For the 20th instalment of my BOOTLEG SERIES I return to one of my favourite bands of all time, Cream, a band who have been the focus of four previous instalments in this series. This show at New Haven Arena in New Havan, CT from the 11th October 1968 is one of the farewell shows the band played on their last tour of the United States and unlike many recordings from this tour, the band appear to be just getting through the show. That said there are countless great moments on each song and they’re enjoyable to listen to.
It’s not every day that a new recording is unearthed featuring The Allman Brothers Band with Duane Allman, but that’s exactly what we have here. Recorded on the 9th July 1970 at S.U.N.Y. at Stony Brook in New York, it really is a remarkable sounding recording given how much time has passed since it was made. For the full history of the recording and how it was made and since released, head here. What follows below is my take and thoughts on the recording itself in the form of a BOOTLEG SERIES article.
In October 1968 Cream were pretty much over, apart from the remaining tour dates which would end with two final shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 26th November. But mentally they all knew the musical journey they had embarked on in 1966 was coming to an end. Including this show, they would have 20 dates left until the end of Cream as a band but that didn’t mean the music would suffer. That didn’t mean they couldn’t continue to be a live force right up until the end. Far from it.
“Here they are! The Cream!”, says the announcer right before Cream launch into White Room. You don’t really get band announcers anymore, bands now tend to come out and start playing whenever they feel like it. But back then gigs were almost like an art form and Cream were one of the best around.
The best thing about White Room is the delicious playing by Clapton through a wah peddle. It’s infectious. In many cases during 1968 Cream opened their set with this song however you can’t help but notice the band sound a little too laid back or tired during this particular performance. Just this song though as they would pick up massively after this, starting with Sunshine Of Your Love. Sunshine Of Your Love is hands down the most well known Cream song, in fact you’d find it hard pressed to find any music fans that don’t know that gorgeous intro. It’s one of those songs that you know instantly when hearing it. The only fault here is how short this version is considering at some shows they played it for over 10 minutes, in some cases close to 20 minutes. I mean 6 minutes is probably considered long for most other bands but for Cream that’s barely any time at all! I’m So Glad comes next, a Skip James song that Cream first recorded on their debut album. It is the first song of the set where they really open up the taps and give it everything. The performance lasts just over 10 minutes and you’re reminded why Cream were considered one of the best live bands of the late 1960’s and why Clapton was nicknamed ‘God’.
Out of all the recordings that exist of Derek and the Dominos, this show is certainly the most unique. It featured a number of songs the band would only play once, or at least there is only one recording of these songs being played. It’s unsure as to whether certain songs were played at other shows but due to a lack of recordings for those other shows and without excessive research we will never know. But I sure am glad this one exists.
The band start with a great version of the Robert Johnson song Ramblin’ On My Mind, however they play it in more of an Elmore James style with the roaring slide guitar. A lot of people when hearing this may think that is Duane Allman on slide guitar but it is not, it is in fact Clapton as Duane wouldn’t join the band on stage for another month and a half. It’s interesting that the band would play this song so early in to their US tour (this was in fact their second US tour date after playing at Rider College in Trenton, New Jersey the night before) but this could have been for two reason. 1) The band only recently finished recording the Layla album a few weeks prior to this show where Clapton played a number of parts on slide with Duane and 2) the band were still no doubt putting together a setlist for their shows and altering the setlist from what they had been playing in the UK would have been natural due to the different audiences found in the US. But either way this is one hell of a song and I only wish they played it more during their tour dates.
In July of 1975, The Rolling Stones would embark upon a fantastic run of nights (five to be precise) at the legendary LA Forum in Los Angeles. This was actually the first tour with Ronnie Wood on board after Mick Taylor quit the band at the end of 1974. Although Ronnie Wood wouldn’t fully commit to the Rolling Stones until 1976, he agreed to join the band on this tour having been their number 1 pick to replace Mick Taylor.
Before the band kick off with a stunning rendition of Honky Tonk Women, Fanfare For The Common Man (a 20th century musical work by Aaron Copeland) rings out through the stadium to get everyone in the Forum up and ready for the Stones. And what a song to use, a beautiful piece of music. Then you’re immediately hit by those powerful opening riffs that could only be from Honky Tonk Women. What a way to open a show! Starting with a piece of classical style music before the Human Riff vibrates your soul with his guitar playing. I can feel it just by listening to this performance, I can’t imagine how great it would have been to be there to witness this opening in person. Beyond amazing! All Down The Line, from 1972’s Exile On Main Street comes next which is one of the more underrated songs the Rolling Stones recorded. At least that’s my opinion. It’s a fast rocker and a great song. Next up is a real treat. A medley of two songs from two era’s of the band, the first being If You Can’t Rock Me which is from their 1974 album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll which is one of my personal favourites from that period. The second song in the medley is the great Get Off Of My Cloud which was released as a single 9 years earlier. The two go great together and this is one of the many highlights of the show.