The Music of 1968

Dave from A Sound Day (check out the other posts on Dave’s “Turntable Talk”) posted this on November 5, 2022. He wanted a group of us to write about what we thought was the best year in music…I ended up picking the turbulent year of 1968.

When I think of the best year of music …for me it’s between 7 years. I would pick 1965 through 1971. I cannot pick all so here it goes…I pick 1968. It had some of the greatest albums and singles ever.

It was a turbulent year, to say the least. We lost two proponents of peace—Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Other events include the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, riots in Washington, DC, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and heightened social unrest over the Vietnam War, values, and race.

The music was also toughened up by moving away from psychedelic music. The social climate and The Band’s album Music from Big Pink had a lot of influence on this. You still had psychedelic music released but overall, music was more stripped down to the basics.

My favorite album of all time was released by The Beatles. My favorite album by The Rolling Stones was released that year as well. Let’s look at the albums released in 1968…it’s outstanding.

The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

The Kinks – Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Band – Music From Big Pink

Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

Cream – Wheel Of Fire

The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Big Brother and Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle

The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Traffic – Traffic

That list could be on my desert island list… those albums are still being played today. I’ve only scratched the surface of the albums that year.

The Holy Trinity of Rock all released music that year… which would be The Beatles, The Who, and The Stones. I can’t imagine living in the era when these bands were in their prime and roamed the earth. The Who didn’t release an album, but they did release some singles and were gearing up for the following year. Let’s look at some of the singles of that year.

The Beatles – Hey Jude/Revolution

The Beatles – Lady Madonna

The Who – Magic Bus

The Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash

Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

The Doors – Hello, I Love You

The Rascals – People Got To Be Free

Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

The Supremes – Love Child

The Chamber Brothers – Time Has Come Today

Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Suzie Q

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

The year featured the debut album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Brian Jones made his final album with the Rolling Stones and it was the start of their great 5 album stretch. The Who started to record the album that would break them worldwide with Tommy. Dock of the Bay would be released posthumously after Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. The Grateful Dead would release their second album Anthem of the Sun and continue to build one of the largest fan bases ever. Jimi Hendrix was breaking barriers with his experimentation in the studio as well as live.

The Band would change the game by releasing Music From Big Pink. It influenced nearly everyone at the time to go back to a rootsy kind of music. Fleetwood Mac would release their debut album this year. Jeff Beck would release his legendary album Truth.

FM radio was getting huge at this time and showed that audiences didn’t have to have top 40 hits to buy albums. Take Van Morrison for instance. Astral Weeks didn’t have a “hit” on the album but continued to be played and sell. The Beatles  The White Album is as diverse as you can get… Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Reggae, Avant-Gard, Blues, Hard Rock, and some 20’s British Music Hall thrown in for good measure. No singles were released from this album or Sgt Pepper the previous year. They treated singles and albums as two different things. Hey Jude and the hit version of Revolution was recorded during the White Album but yet they left those two off. The Stones would do the same and leave off Jumpin’ Jack Flash from  Beggars Banquet.

1968 set the stage for the coming decade’s rock music. Bands like The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin didn’t need hit singles. You bought the album now and listened to the music in the context of that format. There were still pop/rock singles but the albums were gaining traction.

To wrap it up…I think any of the years between 1965-1971 could have a strong argument for my tastes. If you are into disco or synth music…not as much.

Cream – Anyone For Tennis

It was my senior year in high school and I was listening to Cream’s greatest hits on a spring day. I had the greatest hits cassette in my car…I heard this song with the windows down and at first, I thought…no this can’t be Cream. It grew on me and I love the song. I like when a band does something different. After blitzing audiences with Crossroads, Whiteroom, Sunshine of Your Love, and Strange Brew…out comes this song. It’s not my favorite Cream song…that would be Badge but this one always makes me smile.

The song was recorded during the Wheels On Fire album sessions but not released on that album. Eric Clapton and Martin Sharp wrote the song for the film  The Savage Seven released in 1968. It peaked at #64 on the Billboard 100, #37 in Canada, and #40 in the UK and was released on that soundtrack and a single.

Cream released four albums in four years and called it a day in 1969. They would split with Clapton having the most successful career. They would reunite in 1993 for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They had a proper reunion in 2005 with four shows at Royal Albert Hall and three shows at Madison Square Gardens.

