What a Bringdown
What a Bringdown

The Smothers Brothers

In May, Cream entered C.B.S. Studios to record two songs for the Smothers Brothers television show. The band performed a
great version of Sunshine of Your Love, as well as a mimed version of Anyone For Tennis.
Eric had written Anyone For Tennis with Martin Sharpe, but he hated the song almost from the moment it was finished.
A very unhappy looking Clapton mimed the song to a typically silly Smothers Brothers video.

Ginger says, "The Smothers Brothers thing was hilarious, now, but I think way back then was probably far from it. That was
probably when we knew it was all over. We were aware that this was just, you know, finishing off, just getting it over with.
That's probably why we did it, and probably why Eric was not looking terribly happy about it".

Ginger laughs,"I'm glad it wasn't something I was singing".

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smobrofix "We were being governed" says Eric, "by a particularly lunitic man, (Stigwood) who, God bless his
soul, was just ready to put us anywhere at any time for any old reason. And we would just turn up and
play and count the costs later. I think that, really the guy you were looking at on that Smothers Brothers
Show was just the result of too many situations where I was out of my depth, to the point where I just
didn't know who I was, where I was or what I was doing anymore.

rolstone

Also in May, an issue of Rolling Stone featured a concert review and analysis of Cream by Jon Landau. Unlike his contemporaries in the music press, Landau was critical of Cream,
and Clapton in particular.
Cover
"Clapton is a master of the blues clichés of all the post World War II blues guitarists, particularly B.B. King and Albert King.
And he didn't play a note that wasn't blues during the course of the concert... Improvisation means the creation of new
musical ideas spontaneously. It does not mean stringing together pieces and phrases of already learned musical ideas. He is
a virtuoso at performing other people's ideas".
Landau's criticism was probably more than a bit unfair. Eric had always acknowledged his blues roots, and honoured his
sources.
The article went on to compare Cream to a jazz group, and Clapton to Larry Coryell.
Cream, of course, never claimed to be a jazz band. And to suggest that improvisation is out of place in anything other than
a jazz setting is dubious.
"I remember that article very well" says Jack. "That did contribute to the end of Cream, but it really was quite silly. It was
trying to say that Eric Clapton couldn't play the guitar. That was the kind of thing one would expect from the English music
press, not Rolling Stone. It certainly hurt me, because they questioned our integrity. We were always sincere about music
right up until the end".
Clapton, always sensitive to criticism, was devastated by the article. It is probably too much to say that the review led to the
breakup of the band (as some have suggested) but it certainly was the final nail in the coffin. Easy adulation, boredom,
fatigue and the resurrection of the old Bruce-Baker rivalry had all pushed Eric to decide that he had had enough.
Says Eric:"I remember thinking the music wasn't going anywhere. We were just ad-libbing all the time, not planning any
changes. It first hit me when I heard The Band's album, Music From Big Pink. I realized we were already out of date and
there was no way of trying to get the other two to move forward. I thought, if only we had a keyboard player, or could play
a bit differently. What I should have been was more satisfied with what we had...I was frustrated. That's why I faced up to
a split".
As the tour ground on, the three musicians grew farther apart. They would often meet just minutes before the show, go out
and play, and then go their own way immediately after. By the end of the tour, they were not just staying on different floors
of the hotel, but in different hotels!

When the band entered Atlantic studios for the final overdubs of Wheels of Fire, Tom Dowd noticed the change.
"I knew that there had been some animosity between the three players, but when we would listen to playbacks in the control
room, there were times when I thought they were going to kill each other".
While the tour of America continued, rumours of a split were strenuously denied, even though Clapton had confided to Chris Welch that the band was finished. Welch sat on the
story, as requested. In July, the rumours were confirmed. Cream would disband, but not until after a final "farewell" tour.

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DID YOU KNOW ?

1) The version of Sunshine of Your Love recorded for the Smothers Brothers Show has been around as a bootleg for a long time. It has been released, in far superior sound quality,
on the Cream box set Those Were the Days.
The video of Cream performing Anyone For Tennis on the show is available on the Fresh Live Cream video.

2) During the summer months, Glen Campbell replaced Tom and Dick Smothers as host of the show. This is why some reports list the song as being from the Smothers Brother's
Show, while others refer to the Glen Campbell Show.

3) The cover photo of the Rolling Stone May 11, 1968 edition, was taken by Linda Eastman, (Paul McCartney's wife).

4) I was always puzzled by Eric’s reaction, or should I say, overreaction, to Jon Landau’s criticism.
Landau, a failed musician himself, had already written a negative review of Fresh Cream in the July-August (1967) edition of Crawdaddy Magazine, and his very first review for
Rolling Stone was a hatchet job on the Jimi Hendrix debut, Are You Experienced.
In a recent interview, Ginger, never one to mince words, would laugh off Landau’s criticism by saying “ He was a fucking idiot in my opinion”.

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Photo Credits; Top left; C.B.S. Studios
Middle right; Linda Eastman
Bottom; Starfile.



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