The band ‘Cream’ wasn’t just another rock trio but also the first-ever ‘supergroup,’ i.e., a group formed after each member has already achieved fame individually. The band was known for their incredible live improvisations and long jam sessions. Their music was a blend of blues, rock, hints of jazz, and psychedelic rock; this blended music was what made their work unique.
Cream – A Brief Introduction
In 1966, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and Eric Clapton joined hands and formed the band called ‘Cream.’ Baker was the drummer, Bruce was the bassist, and Clapton was the band’s guitarist. Even though Bruce was the main vocalist and songwriter, the other members also often sang and wrote new songs. All the members of Cream were part of previously popular bands, which is why they gained the title of the ‘first supergroup.’
The members of Cream were famously known for their extreme proficiency in playing musical instruments. However, regardless of their fame and popularity, the members had some tensions, specifically between Bruce and Baker. These issues were the reason behind the disbanding of Cream in 1968, but still, they gave their fans the last album as a goodbye gift called ‘Goodbye.’
The final concerts were held at the Royal Albert Hall on 25 and 26 November 1968. The concerts were also broadcasted in theatres at the time, while in 1977, they were again released as a home video called Farewell Concert.
Fresh Cream, the Debut Album – 1966
In 1966, after all the three members came together and formed the band’ Cream,’ they also came up with their debut album in the same year. This album was named ‘Fresh Cream.’ It achieved the number 6 in UK charts and number 39 in US charts.
In the UK, Fresh Cream was released on 9th December 1966, while in the US, it was released at the same time as their single ‘I Feel Free,’ in both stereo and mono versions. Atco Records again released the US album in 1967 slightly differently, this time both in stereo and mono versions.
The original album included blues covers and self-penned originals such as I’m So Glad, Rollin’ and Trumblin’, Four until Late, and Cat’s Squirrel. However, all the other sons of this album were either written by Baker or Bruce. The earlier songs by Cream were reasonably short, but later, the setlist shortened, and songs got longer.
Disraeli Gears, the Second Studio Album – 1967
Released in the November of 1967, Disraeli Gears was the second studio album by Cream. The album secured the 1st rank on Finnish charts and 5th on the UK charts on its release. The album stayed on number 1 for two weeks on the Australian charts and was listed as no. 1 as the album of 1968 in the Cash Box year-end chart in the US.
Music critics say that this album was one of the best albums of all time. It was produced by Felix Pappalardi and recorded at the Atlantic Studios, New York. The album is often known as Cream’s defining effort, as it was an intelligent blend of American blues and British psychedelic rock.
This was the same album that consisted of the song ‘Sunshine of Your Love,’ which later became the band’s unofficial anthem and the most popular song by Cream.
Disraeli Gears was initially planned to be released in the summer of 1967. However, scrapping the plan and repackaging the album with a new cover designed by Martin Sharp became the reason behind the delay in releasing this album.
Wheels of Fire – 1968
Wheels of Fire was the third album by Cream, and just like other albums, this also topped the American charts. It was recorded from July 1967 to June 1968 and released in the same year. This album represented the band’s inclination towards the semi-progressive rock style highlighted by various orchestral instruments and odd time signatures. According to a BBC interview with Clapton, Atco Records asked Cream to cover ‘Born under a Bad Sign,’ which became a popular off-the-record track.
After completing the Wheels of Fire, the group members had grown tired of consecutive tours and constant jamming and decided to go their own ways. In an interview with Music Mart magazine, Baker stated:
“It just got to the point where Eric said to me: ‘I’ve had enough of this, and I said so have I. I couldn’t stand it.”
However, before disbanding, the band released their last studio album called ‘Goodbye’ in 1968.
Goodbye, the Last Studio Album – 1968
After becoming a popular group, the members were exhausted. There were constant tensions between Bruce and Baker, which led to the group’s breaking up in May 1968. However, before officially disbanding, the group decided to go on a farewell tour of the US and play two concerts in London.
Jack Bruce once said, “Travel can kill a group. It becomes boring, tiring, and very depressing.”
Their last album Goodbye was recorded in late 1968 and was released in early 1969 after the disbanding. The farewell tour comprised 22 shows at 19 venues in the US from 4th October till 4th November 1968. The last two concerts took place at the Royal Albert Hall on 25 and 26 November 1968.
Their last two shows at Royal Albert Hall were recorded for BBC documentary and were later sold as DVD. Even though the shows were sold well, the performances were regarded as below standard. In an interview, Baker himself said that they were just wrapping it up, as they knew it was all over.
After the disbanding, Clapton and Baker formed a band called ‘Blind Faith.’ Clapton also tried to get Steve Winwood as the third member of this band. However, soon Bruce started his solo career, Baker formed a jazz-fusion ensemble, and Clapton started performing in a different improvisational material. All the members of Cream continued to explore music but in their own individual ways.
In 1993, the trio performed together once again at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even though they were wary of this performance first, the encouraging words of Robbie Robertson inspired them to do so. They performed the songs such as Crossroads, Sunshine of Your Love, and Born Under a Bad Sign. However, this performance became the reason for a rumor about a reunion tour, which was later denied by all the members.
Even after disbanding, Cream stayed one of the popular bands and even won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in February 2006 for their contribution to the music industry. However, Cream was a great band, but things did not work out for the members.
In an interview with Times of London, when asked about Cream, Clapton said that Cream wasn’t for him now, and he would rather do other things, such as staying at home with his kids. He also said that the band was an experiment and the members did everything within limits.
Today, after so many years, fans of Cream still perish all the albums that were released in that short time.