I remember the 40th Atlantic Anniversary concert held on May 11, 1988. It was rumored that Led Zeppelin and Cream were going to reunite. Led Zeppelin did, probably to their regret, but Cream didn’t attend. I watched it hoping that Cream would play.

Cream appeared on the Smothers Brothers and mimed this song. Who the hell knows what it means but when I heard “And the elephants are dancing on the graves of squealing mice. Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?” I was hooked. It’s hard to get it out of your head once you listen to it.

Anyone For Tennis

Twice upon a time in the valley of the tears
The auctioneer is bidding for a box of fading years
And the elephants are dancing on the graves of squealing mice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?

And the ice creams are all melting on the streets of bloody beer
While the beggars stain the pavements with fluorescent Christmas cheer
And the Bentley driving guru is putting up his price.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?

And the prophets in the boutiques give out messages of hope
With jingle bells and fairy tales and blind colliding scopes
And you can tell they’re all the same underneath the pretty lies.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?

The yellow Buddhist monk is burning brightly at the zoo
You can bring a bowl of rice and then a glass of water too
And fate is setting up the chessboard while death rolls out the dice.
Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?

A Concert of The Mind…Fantasy Park

***Dave from A Sound Day has a new feature Turntable Talk…he will have an article by me today about Why the Beatles are still relevant…hope you get to read it.***

Fantasy Park: 1975 – Twin Cities Music Highlights

Imagine a concert in 1975 with The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and more. Well, it happened! Sorta. Rod Serling did all of the radio promos. It would be one of his last projects…he would pass away before it aired.

It was a 48-hour-long rock concert (Fantasy Park) that was aired by nearly 200 radio stations over Labor Day weekend in 1975. The program, produced by KNUS in Dallas, featured performances by dozens of rock stars of the day and even reunited The Beatles. It was also completely imaginary, a theatre-of-the-mind for the 70s.

The “concert” was made up of live and studio recordings by the artists with live effects added to make it sound legit.

The show had college students hitchhiking all over America hoping to get to Fantasy Park. In New Orleans when the concert aired, the IRS came knocking on the doors of WNOE trying to attach the gate receipts to make sure the Feds got their cut! Callers were asking where they could get tickets to this amazing show.

The show was so popular in Minnesota that they played it again in its entirety the next year…now that people knew it wasn’t real and weren’t looking for tickets. The greatest concert that never was.  Fantasy Park had their own emcee and special reporters covering the weekend event giving you the play-by-play details along with some behind-the-scenes updates.

The concert would always be halted due to rain on a Sunday morning to allow the locals to get in their regular (usually religious) programming and the whole event always ended promptly at 6 pm on Sunday.

Now people look for the full 48-hour tapes of the show. They are a hot collector’s item. Rod Serling passed away on June 28, 1975.

Bands at Fantasy Park

Chicago
Elton John
Led Zeppelin
Joe Walsh
Cream
Shawn Phillips
Pink Floyd
Carly Simon
James Taylor (& Carol King)
Poco
Alvin Lee
Eagles
Linda Rondstadt
Dave Mason
Steve Miller
John Denver
Beach Boys
War
Grand Funk
Yes
Deep Purple
Rolling Stones
Cat Stevens
The Who
Rolling Stones
Moody Blues
Marshall Tucker Band
Allman Brothers Band
Seals & Crofts
America
Joni Mitchell
Doobie Brothers
Loggins and Messina
Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young
Bob Dylan
Beatles

Here is 10 minutes of it here.

Cream – Badge

During my senior year in high school in 1985, I had their greatest hits. I wore it out and became a huge Cream fan. I went to an old music store a couple of years ago and they had an original 60s  Leslie Cabinet. Why am I bringing that up? That is what Clapton is playing through on this song.  A Leslie Cabinet (I have video at the bottom of the post) contains a rotating horn and was designed for organs, but many tried it with guitars. It gives an organ guitar a swirling sound. The Beatles used it a lot.

One of my favorite Cream songs. Badge was written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. In George’s handwritten lyrics he wrote the word “Bridge” as in bridge of a song and Clapton thought it read “Badge” so they named the song that. In 1969 Badge peaked at #60 on the Billboard 100 Charts, #18 on the UK Charts, and #49 in Canada.

