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.
When you think about some of the greatest drummers of all time, the name Jim Gordon should automatically be near the top of your list. In 1970 he would play on George Harrison’s debut studio album All Things Must Pass as part of the main backing band, Derek and the Dominos. There were a number of other guest musicians on the album (including Ringo and Ginger Baker) but the Dominos were the main musicians. This track, What Is Life, is the fifth track on All Things Must Pass and contains some gorgeous drumming from Jim Gordon. Take a listen:
After the end of Derek and the Dominos in 1971, Jim Gordon would go on to work with a long list of big name artists throughout the 1970’s including John Lennon, Traffic, Frank Zappa, Jack Bruce and Joan Baez to name just a few. There was no doubting his ability as a drummer and a musician. However there were a number of underlying issues, most notably undiagnosed schizophrenia, which in 1983 led him to murder his own mother due to the voices he had been hearing in his head for many years.
In the book I am writing on Derek and the Dominos, Jim Gordon will naturally be covered heavily, from the Blind Faith tour where he played with Delaney & Bonnie, the formation of Derek and the Dominos, the All Things Must Pass sessions, the Layla sessions, Dominos UK and US tours and the Dominos second album sessions. He is without a doubt one of the greatest drummers the world has ever known and hearing him play with all the other instruments stripped away is spectacular.
Recorded in May 1967 at Atlantic Studios in New York, the Disraeli Gears album sessions only took three and a half days. One of the tracks the band recorded was Sunshine Of Your Love which is now considered not only one of Cream’s finest songs, but one of the best songs of all time and Eric’s solo in the song is widely seen as the finest he ever put to vinyl. Exquisite would be a good would to describe it.
The solo features the famous “woman tone” which Eric made famous during this time and especially on Disraeli Gears, a thick and smooth tone we all know and love. It’s great to hear Eric’s guitar parts stripped away like this. When you listen to the track as a whole it seems very complex but in actual fact the guitar parts are quite simple, yet brilliantly executed.
Winterland was one of the most well known and legendary venues of the late 60’s and early 70’s. All of the major bands of the time played there, just like they did at the original Fillmore Auditorium, Fillmore West and Fillmore East. What did these venues have in common? The late great Bill Graham. From 1966 he rented Winterland as it could hold more people than the nearby Fillmore Auditorium, and he needed it for the larger concerts he was putting on. Originally the venue was called the New Dreamland Auditorium when it opened in 1928 and it was used for ice skating and concerts, as the venue could be easily changed between the two. However it wasn’t until 1971 that the venue was just a music venue, after Bill Graham had it fully converted to one. But in 1968 the venue certainly rivalled the nearby Fillmore Auditorium as one of the premier venues in the United States. Other acts that graced the stage included The Allman Brothers Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Doors to name just a few. Basically, rock royalty.
“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’.
Only one word can be used to describe this bootleg: awesome.
Cream were at their live peak in early 1968 and this show at Back Bay Theatre in Boston still blows you away 46 years later. The band open with a 17 minute version of Sunshine Of Your Love which sets the pace for the rest of the show. It’s without a doubt one of the most energy driven versions of this song ever played or recorded and the band are in their element. Even now you can hear how involved with the song they are and it’s just fantastic. When they finish the song (17 minutes and 12 seconds later) Bruce or Clapton tell the crowd that they enjoy getting warmed up. That’s one hell of a warm up! They didn’t finish there though as the second song, a great version of the Howlin’ Wolf song Spoonful, clocks in at 17 minutes and 32 seconds. That’s over half an hour for just two songs. Incredible!