as we find out in Part Three next week it would indeed be Clapton who would move on to superstar status.

Cream made its unofficial debut at the Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966.

Its official debut came two nights later at the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival.

Being new and with few original songs to its credit, Cream performed spirited blues reworkings that thrilled the large crowd and earned it a warm reception.

In October the band also got a chance to jam with Jimi Hendrix, who had recently arrived in London. Hendrix was a fan of Clapton’s music, and wanted a chance to play with him onstage.Hendrix was introduced to Cream through Chas Chandler, the bassist of The Animals, who was Hendrix’s manager.

Hendrix would later show his admiration for the band by breaking from an agreed script on the Lulu Show to promote Cream by playing “Sunshine Of Your Love”  during his performance of  “Hey Joe”.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves Cream’s debut album, Fresh Cream, was recorded and released in 1966.

It mainly consisted of blues covers, including “Four Until Late”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” (an old blues number recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern in 1926, which became a blues standard thanks to versions recorded by Muddy Waters and Elmore James in the early 1950s), “Spoonful” (written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf), “I’m So Glad” (written by Skip James) and “Cat’s Squirrel”.

The rest of the album featured songs written (or co-written) by Jack Bruce, most notably “I Feel Free” (which was a UK hit single, but only included on the American edition of the LP), and two by Ginger Baker (one of which, “Toad”, contained one of the earliest examples of a drum solo in rock music).

Ginger Baker also collaborated with Jack Bruce’s then-wife Janet Godfrey to write “Sweet Wine”; Godfrey also provided lyrics for the trio’s first original blues composition, her husband’s “Sleepy Time Time.”

Cream first visited the United States in March 1967 to play nine dates at the RKO Theater in New York.

They returned to record Disraeli Gears in New York between 11 May and 15 May 1967 which was released in November 1967 and reached the Top 5 in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Produced by Felix Pappalardi (who later co-founded the Cream-influenced quartet Mountain) and engineer Tom Dowd, it was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York.

Disraeli Gears is often considered to be the band’s defining effort, successfully blending psychedelic British rock with American blues. It was also the first Cream album to consist primarily of original songs, with only three of the eleven tracks written by others outside the band. Disraeli Gears not only features hits “Strange Brew” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, but also “Sunshine of Your Love”.

In August 1967, Cream played their first headlining dates in America, playing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco for the first time. The concerts were a great success and proved very influential on both the band itself and the flourishing hippy scene surrounding them.

Faced with a new listening audience, it was during this time that Cream started to stretch out on stage, incorporating more jamming time in their repertoire, some songs reaching 20 minutes. Long drawn-out jams in numbers like “Spoonful”, “N.S.U.” and “Sweet Wine” became live favorites while songs like “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Crossroads”, and “Tales of Brave Ulysses” remained reasonably short.

In 1968 came Cream’s third release, Wheels of Fire, these studio recordings showcased Cream moving slightly away from the blues and more towards a semi-progressive rock style highlighted by odd time signatures and various orchestral instruments.

However, the band did record Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sitting on Top of the World”, plus both Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Born Under a Bad Sign”, which became a popular track off the record.

The opening song, “White Room”, became a radio staple. Another song, “Politician”, was written by the band while waiting to perform live at the BBC.

The album’s second disc featured three live recordings from the Winterland Ballroom and one from the Fillmore. Eric Clapton’s second solo from “Crossroads” has made it to the top 20 in multiple “greatest guitar solo” lists.

While with Cream,Jack Bruce played a Gibson EB-3 electric bass and became one of the most famous bassists in rock, winning musicians’ polls and influencing the next generation of bassists such as Sting, Geddy Lee and Jeff Berlin.

Jack co-wrote most of Cream’s single releases with lyricist Pete Brown, (who remained his co-writer long after Cream as we will see later) including the hits, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “White Room”, and “I Feel Free”.

By 1968, Cream were hugely successful; they grossed more than the next top six live acts of the day added together (including Jimi Hendrix and The Doors). They topped album charts all over the world, and received the first platinum discs for record sales, but the old enmity of Bruce and Baker resurfaced in 1968, and after a final tour, Cream broke up.

Cream were eventually persuaded to do one final album. That album, the appropriately titled Goodbye, was recorded in late 1968 and released in early 1969, after the band had broken up.