It appeared on Cream’s final album Goodbye. This song is one of only 3 studio tracks on Goodbye…the rest are live cuts. Badge would be the only Cream song to include 5 people…in addition to Clapton, Bruce, Baker and Harrison, Felix Pappalardi played the piano and Mellotron. Pappalardi produced Disreali GearsWheels Of Fire, and Goodbye. Robert Stigwood produced their debut album Fresh Cream.

Cream were broke up when this album was released. Clapton was already working with Blind Faith. The did reunite for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1993 and played 3 songs. In 2005 the band reunited at the Royal Albert Hall…the location of their last concert in 1969 and later in the year at Madison Square Gardens.

I will say…it’s hard for me to listen to the 2005 reunion. Clapton chose to play his Fender guitar and it just didn’t have the bite his Gibson SG had in the Cream days. I didn’t expect the long jams but I do wish he would have been a bit dirtier in his sound. The musicianship though was great.

Don’t study the lyrics too much. They don’t make much sense. Supposedly many of them came from drunk conversations with George and Ringo.

George Harrison: I helped Eric write “Badge” you know. Each of them had to come up with a song for that Goodbye Cream album and Eric didn’t have his written. We were working across from each other and I was writing the lyrics down and we came to the middle part, so I wrote ‘Bridge.’ Eric read it upside down and cracked up laughing – ‘What’s BADGE?’ he said. After that, Ringo walked in drunk and gave us that line about the swans living in the park

Hope I didn’t bore you all with the Leslie Cabinet information, but I really like them. In this video you will see how  it works and why an organ gets that swirling sound. A sixties model costs around $3000 and up. 

Back to our song of the day!

Badge

Thinkin’ ’bout the times you drove in my car.
Thinkin’ that I might have drove you too far.
And I’m thinkin’ ’bout the love that you laid on my table.

I told you not to wander ’round in the dark.
I told you ’bout the swans, that they live in the park.
Then I told you ’bout our kid: now he’s married to Mabel.

Yes, I told you that the light goes up and down.
Don’t you notice how the wheel goes ’round?
And you better pick yourself up from the ground
Before they bring the curtain down.
Yes, before they bring the curtain down.

Ah Ah Ah, yeh yeh yeh
Ah Ah Ah, yeh yeh yeh

Talkin’ ’bout a girl that looks quite like you.
She didn’t have the time to wait in the queue.
She cried away her life since she fell off the cradle.

Cream – Born Under A Bad Sign

When I first started to listen to Cream, what stood out was not Clapton’s guitar or Baker’s drumming…no it was Jack Bruce’s bass. There are three bass players I listened to while starting out playing. John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, and Paul McCartney.  Those three covered the chaotic, the sliding, and melodic. Jack Bruce had all of these traits.

Cream recorded this and released it on their 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. It was written by Booker T Jones and William Bell for Albert King. King released it on his first Stax album Born Under A Bad Sign in 1967. Clapton stuck close to King’s guitar style on this song.

The Wheels of Fire album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts, #1 in Canada, and #3 in the UK in 1968.

Cream played this when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1993, in tribute to Albert King, who died the previous year. It was one of two times the band has played together since they broke up in 1968. The first time was at Clapton’s wedding in 1979…three Beatles also played together at his wedding.

Booker T Jones: “My recollection is that we wrote it in my den, late the night before the session. We had been trying to come up with something for Albert. He was coming to town and it was the last opportunity we had to write a song. But you know, now that I think of it, the fact that the song was in D flat, there is definitely an Indiana influence because, you know, a blues song in d flat? I tell you, I learned the value of flat keys and sharp keys and how to use them for emotional value so I could have more range and capacity for touching the human heart. I think that was one of the reasons that song became as huge as it did. Because it was in D flat.”

King’s song is also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”

From Songfacts

When Albert King signed with Stax Records in Memphis, Booker T. Jones, who was a member of the Stax house band Booker T. & The MGs, was assigned his producer. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Jones explained: “At that time, my writing partner was William Bell. He came over to my house the night before the session. William wrote the words and I wrote the music in my den that night. That was one of my greatest moments in the studio as far as being thrilled with a piece of music. The feeling of it, it’s the real blues done by the real people. It was Albert King from East St. Louis, the left-handed guitar player who was just one of a kind and so electric and so intense and so serious about his music. He just lost himself in the music. He’s such a one of a kind character. I was there in the middle of it and it was exhilarating.”

