BOOTLEG SERIES #12: Cream – Winterland, San Francisco, CA. 10th March 1968.

Jama Stratton – Audience Member

“The crowd was so intense it scared me. I’ll never forget it. It was impossible to move in one’s own direction, you just had to move the way the people moved around you. I got my first taste of mob hysteria that night. You could feel the tension between Jack Bruce and Eric big time. The ultimate battle of egos (and drugs). It was so different from the first time they played the Fillmore where they were so young and “fresh”. That’s when I fell in love with Eric. It was a battle of egos (in my always humble opinion), but with that in mind, all the band members, Eric, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker were at their peaks and each individual was one upping the other and it all came together, despite the obvious (at least in my observation) tension between them! It was THE BEST LIVE PERFORMANCE I’ve ever experienced outside of Jimi Hendrix. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing every performance her made at the Fillmore.

I attended both (shows on this day). The second show at Winterland was the scary one in which the crowd was so enormous that one couldn’t move. Like being caught in an unstoppable underwater current and not being able to escape. “Toad” with Ginger’s solo went on for a good half an hour. One can now look back and assume that he was very “amped up” indeed. Nonetheless it was great. And of course (I remember Crossroads), what can I say? Every person in that crowd was focused and caught in the whole experience. Every single human being including Cream. “Spoonful” as well.”

It’s safe to say that Cream were a one of a kind band. No-one could play like them, no-one could improvise the way they improvised on stage and the amount of musical freedom then had just doesn’t exist today in mainstream music. Music today is very much like that of the 50’s and early 60’s where a successful single has to be short and precise. But music needs to be exciting, it needs to push the boundaries. Cream were that band, and if you want to know why they are considered one of the best live bands of all time then you have to listen to both of these shows. The fact that the band played twice on one day is remarkable in itself (many bands did back then) but to play two outstanding shows like these with no drop in playing quality really is something else.

If you’re a fan of Cream then you need to have these two recordings in your collection. The actual bootleg quality is superb, definitely one of the best out there. All of the Winterland shows were recorded professionally and you can even see the microphones used to record the performances in the photos in this article. So it’s a little bit baffling that a proper live album hasn’t been released at some point, along the lines of what the Hendrix Estate does with Hendrix’s live albums. The Allman Brothers Band have also released a number of recordings in past years from the Duane-era. These are recordings that need to be heard in full and appreciated for the genius they contain, and these Winterland recordings would be a great place to start.

LISTEN TO THE TWO SHOWS HERE

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Acknowledgements: Thank you to Billy Stapleton and Jama Stratton for talking to me about these two shows, it was an absolute pleasure.
Photo Credits: First photo by Bruce Krejcik, 9th March 1968. Second and third photos by Billy Stapleton from either the 8th, 9th or 10th March 1968 at Winterland.

3 thoughts on “BOOTLEG SERIES #12: Cream – Winterland, San Francisco, CA. 10th March 1968.

  1. Jack says:

    Hello Tom,a comment on the “BOOTLEG SERIES #12: Cream – Winterland, San Francisco, CA. 10th March 1968.” There has been a myth that the song “Crossroads” on the official “Wheels of Fire” 1968 release was edited for release,there is even a Wikkipedia page stating that the song was edited,well this bootleg of Crossroad which is an audience recording is identical as the official release which proves that there was no editing on the Wheels of Fire release.How this rumour or myth got started is unknown,but it is totally false.Thanks.

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    • Michael Katz says:

      Absolutely! The song couldn’t be more natural and perfect the way it is. Cream really actually played a few 4 minute songs! Ironically, they rarely every played this version again…….Ginger changed the beat around in future versions, and this, up to what I’ve heard to date, was never recreated, but that was what made Cream unique, right?

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  2. Terence M. Doherty says:

    Wow, what a wonderful article chronicling a truly historic series of shows. I clearly clearly remember how Cream burst on the scene and forever changed the course of rock music, and really legitimized it because of their tremendous musicianship and unparalleled virtuosity. The success of “Sunshine of Your Love” and then “Crossroads” and “Spoonful” just laid to waste every rock guitarist around, and forced them back to the drawing board. Many are oblivious to the fact that Cream ctrl-alt-deleted the entire rock music culture. There are so many bands, so many guitarists, drummers, and bassists who were directly or indirectly profoundly influenced by these recordings. And, many who were indirectly influenced never even realized that fact. People today who were not around at that time often don’t realize how Cream changed everything. If you ask me, rock music can be subdivided into two parts: B.W. and A.W. (Before Wheels of Fire and After Wheels of Fire). Professional and amateur rock musicians who were around at that time invariably wore out several copies of that album, all with the same slack-jawed question in mind that I STILL have to this day: “How in God’s name did they do that?”

    You just can’t overstate the tremendous effect of these series of concerts. This was Cream at the utter pinnacle of their devastating musical powers laying their indelible mark on the history of rock music.

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