It featured six songs: three live recordings dating from a concert at The Forum in Los Angeles, California, on 19 October, and three new studio recordings (the most notable, “Badge“, was written by Clapton and George Harrison, who also played rhythm guitar as “L’Angelo Misterioso”). “I’m So Glad”, which first appeared as a studio recording on Fresh Cream, appeared as a live track on Goodbye. It was the only song to appear on both Cream’s first and last albums.

Following the demise of Cream Clapton went on to form the ill-fated Blind Faith “super group”, Bruce meanwhile had money in his pocket but drugs in his veins resulting from long spells touring the US where any drug was readily available, Bruce developed a heroin habit which stayed with him a long time.

His financial situation however allowed him to set out on a solo career, all three Cream members remained signed to Robert Stigwood’s RSO Label he believing he would now have “three Creams”.

Bruce had other ideas and set of on a cross genre solo career with many highs musically if not commercially and this path will be covered next week in Part Three.

By 1972 Bruce felt he was in need of a return to the mass audience of mainstream rock, possibly as much financially driven as musically or ego driven.

Such an ideal opportunnity arose in the form of “West Bruce and Laing”

The trio formed in Chicago in the spring of 1972 following the breakup of Mountain, which featured occasional Cream  producer Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West and Corky Laing.

The coming together of West, Bruce and Laing was a commercial concept which was designed to build on the success of the two power trios Cream and Mountain as this would be attractiveto the massive US album and concert markets.

As such he trio toured extensively and released two studio albums, 1972’s Why Dontcha

“The Doctor” – West Bruce and Laing

and 1973’s Whatever Turns You On.

They disbanded shortly before the release of their live album Live ‘n’ Kickin’ in 1974.

“Powerhouse Sod” – West Bruce and Laing

Ultimately they failed to deliver and whilst they were a success on tour their music lacked the punch of both Cream and Mountain.

Following the split Bruce returned with more money in his pocket, though less than expected partly due to the hedonistic lifestyle on the road, and an even greater drug dependency.

The flame of creation was not diminished and he would return, all be it to a reduced audience, with more great music which we will cover next week in Part Three.

To buy the music of Cream click HERE

To buy the music of West Bruce and Laing click HERE

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Books, Cover Stories, Old Music, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

2010 Top 30 New and Old #21

Neil Young gave to the world his new album in September titled “Le Noise” and what a noise it was, produced by Daniel Lanois it was a masterpiece in aural soundscapes and another big success for Lanois as a producer.

Young has over the last few decades kept switching between the sounds of Crazy Hourse era Young and Harvest era Young.

“Le Noise” whilst being a “solo” album it is certainly LOUD! and is quoted as being “explosively intimate”.

“Sign Of Love” – Neil Young

To buy the music of Neil Young click HERE

To view an earlier post on Neil Young click HERE

I had never really bothered with the Delaney & Bonnie story and their association with Eric Clapton, however, this year I read Clapton’s autobiography which I surprisingly enjoyed and it struck me that some of his happiest times were spent as part of their “family” as such I finally bought both the live album and “Home” from which I bring this my favourite track.

“I’ve Just Been Feeling Bad” – Delaney and Bonnie

To buy the music of Delaney & Bonnie click HERE

To view an earlier post relating to Delaney & Bonnie click HERE

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, New Music, Old Music, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Music – Lizz Wright

I have been an admirer of Lizz Wright as a singer and songwriter since her debut album “Salt” was released back in 2003.

 She has now released her fourth album with the apt title “Fellowship” which following her 2008 release “The Orchard” which was predominately self penned (though included a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”), sees her return primarily to her gospel roots.

Most of the songs Wright tackles have been done before. Not all are religious, but in some cases, Wright makes them divine with her vocals — always soulful and full of passion, yet elegant and refined.

Her take on Eric Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord” is stirring, and her rollicking rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “In From the Storm,” where the handclaps and percussion are at the core, turns it from a fiery love song to a tune about how love triumphs over hardship.

“Presence of the Lord” – Lizz Wright

To buy the music of Lizz Wright click HERE

October 16, 2010 Posted by | New Music, New Releases, Video | , | Leave a comment

Friday Fun – Red Red Wine

We have all been there haven’t we, that moment when you are gasping for a glass of cheeky red but have no corkscrew………..well here is the solution.

Now for the UB40 classic…………………..aye right not on this site!

Here is Eric Clapton with a track from the extended version of his great “Rainbow Concert” album.

“Bottle Of Red Wine” – Eric Clapton

Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
I can’t get up out of bed
With this crazy feeling in my head.
Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.

Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
You hear what I say?
Gonna love you anyway.
Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.

I went to an all-night get together
And everyone I knew was there.
Had the love that would last forever.
Everywhere I looked, I saw you standing there.

Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
Get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
I can’t get up out of bed
With this crazy feeling in my head.
I said get up right now, oh oh.
I said get up right now.
Feel so bad this morning; got a terrible headache in my head.
Do me a favor, baby, do me a favor please.
Please get up; get your man a bottle of red wine.
Get up, get up; get your man a big big bottle of red wine.

To buy the music of Eric Clapton click HERE

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Humour, Old Music, Video | , | Leave a comment

Delaney & Bonnie

Husband and wife Delaney & Bonnie  Bramlett were of course the first band to sign to Stax Records where they released the album “Home” in 1969 before moving on to Electra Records.

“A Long Road Ahead” – Delaney & Bonnie

On the advice of his by now friend George Harrison, who had tried to sign them to Apple Records, Eric Clapton asked them to be the support act to the “supergroup”  Blind Faith for their 1969 US tour.

Clapton became fast friends with Delaney, Bonnie and their band, preferring their music to Blind Faith’s; he would often appear on stage with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends during this period, and continued to record and tour with them following Blind Faith’s August 1969 breakup.

He helped broker a new record deal for Delaney and Bonnie with his then-US label, Atco (Atlantic) Records, and appears (with Harrison, Dave Mason, and others) on Delaney and Bonnie’s third album, the live On Tour with Eric Clapton (Atco; recorded in the UK 7 December 1969, released June 1970). This album would be their most successful, reaching #29 on the Billboard album charts and achieving RIAA Gold Record status.

“Things Get Better” (Live) – Delaney & Bonnie

Clapton also recruited Delaney and Bonnie and their band to back him on his debut solo album, recorded in late 1969/early 1970 and produced by Delaney.

“After Midnight” – Eric Clapton

Next up for Eric was Derek & The Dominos

To buy the music of Delaney & Bonnie click HERE

To buy the music of Eric Clapton click HERE

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Old Music, Video | , | 1 Comment

Eric Clapton


Finally started reading the above book which I received as a Christmas present back in 2007.

I had avoided it as whilst I admire his skill as a guitarist I had always found him a bit soul less or somehow devoid of spirit.

His writing reflects this view though it is now somehow more understanding given his upbringing as a child.

As ever the book throws up points which are new to me or forgotten, here is one of the former.

Clapton  was always held an admiration for atlantic Records and an early highlight of his career was being asked to attend a recording session with Aretha Franklin which delivered this track taken from her 1968 album “Lady Soul”

“Good To Me As I Am To You” – Aretha Franklin

More from the book coming soon.

To buy the music of Aretha Franklin click HERE

To buy Eric Clapton The Autobiography click HERE

Mail on Sunday

“Clapton relates what happened with painful honesty. In other rock stars, such plump contentment might seem hypocritical, even vulgar. But with Eric Clapton, you feel that a little comfort is the least he deserves”


“This is an essential read”

April 10, 2010 Posted by | Books, Old Music | , | Leave a comment

The Yardbirds

the yardbirds

Former Yardbirds members Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck are to perform a concert together in London next year.

The one-off show at London’s O2 Arena on February 13, 2010 will be the second time the guitar legends have played together in recent times.

Jeff Beck speaking about their live collaboration, says: “Eric and I played together in Japan earlier this year and had a blast. Since then we have been in regular contact and talked about doing a similar show for our fans.”

“I’ve always considered Jeff Beck to be one of the finest guitar players around. He’s a friend, a great guy, and a truly gifted musician. We had such a fun time in Japan that it seemed natural to play together again,” responds Eric Clapton.

Tickets for the one-off show go on sale on Monday September 28.

clapton and beck

“Stroll On” – The Yardbirds


September 25, 2009 Posted by | Blues, New News, Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Robert Johnson – The Disputed Third Photo


Forensic analysis revealed remarkable similarities between a confirmed photo of Robert Johnson and Zeke Schein’s controversial recent discovery.

