When I began to hear my old friends whine about turning 60, I knew that it was time to send out the appropriate birthday gifts. This was something I usually didn’t do, but I did it only because I felt that my friends needed a hard boot in the ass.
My birthday gifts: “The Cream 2005 Reunion” DVD
These recorded stellar musical performances are living proof that age 60 isn’t necessarily the gateway to old age and infirmity. At the time of these performances, guitarist Eric Clapton was 60, vocalist Jack Bruce was 61, and drummer Ginger Baker was 65.
Yeah, I know that when most people read a newspaper obituary where a guy drops dead at age 60, it’s no surprise. 60 is a perfectly acceptable age to drop dead. 60 is also a perfectly acceptable age to hang it up and let the younger people join the so-called rat race.
Back in the sixties (yeah, the old guy is reminiscing again), the Cream were my favorite power rock and roll group, even surpassing Hendrix’s Experience and the Stones. To me, it didn’t matter that the Cream lasted only from 1966 to 1968. They made an impact on me for life.
In 2005, when I first heard that the Cream were reuniting for a tour after 37 years, I was both elated and apprehensive. In recent years, I had seen many of my favorite sixties bands reunite; most greatly disappointed in that pathetic “Spinal Tap” way. While I knew that Eric Clapton would be able to cut it, I wondered about Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. I hadn’t heard them in years.
The Reunion broadcast
In 2007, when the Reunion was broadcast during a fund drive on my local PBS station, I decided to tune in, despite some minor trepidation.
Upon first view, middle-aged Clapton still looked like middle-aged Clapton. Jack Bruce, however, looked frail. I later found out that he had been the recipient of a liver transplant a few years earlier. But, to me, Ginger Baker was the biggest surprise. Back in 1967, he looked like he was 65. I had always figured him to wind up a speedfreak casualty; yet here he was in 2007, looking healthier and more robust than when I first saw him at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom.
And then they played.
It was as if the 37 years apart had made no difference in their power. Jack Bruce’s vocals and harmonica still soared. Ginger Baker still banged at his drum kit with the same degree of intensity and polyrhythmic magic. And Clapton was still Clapton.
The birthday gifts
I realized that no band, young or old, could touch their power and creativity — even now. This was a revelation, and an object lesson that had to be passed along to my old fart friends in the guise of birthday gifts.
The Cream Reunion only lasted four nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall and three nights at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Pray for another tour.
“Cream Reunion”, James Clash, Forbes, URL: (http://www.forbes.com/lifestyle/2004/12/03/cz_jc_1203feat.html)
“Blues dominate in the Cream reunion”, Jon Pareles, New York Times, URL: (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00EFDD1630F937A35756C0A9639C8B63)