The “bad sign” is an astrology reference: if you’re “born under a bad sign,” it means the stars are aligned against you from birth. It was the song’s co-writer William Bell who came up with the title – he wanted to do a blues song about astrology.

Born Under A Bad Sign was Albert King’s first album released by Stax. It became King’s signature song, with the classic lyrics, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

The song harkens back to blues of the ’30s and ’40s which had similar lyrical content.

King was an American blues musician. Known for his size (6′ 4″, 250 pounds) and custom-made, left-handed Gibson guitar, he died in 1992.

 Their guitarist, Eric Clapton, idolized American blues artists and often performed their songs. It marked a change of guitar style for Clapton, who adopted a harder, attacking style on this song in place of the sweeter, sustaining notes he called “woman tone,” which were more apparent on Cream’s first two albums.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band played this at Woodstock in 1969. They went on Monday morning, two sets ahead of Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles, recorded an instrumental cover in 1969 as a tribute to King. 

This song’s lyricist William Bell performed it at the Grammy Awards in 2017 with Gary Clark Jr. “When you spend your life making music, you were born under a good sign, Bell said when they finished the song.” Bell won the award for Best Americana Album.

Janis Joplin’s guitarist Sam Andrew borrowed the riff for Big Brother & The Holding Company’s song “I Need A Man To Love.”

Christian posted this video in the comments…I thought I would add it…

Born Under A Bad Sign

Born under a bad sign
Been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
You know I wouldn’t have no luck at all

Hard luck and trouble is my only friend
I’ve been on my own ever since I was ten
Born under a bad sign
Been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
You know I wouldn’t have no luck at all

I can’t read, haven’t learned how to write
My whole life has been one big fight
Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
I say I wouldn’t have no luck at all

I ain’t no lyin’

You know if it wasn’t for bad luck
I wouldn’t have no kinda luck
If it wasn’t for real bad luck
I wouldn’t have no luck at all

You know, wine and women is all I crave
A big-legged woman is gonna carry me to my grave
Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck
I tell I wouldn’t have no luck at all

Yeah, my bad luck boy
Been havin’ bad luck all of my days, yes

Cream – Crossroads

The solo Eric plays in this song is phenomenal. It is a live version and he pulls notes out of the air and sounds as fresh now as when I first heard it. After Cream, Eric never played the same way again.

This was originally recorded by the blues musician Robert Johnson in the 1930s. According to legend, Johnson went to the crossroads and made a deal with the Devil, giving up his soul in exchange for the ability to play the blues. The story originates from an interview with the blues singer Son House, who explained how Johnson went from being a terrible guitar player to a very good one in a very short period of time. Over the years, the story grew into the tale of Johnson selling his soul to the Devil.

Cream’s version is a compilation of parts of two Johnson songs: “Crossroads Blues” and “Traveling Riverside Blues.” The song was on the album Wheels of Fire which peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1968. Crossroads peaked at #28 in the Billboard 100.

When I first learned the bass to this song…at least kinda close to what Jack Bruce played…I knew I accomplished a lot.

 

From Songfacts

Johnson fueled the legend on his track “Me And The Devil Blues,” where he sings about his meeting with Satan himself. In that song, Johnson explains that as part of his deal with the Devil, the Prince Of Darkness would harvest all of Robert’s “Childrens” at the age of 27, which is exactly how old he was when he died in 1938. A spooky correlation is the number of music stars who have died at age 27. Some members of the “27 Club” include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) and Kurt Cobain. (Thanks to music historians Dwight Rounds and Ed Parker for their help with this.)

Inside the gatefold of the 2-disk LP Wheels Of Fire, the song listings for Sides 3 (including “Crossroads”) and 4 are misleadingly subheaded, “Live at the Fillmore.” Same with Disk 2 of the 2-CD versions.

