Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunshine of Your Love—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

Sunshine of Your Love by Cream.

And now in honor of a glorious sunny day hereabouts, something completely different, psychedelic, loud we present Sunshine of Your Love from 1967 by what some consider to be the first rock super group Cream.
The band was formed in 1965 by lead guitarist Eric Clapton formerly with the Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers; drummer Ginger Baker of The Graham Bond Organisation; and lead singer, bassist, and piano player Jack Bruce also of The Graham Bond and briefly with the Bluesbreakers as well.   Despite their close association Baker and Bruce detested each other and often fought to the edge of physical violence.  The laid-back Clapton got along well with both and facilitated mutual cooperation.

Cream--Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton in 1967.
The band was a stripped down trio and eschewed back-up studio musicians or singers and their first English record producers worried that they would produce enough “sound to fill up the record.”  Boy, were they wrong.
Their first album Fresh Cream included immediate British hits Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Spoonful, and I’m So Glad.
Despite the success because they were so different from other British Invasion groups they were little known in the U.S.  Disc jockey and rock producer Murray the K booked them for the bottom act of a six band bill to play nine dates at the RKO 58th Street Theatre in New York City. for one of his tour packages in 1967, effectively limiting them to one song per set.
Between appearances they recorded their second album Disraeli Gears at Atlantic Studios in New York during May 1967.  Despite a volume of material, the album only took three and a half days to complete and the band’s work visas expired the day of the last session.  Released on November 2, the album was a huge success this time on both sides of the puddle as well as Australia.  And in the wake of that chart-topping success Fresh Cream finally broke out in the U.S.
Sunshine of Your Love which became Cream’s signature anthem and their biggest single hit began as a bass phrase or riff developed by Jack Bruce after being inspired by Jimmy Hendrix.  Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown later contributed to the song while a distinctive tom-tom drum rhythm was developed by Baker and sound engineer Tom Dowd.  It was truly a collaborative effort pulled together in record time.

Bruce, Baker, and Clapton reunited for the first time in 25 years for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the single gold on September 26, 1968, signifying sales in excess of 1,000,000 copies.  In the US, it became one of the best-selling singles of 1968 and one of the best-selling at the time for the Atlantic group of labels.  In 2004, the song ranked # 65 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, in 2005, Q magazine placed it at #19 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever!, and in 2009, VH1 included it at #44 on its list of the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs. The song is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
As for Cream, they were inducted collectively and individually in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  But their shooting star burned out quickly mostly due to the clashes between Baker and Bruce.  After their 1968 album Wheels of Fire the group officially broke up but reunited in 1969 for a final studio album Goodbye after a short farewell tour.  The trio did not perform together again for 25 years when they somewhat reluctantly took the stage together for a performance at the Hall of Fame induction.

Cream lead guitarist Eric Clapton.
Individually Clapton was the most successful post-Cream with Blind Faith, another super group which included Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic, and Ric Grech of Family.  Then came a stint as lead guitarist for Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and fronting his own group Derek and the Dominos as well as a very successful solo career. 

Ginger Baker revolutionized rock drumming including being the first to have an extended drum solo in a number the way the Gene Krupa did in big band jazz.
Baker formed his own group Ginger Baker’s Air Force and surprisingly worked on several projects with Bruce despite their continued antagonism.  After less successful efforts he mostly dropped from sight for years to establish a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria where he recorded African musicians and western artists, most significantly Paul McCarty and Wings for Band on the Run.  After a brief reunion tour with Cream, Baker was mostly inactive on the musical scene while he battled heroin addiction and an array of health issues.  He died on October 6, 2019 at the age of 80 at a hospital in Canterbury after being injured in a home fall and suffering a heart attack requiring surgery.

Bruce was a lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter for Cream and a restless seeker of new musical horizons while battling addiction.
Bruce was considered to be one of the most important and influential bass guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine readers ranked him #eight on their list of 10 Greatest Bass Guitarist Of All Time,  In his post-Cream years he collaborated with several different artists and began to move from hard rock and blues to new forms including jazz and jazz fusion.  He released several critically acclaimed solo and collaboration albums that were not, on the whole, very commercially successful.  As noted he frequently worked with Baker, an association than neither could every really break.  His battles with alcohol and addiction were even more serious and destructive than Clapton’s and Baker’s.  After he finally beat addiction in 2003 he was diagnosed with liver cancer.  In 2003, he underwent a liver transplant, which was almost fatal, as his body initially rejected the new organ. He recovered, and in 2004 re-appeared to perform Sunshine of Your Love at a Rock Legends concert in Germany organized by the singer Mandoki.  He followed that with the Cream reunion concert in 2005.
Bruce died of liver disease on October 25, 2014, in Suffolk, England, at age 71. His funeral was held in London on November 5, 2014 and was attended by Clapton, Baker and noted musicians Phil Manzanera, Gary Brooker, Vernon Reid and Nitin Sawhney among others. Dozens assembled at the Golders Green Crematorium paying a last tribute singing together including Bruce’s best frenemy, Ginger Baker.

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