Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Beware of Mr Baker.

Jay Bulger with Ginger Baker.

For me personally Jay Bulger’s film is a hugely entertaining 92 minute documentary mainly because its subject matter was the drummer of THE best rock band to ever to commit to vinyl and perform on a concert stage. No band has ever emulated Cream or its line up which included lead guitarist Eric Clapton, vocalist and bass guitarist Jack Bruce, the man my son was named after, and its powerhouse drummer Ginger Baker who’s 20 minute drum solo’s were feats of colossal energy and aggression. The band burst on to the rock scene 47 years ago on the 29th July 1966 at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel and the final time they appeared live was at the Royal Albert Hall on the 26th November 1968 in the company of this blogger who along with his bride of nearly four months managed to get tickets on the side of the stage. Beware of Mr Baker (2012) is not just about Lewisham born Peter ‘Ginger’ Bakers most prestigious working period when playing with Cream but demonstrates his complete working career, starting from his days as a jazz drummer.
Cream 1966 - 1968.

Blind Faith 1969.

Although Bakers first instrument was a trumpet he soon realised that his temperament was better suited to playing the drums. At the age of 16 he joined Bob Willis and His Storyville Jazz Men, quit his day job and spent the next year touring. During this period he played trad-jazz with Acker Bilk and Terry Lightfoot but really wanted to play modern jazz. Encouraged to play with various modern jazz outfits by his mentor Phil Seamen who heard him play at the All-Nighter club at the Flamingo in London’s Soho, a brilliant but troubled drummer I was fortunate to meet at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London when he played with the blind multi instrumentalist Roland Kirk. Bakers career really started to took off when he replaced Charlie Watts in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in August 1962. In February 1963 Baker along with a young Jack Bruce on double bass and Hammond organist Graham Bond left Korner to form The Graham Bond Organisation Along with Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor sax this significant band when on to record The Sound of 65 which ‘may have been the greatest album of the sixties and one of the most exciting and influential of its time[1] which along with their second and last album There’s a Bond Between Us are now considered ‘essential listening for anyone who is seriously interested in British blues of the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.[2] Again I was able to witness this line up on stage at the Gaumont Edmonton in 1965.  Baker stayed with Graham Bond for three and a half years until the formation of Cream in 1966.
Ginger performing with Hawkwind.
After Cream, Bakers career moved around from one band to another starting with the Steve Winwood’s Blind Faith who released their only album Blind Faith in August 1969.  In 1970 he formed Ginger Bakers Airforce releasing two albums before moving to Nigeria where he lived from 1970 to 1976 setting up a recording studio, studying African drumming and playing with the African musician and singer Fela Kuti.  During this period he recorded 3 albums with Baker Gurvitz Army, which broke up in 1976. During the 1980’s and 90’s he embarked on various solo projects as well as playing with such diverse bands as PIL and Hawkwind also joining Jack Bruce and Gary Moore in BBM who released just one album entitled Around The Next Dream with Ginger on the front cover resplendent in angel wings!
Ginger sprouted wings with BBM.
This fabulous documentary really gets behind the man as well as his music. Filmed in South Africa at Bakers gated estate where we see the reason for the title of the film, its here that Baker breed polo ponies before he had to sell up and move back to Britain. The documentary starts with the former heroin addict whacking the director on the nose with his walking stick because Bulger suggested that he would go and interview the 73-year-old drummer’s former associates! Not the easiest person to get on with then? I can remember when Ginger knocked Jack Bruce out on stage because he played across his drum solo! I lost count of the ex-wives, and his relationship with his kids leaves something to be desired. The man has spent fortune after fortune, lived all over the world, has more enemy’s than friends, uses bad language like its going out of fashion, but that not the point. He is and will remain the best rock/jazz drummer of them all, and that’s what counts and that’s what this mesmerising documentary succeeds in demonstrating.  Long may he remain attached to those sticks?

[1] Chris Welsh - The Melody Maker
[2] Allmusic review. 

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