“Crossroads” was recorded at the Winterland Ballroom, also in San Francisco. Just one of the four live songs on these two LP sides, “Toad,” was actually recorded at the Fillmore, but the Fillmore name had a lot more marketing appeal. “Crossroads” was recorded at Winterland on March 10, 1968, a Sunday, during the first of the two Cream shows that night. “Crossroads” immediately followed “Spoonful” in the performance, whereas on the album, “Crossroads” comes right before “Spoonful.”

The version on the album was not edited down, although the booklet for the Crossroads boxed set implies that it was. Eric Clapton didn’t like to talk about the song and has said it was an inferior performance because the trio got the time disjointed a bit in Eric’s third solo chorus – that is, the first chorus (instrumental “verse”) of his second solo. So, he never really praised that performance.

When pressed on the length and editing issues, he might say something along the vague lines of he supposed it was originally longer, because the Cream usually played it longer live.

At the end of the song, Jack Bruce announces, “Eric Clapton, please,” over Eric’s saying, “Thank you” (both said simultaneously). Eric follows up by saying (probably turning toward Jack), “Kerfuffle.” This is British English for “foul-up,” referring to the time disjoint back in mid-song.

Clapton played this on a Gibson SG, a solid-body guitar that had been psychedelically painted.

Clapton recorded this song two years earlier in a greatly different form – slower, less urban, Steve Winwood singing, plus a harmonica – though he still gave credit to Robert Johnson.

In March 1966 he was still with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, but he went to do a one-off studio session with, among others, Jack Bruce (bass) and Stevie Winwood (vocals and keys). This group called themselves The Powerhouse, and “Cross Roads” (note space) was one of three songs they recorded. This was the version, appearing on an album with various artists called What’s Shakin’, that was heard by a young Duane Allman in mid-1966. With his early band The Allman Joys, Duane (with his brother Gregg on vocals) recorded a ragged version of “Cross Roads” soon after What’s Shakin’ was released, and about two years before the Cream version was released. The Allman Joys’ version might have been pretty ragged, but in spirit it actually anticipated the Cream’s smoking version, rather than the Powerhouse’s take.

Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded this for their One More From The Road live album. In most ways it is like the Cream’s arrangement, but the guitar solos are pretty much different, though they refer to Eric’s solo in a few phrases.

Fusion bassist Jeff Berlin did a version on the 1986 album Pump It!. It had additional parts – especially an intro and an outro – but was otherwise similar to the Cream’s arrangement. Berlin played Eric’s solos somewhat note for note, only on bass.

Eddie Van Halen has also covered the song, and Rush (another trio of musicians) covered this on their album Feedback. John Mayer covered the song on his 2009 album, Battle Studies. >>

Clapton named his 1988 greatest hits compilation Crossroads after this song. In 2004, he released a blues album called Me And Mr. Johnson, the title a reference to Robert Johnson.

Cream played this in 1993 when they reunited for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Crossroads” is the name of Clapton’s rehab center in Antigua. Clapton battled depression and drug addiction in the ’70s.

In Clapton: The Autobiography, Eric talks about Robert Johnson’s fingerpicking style that had him “simultaneously playing a disjointed bass line on the low strings, rhythm on the middle strings, and lead on the treble strings while singing at the same time.” Johnson’s sound was very hard to re-create, and it often sounded like more than one guitarist was playing. >>

This song had a profound effect on Geddy Lee of Rush, who told Rolling Stone: “Seeing Jack Bruce roam wildly up and down the neck of his Gibson EB3 in concert made me not want to play bass, but to play bass in a rock trio.”

Crossroads

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above for mercy, “Save me if you please”

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride
I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by

I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side
I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side
You can still barrel house, baby, on the riverside

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
And I’m standing at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down

Cream – Sunshine of Your Love

One of the most famous riffs in rock history. The lyrics was written by Pete Brown, a beat poet who was friends with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. He also wrote lyrics for “I Feel Free” and “White Room.” Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce wrote the music.

The song peaked at #5 in the Billboard 100 in 1968.

When Cream broke up, Jimi Hendrix played this song on the Lulu show for a farewell to Cream.

Cream played this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1993, when they reunited for their induction. To that point, the only other time the band got back together was at Eric Clapton’s wedding in 1979. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr also played together at that wedding.