In the November issue of Vanity Fair, I write about a New York-based guitar salesman named Steven “Zeke” Schein who purchased a photo on eBay that, he is convinced, depicts the blues legend and guitar virtuoso Robert Johnson (“Searching for Robert Johnson”). Even if you’re not an avid fan of the blues, you’ve probably heard of the Johnson crossroads myth (where he supposedly sold his soul to devil for supernatural talent) or read that there are only two known photos of Johnson that have ever been seen by the public: a photo-booth self-portrait which depicts the bluesman with a cigarette cantilevered out of his mouth and a portrait of him in a hat and pin-striped suit taken by the Hooks Bros. studio in Memphis. An artist’s rendering of that first image—minus the politically incorrect cigarette—was used for a U.S. postage stamp back in the 90s. The latter photo appeared on the cover of Columbia Records’ Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings, a two-CD boxed set of Johnson’s work that went on to sell more than 1 million copies. (A Johnson researcher named Mack McCormick reportedly is in possession of a third known photo of Johnson, although it’s current whereabouts are in question.)

My story details Zeke’s attempts to determine if his photo, which bears no date stamp or provenance of any sort, is authentic. The results of a forensic analysis, publicly documented here for the first time, may help provide the answer.

JohnsonFigureB.jpgIf you’ve read the story, then you know that in the summer of 2007, John Kitchens, who represents the Johnson estate, submitted Zeke’s photo to Lois Gibson, a forensic artist who works out of the Houston Police Department, and is a graduate of the F.B.I. Academy Forensic Artist Course. Kitchens first heard of Gibson when the media carried reports that she’d determined the identity of the sailor kissing the nurse in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous Life-magazine photo of Times Square on the day World War II ended. But Gibson has also been featured in the 2005 and 2008 Editions of The Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Most Successful Forensic Artist” At last count, her sketches and facial reconstructions have helped catch more than 1,144 criminals. (Last year, Gibson published a manual called Forensic Art Essentials designed to aid other forensic artists in their work.)

After comparing Schein’s photo to the two known photos of Robert Johnson, Gibson produced a startling analysis. As she wrote in her report to Kitchens: “My only problem with this determination is the lack of certainty about the date of the questioned photo.” But, she continued, if Schein’s photo “was taken about the same time as, or a little earlier than,” the photo-booth self-portrait, “it appears the individual in [Schein’s photo] is Robert Johnson. All the features are consistent if not identical.” She added: “The only differences are due to the different angle of the camera on the face and/or the lighting.”

JohnsonFigureC.jpgSince my story and Zeke’s photo were published, there’s been quite a bit of discourse about the image, particularly online, and in the interest of furthering that discussion I asked Gibson and the Johnson Estate, which had commissioned her report, if it would be possible to share the forensic artist’s analysis in a more detailed fashion. They agreed, so here are some excerpts from Gibson’s report and from recent e-mails that she sent me explaining her analysis.

For starters, take a look at Figure A. The left photo is the Hooks Bros. portrait. The right photo is Schein’s eBay find and, according to Gibson’s report to John Kitchens, the horizontal black lines drawn between corresponding facial features on the two photos “show almost identical feature placement.”

Now, look at Figure B. See the similar rectangular spaces Gibson has marked off on each man’s forehead? Each is what Gibson describes as a “square bony eminence.” By e-mail, Gibson described these corresponding raised areas as “extraordinary” because they appear identical, and because they are fairly unusual facial characteristics. “I cannot remember seeing anyone, alive or from a skull, where they had a square eminence like this in that area of their skull,” she wrote.

JohnsonFigureD.jpgIn Figure C, Gibson superimposed a portion of the right face of Schein’s photo onto the photo-booth self-portrait. In the report she submitted to Kitchens, she wrote that the result “shows an almost perfect fit,” adding that “only the eye position is drastically different as would be expected in two different photos.”

Finally, in Figure D, Gibson superimposed Schein’s photo over the Hooks Bros. portrait with eerie results. In her report to Kitchens, she explained that because the subject of Schein’s photo is standing at an angle, it was not possible to line up the photos “perfectly,” and, yet, she added, “the features on the vertical plane line up as exactly as possible,” even though the subject of Schein’s photo has “slightly different lip positioning.”

I know that Zeke has not given up trying to determine definitively that the long-fingered man in his photo is Robert Johnson, but until that day comes, Gibson’s analysis makes a compelling case.

Read “Searching for Robert Johnson” by Frank DiGiacomo (November 2008)

Zeke Schein photograph © 2007 Claud Johnson. Hooks Bros. portrait © 1989 Delta Haze Corporation. Photo booth self-portrait from the Granger Collection, New York.



Cross Road Blues – Robert Johnson (MP3)


November 6, 2008 Posted by | Old Music, Uncategorized, Video | , | 6 Comments


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