If Cream's third tour of America was "The Goodbye Tour" then their second might be called "The Self Destruct Tour".
Jack and Ginger, who had managed to put aside their|
differences in the early stages of the band, now found themselves increasingly embroiled in arguments. They would often end up apologizing to Eric (but rarely to each other). Both
men were proud and head strong individuals, whose personalities just happened to mix like oil and water.
Even as early as the beginning of 1968, rumours began to spread that the band was about to pack it in. Ginger tried to put a positive spin on it all.
"It's alright most of the time, which is unusual. They put up with me, and I tend to be bad tempered...
We are three totally different|
personalities and none of us think alike, but we get more and more together musically".
In spite of Ginger's denials, it was becoming obvious that the wheels were beginning to fall off. In February of '68 the band played two
shows at the Falkoner Hall in Copenhagen.
Jack recalls, "In Copenhagen, we were in the car going to a gig from the airport and Eric actually burst into tears because of the
slanging match between me and Ginger".
Eric remembers it as well. "I was a stripling of a lad, remember. It really got to me. This was a big band going out of anybody's control.
Between Jack and Ginger, it was pure love-hate. Their anger was so vicious. I'd never experienced any words like it. It never reached
blows in my presence, but the language, the venom was so powerful that it would reduce anyone to tears".
Clapton was faced with an unsolvable dilemma. He was sandwiched between two men who fundamentally loathed each other.
"Ginger and I never got on, ever," says Jack. "But perhaps because of the very pain of our relationship, we were the hottest rhythm
section I've ever played in. There was something between Ginger and me that was a fire burning. He brought out some amazing stuff
in me. And he is a wonderful drummer".
Eric, Jack and Ginger had been together almost constantly since the beginning of the band. The initial rush of playing together had by
The TourCream began their second North American tour on February 23,1968, playing two shows at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica. They would then go on to play two shows each
night at the Winterland, in San Francisco, the Fillmore, and then back to the Winterland. The Convention Center, in Anaheim, on March 18 would be their twenty ninth show of the
tour, and they hadn't even left California yet!
Cream would continue their tour, crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada several times along the way.
While the band played to ecstatic audiences each night, they were disintegrating.
The tour was especially tiring on Ginger Baker. Ginger did not simply play his drum kit, he attacked it. He|
was a whirlwind of arms and legs, flailing away at his drums with an almost ferocious fury. Ginger would
often collapse after shows, from sheer exhaustion.
The sheer volume of the band also had its effect.
"When we first went out, Eric and Jack had one Marshall speaker cabinet each. Then it became a stack, then
a double stack, and finally a triple stack. I was the poor bastard stuck in the middle of these incredible noise
making things. It was ridiculous. I used to get back to the hotel and my ears were roaring".
Jack felt the strain of the seemingly endless one nighters as well. At one point in the tour he actually just left
the band. 'We used to travel around with very little equipment in America, and being the main singer I found
it a great strain on the voice if there wasn't an adequate public address system. At one baseball stadium I said
to Ginger: "Look, we've been given a hundred watts for the guitar, a hundred watts for the bass, and a
hundred watts for the p.a." Nothing was miked in those days.
I asked Ginger to get it improved but he just said: "No, were gonna do that".
I just got a taxi to the airport and bought a ticket. The roadies caught up with me and dragged me back, my
feet not touching the ground. I was sitting waiting for the plane to take off and I went back.
The sound was awful. You can imagine the atmosphere when I returned.
But all these problems were part of Cream".
|Jack and Ginger seemed to have an almost physic connection on stage, talking in rhythmic patterns, one complimenting the other almost instinctively. Yet the two had fundamental|
differences musically as well as personally.
'Ginger never liked loud music' laughs Jack. 'Instrumentally, Ginger didn't have the vision to see what I was trying to do. I remember Ginger shouting at me across the stage
somewhere: "You're playing too busy". He couldn't see that in a three piece band, with no keyboards player holding down the thing harmonically and melodically, it was up to
someone like me to do that'.
For Clapton, the tour was perhaps more of an emotional drain than a physical one. He was caught in the middle between Jack|
and Ginger, but aside from that, he was also becoming frustrated musically.
"We were cocooned, on the road for seven months of the year just doing the same old stuff. We were still improvising, but in a
repetitive way. Instead of growing, we used the same material on those long tours. We played the same stuff over and over
again and really worked ourselves into a hole embellishing it all".
Eric felt that the band had lost its direction and that, in the company of Jack and Ginger, he had strayed too far from his blues
"I got really hung up. I tried to write pure pop songs and create a pop image. It was a shame because I was not being true to
myself. I am, and always will be, a blues guitarist".
Only two years earlier, Clapton had left the Yardbirds, reasoning that they had become too "commercial". He was beginning to
feel that Cream had, almost unknowingly and unwillingly, suffered the same fate.
Added to all of that, America itself had undergone a transformation.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The Summer of Love was over. Flower power had been replaced with raised fists, and calls for Black Power.
The year 1968 was probably the most tumultuous year of a tumultuous decade.
The My Lai Massacre, the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King (April, 4) and Robert Kennedy (June, 5),
the riot torn Democratic Convention in Chicago and the ultimate election of Richard Nixon as President, seemed to mark the
end of innocence, and optimism, in America.
The turmoil present within the band was reflected back at them through the windows of their tour bus.
But Cream was now a "supergroup", firmly caught in the grip of commercialism and greed. They were the backbone of |
Stigwood's show business empire. He needed the money they were generating to subsidize his investment in other long
term properties, like the Bee Gees.
Mentally and physically exhausted, Cream continued their grind of one nighters.
They played to hugh crowds in sold out stadiums. They were assured standing ovations, and calls for numerous encores,
even on what they considered to be "bad nights".
Says Ginger, "Our success gained a life of its own. We were so big audiences didn't care what we played. As long as
we showed up and produced a riot of noise, they were satisfied. For top shelf creative musicians like the three of us, that
was the sounding of the death knell. Cream had become a caricature of itself".
The photo at the right was taken during the second tour of America, (probably around March or April).
As they say ; A picture is worth a thousand words.
1) Cream had considered cancelling their Back Bay Theatre concert, in Boston, on April 5, partly in honour of Martin Luther King, and partly because local authorities were afraid|
the concert might serve as a catalyst for the sort of rioting that was already taking place in other major cities.
The show went on as scheduled, but the less than packed house might be attributed to the fact that many of the ticket holders had been led to believe that the concert had, in fact, been
2) Some of the resentment that the musicians may have begun to feel towards their management finally boiled to the surface years later. In a telling scene from the film "Rolling Hotel
1978" Clapton confronts Stigwood .
"If it wasn't for me and Ginger and Jack, you wouldn't have been able to bring the 'Bee Gees' over from Australia, would ya?"
(Stigwood) "It's true". (Clapton) "Ya! Well, there you go then".
Stigwood, looking rather uncomfortable, turns towards the camera and says, "And now that I've earned so much money and have become so unhappy..(laughs) after you finish
filming this, I might strangle him".
A few months later Stigwood and Clapton would part company, and Roger Forrester would become Eric's manager.
Photo Credits; Top left; Jack, Chuck Boyd
Middle right; Ginger, Douglas Kent Hall
Middle left; Eric, Douglas Kent Hall
Bottom right; Cream on tour, Rock of Ages Archives.