 

From Songfacts

Pete Brown wrote the opening line after being up all night working with Bruce and watching the sun come up. In a Songfacts interview, he told the tale: “We had been working all night and had gotten some stuff done. We had very little time to write for Cream, but we happened to have some spare time and Jack came up with the riff. He was playing a stand-up – he still had his stand-up bass, because he’d been a jazz musician. He was playing stand-up bass, and he said, ‘What about this then?’ and played the famous riff. I looked out the window and wrote down, ‘It’s getting near dawn.’ That’s how it happened. It’s actually all true, really, all real stuff.”

Jack Bruce’s bass line carries the song. He got the idea for it after going to a Jimi Hendrix concert. When Kees van Wee interviewed Bruce in 2003 for the Dutch magazine Heaven, Kees asked him which of his many songs epitomizes Jack Bruce the most. At first he was in doubt whether he should answer “Pieces Of Mind” or “Keep On Wondering,” but then he changed his mind and opted for “Sunshine Of Your Love.” Because, said Bruce, “It’s based on a bass riff. And when you enter a music shop this is the song that kids always play to try out a guitar.”

Tom Dowd, who worked with most of the artists for Atlantic Records at the time, engineered the Disreali Gears album. Dowd was renowned for his technical genius, but also for his ability to relate to musicians and put them at ease.

When Cream recorded this song, it wasn’t working. In the documentary Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music, he explained: “There just wasn’t this common ground that they had on so many of the other songs. I said, ‘Have you ever seen an American Western where the Indian beat – the downbeat – is the beat? Why don’t you play that one. Ginger went inside and they started to run the song again. When they started playing that way, all of the parts came together and they were elated.”

According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 songs issue, Jack Bruce knew the song would do well. “Both Booker T. Jones and Otis Redding heard it at Atlantic Studios and told me it was going to be a smash,” he recalled.

One man who was not impressed was Ahmet Ertegun, who was head of the group’s label. When Bruce revealed the song at the sessions, Ertegun declared it “psychedelic hogwash.” Ertegun constantly tried to promote Eric Clapton as the band’s leader, and also didn’t believe the bassist should be a lead singer. He only relented and agreed to champion this song after Booker T. Jones came by and expressed his approval.

This is one of Eric Clapton’s favorites from this days with Cream; he played it at most of his solo shows throughout his career. When Cream played some reunion concerts in 2005, they played the song as their encore.

Jimi Hendrix covered this at some of his concerts, unaware that he was the inspiration for the bass line.

Hendrix did an impromptu performance of the song when he appeared on Happening for Lulu, BBC TV show in England hosted by the prim and proper “To Sir With Love” singer. After playing part of his scheduled song “Hey Joe,” Hendrix stopped the performance and said, “We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream, regardless of what kind of group they may be in. We dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.”

This version appears on the Experience Hendrix 2CD/3LP The BBC Sessions towards the end of Disc 2/Side 6 on the LP. An instrumental version appears on the 2010 Valleys of Neptune album, which was recorded by Hendrix at London’s Olympic Studios on February 16, 1969.

Hendrix engineer and producer Eddie Kramer recalled to Toronto’s The Globe and Mail: “Jimi loved Cream, he loved Eric Clapton. It was a fabulous song, he loved to play it, and he would just rip into it whenever the mood hit him.” 

This was Cream’s biggest hit. It was their first to do better in the US than in the UK, as they started to catch on in America. In the US, this first charted in February 1968 at #36. In August, after the album came out, it re-entered the chart and went to #5.

Clapton’s guitar solo is based on the ’50s song “Blue Moon.”

Excepting “Strange Brew,” the Disraeli Gears album was recorded in just three days, as the band had to return to England because their work visas were expiring. Engineer Tom Dowd recalls the sessions coming to an abrupt end when a limo driver showed up to take the musicians to the airport. Dowd was tasked with mixing the album in their absence.

Jack Bruce released a new version on his 2001 album Shadows In The Air. Clapton played on it along with Latin percussionists from New York City, which gave it a Salsa sound.

In The Breakfast Club (1985), John Bender (Judd Nelson) tries to liven up Saturday detention by mimicking the riff on air guitar.

