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.