"Cream were superb, Clapton doing things with his machinery that you simply cannot do with a guitar untouched by magic." John Peel, 1967 
Cream were formed in 1966 by guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker and split up after a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in late 1968. They were the first "supergroup", composed of former members of other well-known groups, the first major group to employ extended inprovisation at the heart of their live performances, and the first "progressive" or "heavy" rock group to attain major stardom (especially in the US). Their recordings featured a mixture of blues, pop and psychedelic styles, which made them a key group of the period and an influence on numerous bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Links to Peel
In late 1966 and early 1967, Peel was living in America and working as "John Ravencroft" on radio station KMEN in San Bernardino, yet he was aware of Cream from the very start of their career. Their first single "Wrapping Paper", only a minor hit in the UK, appeared in his "British Pop Top 10" chart for the station. He also obtained a copy of Cream's first LP, Fresh Cream and reviewed it enthusiastically in his "The British Scene" column in the station newspaper, the Kmentertainer, saying that "the album features guitar work by Eric Clapton that is certainly not the work of any mortal".
After Peel returned to Britain and joined Radio London, he played tracks from "Fresh Cream" and also featured their singles, "I Feel Free" and "Strange Brew", in his shows for the offshore pirate station. Later, "Tales of Brave Ulysses", with its psychedelic influence (the myth-based lyric and Clapton's wah-wah pedal work) became a Perfumed Garden favourite. Cream were also featured regularly on Top Gear during 1967-68, both on record and in session. On 16 August 1976 Peel devoted a retrospective show to Cream and Clapton, his comments then being in line with the critical reaction that had set in against them; but he retained enough enthusiasm for their music to choose "Crossroads" to lead off the Peelenium for 1968 and to play tracks from the CD collection of their BBC sessions in 2003.
Peel introduced Cream at a Saville Theatre concert in 1967 and later recounted how he had had an altercation with Ginger Baker - "a surprisingly violent man" - when the latter refused to end a long drum solo. He also introduced their final concert. The band also had connections with the underground scene which Peel then supported, through their lyricist Pete Brown, who did sessions for Night Ride (as a poet and with his band The Battered Ornaments) and Martin Sharp, the illustrator who designed the album sleeves for Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire and was best known for his psychedelic artwork for Oz magazine.
Festive Fifty Entries
- Two sessions. First three listed tracks on each session, plus Born Under A Bad Sign, included on BBC Sessions CD
- Take It Back / Outside Woman Blues / Sunshine Of Your Love / Tales Of Brave Ulysses / Born Under A Bad Sign
- Swlabr / The Politician / Steppin' Out / We're Going Wrong / Blue Condition
Other Shows Played
- 01 July 1967: Strange Brew
- 17 July 1967: Cat's Squirrel
- 22 July 1967: Tales of Brave Ulysses (single; B-side of Strange Brew) Reaction
- 14 August 1967: Tales Of Brave Ulysses (single) Reaction
- 11 August 1968: Born Under A Bad Sign (LP - Wheels Of Fire - In The Studio) Polydor
- 22 September 1968: Sunshine Of Your Love
- 09 March 1969: Doing That Scrapyard Thing (LP-Goodbye)' (Polydor)
- 02 May 1970: Lawdy Mama (LP – Live Cream) Polydor
- 19 May 1972: Deserted Cities Of The Heart (LP - Live Cream Volume II) Polydor
- 23 May 1972: Tales Of Brave Ulysses (LP - Live Cream Volume II) Polydor
- 28 July 1972: N.S.U (LP – Full Cream) Polydor
- 25 August 1972: I Feel Free (LP - Fresh Cream) Reaction (US Release)
- 24 April 1973: NSU (LP – Fresh Cream) Reaction
- 17 July 1973: Tales Of Brave Ulysses (LP: unknown source)
- 04 September 1973 (A Touch Of The Moon): Born Under a Bad Sign
- April 1975: Cat's Squirrel (LP - Fresh Cream) D023
- 16 August 1976: Cream retrospective (various tracks)
- 03 January 1978: Born Under A Bad Sign (LP - Wheels Of Fire - In The Studio) Polydor
- 29 March 1978: Deserted Cities Of The Heart (LP - Cream Vol 2) RSO
- 06 February 1979: Sunshine Of Your Love (Single) Polydor
- 29 October 1979: White Room (single) Polydor
- 05 June 1990: Cat's Squirrel
- 14 March 1992: Falstaff Beer Commercial
- 13 January 1995: Crossroads (2xCD-Wheels Of Fire) (Polydor)
- 04 November 1999: Crossroads (Peelenium 1968)
- 15 March 2001: Crossroads
- 18 September 2001: Tales Of Brave Ulysses (LP - Disraeli Gears) Reaction
- 21 May 2003: I'm So Glad (LP - Full Cream) (Polydor)
- 01 July 2003: Steppin' Out (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- 29 July 2003: Steppin' Out (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- 31 July 2003: Crossroads (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- 20 August 2003: Outside Woman Blues (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- 24 September 2003: Strange Brew (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- 25 June 2004 (BBC World Service): Outside Woman Blues (LP- BBC Sessions) (Polydor)
- ↑ John Peel, Perfumed Garden column, IT 18, 1967-08-31, p. 9. The performance he was writing about appears to have been at London's Speakeasy club on 1967-08-17 (Zappa Wiki Jawaka).
- ↑ Interview, DJ History. The most likely date for the Cream gig at the Saville appears to be 1967-10-29 (Slowhand Tourography). The programme for the concert confirms that Peel was the compare of this show. It may, however, be that the altercation with Baker happened later, when the drummer was playing with Airforce at the Blisworth Hotel in Northampton (date unknown, possibly 1969 or 1970), as recounted in Margrave Of The Marshes, pg. 199. On 02 May 2002, Peel mentions the Saville Theatre gig but does not describe an altercation with Baker, merely voicing his dislike of the lengthy drum solo.