Sunshine of Your Love

It’s getting near dawn,
When lights close their tired eyes
I’ll soon be with you my love,
To give you my dawn surprise
I’ll be with you darling soon,
I’ll be with you when the stars start falling

[Chorus:]
I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
In the sunshine of your love

I’m with you my love,
The light’s shining through on you
Yes, I’m with you my love,
It’s the morning and just we two
I’ll stay with you darling now,
I’ll stay with you till my seas are dried up

[Chorus]

I’m with you my love,
The light’s shining through on you.
Yes, I’m with you my love,
It’s the morning and just we two.
I’ll stay with you darling now,
I’ll stay with you till my seas are dried up

I’ve been waiting so long
I’ve been waiting so long
I’ve been waiting so long
To be where I’m going
In the sunshine of your love

Cream – White Room

Ginger Baker passed away Sunday, October 6th… Ginger was one of the best drummers in rock history.

Paul McCartney: Ginger Baker, great drummer, wild and lovely guy. We worked together on the ‘Band on the Run’ album in his ARC Studio, Lagos, Nigeria. Sad to hear that he died but the memories never will. X Paul

Mick Jagger: Sad news hearing that Ginger Baker has died, I remember playing with him very early on in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. He was a fiery but extremely talented and innovative drummer.

John Densmore: A drumming force of nature, Ginger Baker has broke on through. Emblematic of his influence, I put 2 bars of his reverse-beat in “Hello, I Love You.” 

Pete Brown wrote the lyrics and Jack Bruce wrote the music to White Room. He was inspired by a cycling tour that he took in France. The “white room” was a literal place: a room in an apartment where Pete Brown was living. It was not, as some suspected, an institution.

The music was written first. Pete Brown’s first attempt at a lyric was something about a doomed hippie girl – the song was called “Cinderella’s Last Goodnight.” Jack Bruce didn’t like it, so he scrapped that idea and pulled up an eight-page poem he had written earlier, which he reworked into White Room.

Pete Brown: “It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat.”

The song peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100 in 1968.

Cream in the 1970s… Pattie Boyd took the photo.

From Songfacts

This song is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce, the lead vocalist on the track. Brown also wrote the words for “Sunshine Of Your Love,” “I Feel Free” and “SWLABR.”

In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he told the story: “It was a meandering thing about a relationship that I was in and how I was at the time. It was a kind of watershed period really. It was a time before I stopped being a relative barman and became a songwriter, because I was a professional poet, you know. I was doing poetry readings and making a living from that. It wasn’t a very good living, and then I got asked to work by Ginger and Jack with them and then started to make a kind of living.

And there was this kind of transitional period where I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It’s a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. That song’s like a kind of weird little movie: it changes perspectives all the time. That’s why it’s probably lasted – it’s got a kind of mystery to it.”

Upon its release, Wheels Of Fire was given a terrible review by Rolling Stone magazine. They claim that “White Room” has “The exact same lines for guitar, bass and drums” as “Tales Of Brave Ulysses.” If you listen to both songs, they are somewhat similar, but nowhere near the level they claim. 

Eric Clapton used a wah-wah pedal on his guitar. He got the idea from Jimi Hendrix.

Clapton’s solo earned the #2 spot on Guitar World’s greatest wah solos of all time in 2015. The #1 spot? Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

Why are the starlings tired? Because the pollution in London was killing them. Pete Brown also told us: “The ‘tired starlings’ is also a little bit of a metaphor for the feminine in a way, as well. It was women having to put up with rather a lot – too much pressure on them at the time.”

More lyric interpretation courtesy of Pete Brown:

“Goodbye Windows” – “Just people waving goodbye from train windows.”

“Black-roof Country” – “That was the kind of area that I lived in. There were still steam trains at one point around that area, so the roofs were black. It was black and sooty. It’s got that kind of a feel to it.”

On their last tour before the band broke up, Cream opened most of their shows with this song. When Cream did a reunion tour in 2005, they played it near the end of the sets.

Clapton refused to play this after leaving Cream until 1985, when Paul Shaffer urged him to play it while he was sitting in with the band on Late Night With David Letterman. That same year, Clapton played it at Live Aid.

This was released as a single after Cream had broken up. It did better in the US than in England, since Cream had caught on in the States.

In 2000, Apple Computer used this in commercials for their white iMacs. While the song does have the word “white” in the title, the subject matter is not good for selling computers.

Jack Bruce recorded a new, Latin-influenced version on his 2001 album Shadows In The Air. Clapton played on this as well as his new recording of “Sunshine Of Your Love.”

Clapton performed this in 1999 for the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park. Clapton and Crow were an item for a time in the ’90s.

White Room

In the white room with black curtains near the station
Black roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes
Dawnlight smiles on you leaving, my contentment

I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines
Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves

You said no strings could secure you at the station
Platform ticket, restless diesels, goodbye windows
I walked into such a sad time at the station
As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning

I’ll wait in the queue when the trains come back
Lie with you where the shadows run from themselves

At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd
Consolation for the old wound now forgotten
Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes
She’s just dressing, goodbye windows, tired starlings

I’ll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd
Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves

Cream – I’m So Glad

I’m So Glad appeared on Cream’s debut album Fresh Cream. Cream covered this song and did something that other bands (looking at you Led Zeppelin) should have done. The writer of the song was Skip James an American Delta blues singer, guitarist, pianist and songwriter who was born in 1902. Cream went out of their way to make sure that Skip received royalties off of the song.

Because of Cream’s diligence, James had at least some comfort in his last days. Skip had the opportunity to see Cream perform his song on stage before he succumbed to cancer in 1969 but his widow sent a thank you letter to Jack Bruce for covering his song.

The song didn’t chart but the album did at #39 in 1968.

I’m So Glad

[Chorus:]
I’m so glad
I’m so glad
I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad 

Don’t know what to do
Don’t know what to do
Don’t know what to do

Tired of weeping
Tired of moaning
Tired of groaning for you

[Chorus]

Tired of weeping 
Tired of moaning
Tired of groaning for you

[Chorus: x8]

Cream – Strange Brew

Great guitar lick and song. The song was based on an old blues song by  Buddy Moss called Hey Lawdy Mama that Cream recorded. Eric Clapton took the lead vocal in this one. They reworked the song and the writing credits went to Felix Pappalardi, Gail Collins and Eric Clapton.

The song didn’t chart in the Billboard 100 but made it to #17 in the UK charts. A great classic Cream song.

From Songfacts.

When Cream performed the early version of this song as “Lawdy Mama,” Clapton and bass player Jack Bruce would share lead vocals. The band recorded both “Lawdy Mama” and “Strange Brew” at Atlantic Studios in New York on April 3, 1967. The band had spent the previous week in the city, performing daily at the “Music In The Fifth Dimension” show at the RKO Theater. These shows were organized by the influential disc jockey Murray the K, and provided great exposure for Cream in America. Other acts on the bill for some of these shows: The Who, Wilson Pickett and the Lovin’ Spoonful. Cream would complete the Disraeli Gears album when they returned to the United States the next month.

The lyrics refer to a female, which could mean drugs or be a more literal reference to a woman. Either way, she is “killing what’s inside of you.”

Cream had a very psychedelic sound, and this song was released in the Summer of Love, where it fit in quite well.

To craft “Strange Brew,” producer Felix Pappalardi added Eric Clapton’s vocal to a take of the band’s recording of “Lawdy Mama,” which appears as a bonus track on the 2004 re-release of Disraeli Gears, but didn’t make the original album. Jack Bruce wasn’t happy about this, especially since he wasn’t able to re-record his bassline. To keep the tenuous peace in the band during Cream’s reunion concerts in 2005, “Strange Brew” was omitted from their 19-song playlist, despite being one of their best known and loved songs.

Clapton got the idea for the album title after a roadie named Mick Turner told him about the derailleur gears on his bicycle. Derailleur, pronounced “Di-rail-yer,” are the kind of gears commonly found on 10-speed bikes. The roadie pronounced it “Disraeli,” which led to the title.

On Eric Clapton’s Crossroads boxed set, this is placed next to “Lawdy Mama,” the Blues song it is based on.

Strange Brew

Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.

She’s a witch of trouble in electric blue,
In her own mad mind she’s in love with you.
With you.
Now what you gonna do?
Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.

She’s some kind of demon messing in the glue.
If you don’t watch out it’ll stick to you.
To you.
What kind of fool are you?
Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.

On a boat in the middle of a raging sea,
She would make a scene for it all to be
Ignored.
And wouldn’t you be bored?
Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.

Strange brew, strange brew, strange brew, strange brew.
Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you