One of my FB pals posted this trailer the other day. It’s for a documentary about Ginger Baker, the infamously crazy drummer for Cream. Very entertaining, it looks like, but language a little salty for most offices:
The New York Times review of “Beware of Mr. Baker” — hey, did I mention I was a Cream fan? — makes it sound right up my alley:
Right at the beginning of the new documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker,” the film’s director, Jay Bulger, is attacked by his subject, the rock drummer Ginger Baker. Not verbally attacked, mind you — though there will be plenty of that — but physically, with a metal cane that draws blood when applied to the bridge of the filmmaker’s nose. Mr. Baker, whom we will subsequently encounter in less agitated moods, is upset about the direction of Mr. Bulger’s project.
…Mr. Baker has never been, to understate the matter, an easy person to get along with, a point that “Beware of Mr. Baker” returns to as it follows him through four marriages, at least a half-dozen bands, roughly one million cigarettes and countless burned bridges. Animated sequences depict a ship, rowed by the drummer’s red-haired avatars, zigzagging the globe — from London to Nigeria to Los Angeles and other spots on the way to his current home in South Africa — leaving a trail of not entirely metaphorical smoldering wreckage.
People who are extremely gifted at something are often monsters, a theme that’s been explored about a million times but never seems to get old. But there’s something about drummers, too. Is it the constant banging that makes them nuts, or are nutty people drawn to bang on things? I have a good memory for odd fragments of this and that, and Roy Edroso once made a remark in passing about drummers, by way of noting the passing of James Brown:
All jokes aside, it has been my experience that the drummers who conform to stereotype are the ones who just can’t do anything else (just as it’s always the monomaniacal cooks who are the crazy ones) — but if they have anything besides paradiddles rattling around in their noggins, they are usually quite brilliant, and typically exacting when put in charge of group endeavors. The great drummers I’ve worked with — Andy Malm, Ray Sage, Sally Barry, Billy Ficca — all have wide-ranging interests and very short tempers. They love a groove, but they despise a mess.
I’m going to try to add more to this tomorrow, but for now, I’m a limp heap.
Dexter said on November 30, 2012 at 1:14 am
Jay Bulger was interviewed Thursday by Ron Bennington of Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. It was fascinating to hear how Baker acted , how Baker still smokes five packs a day at age 73, how even Prince Charles tried to talk a little sense into Baker after Baker bought thirty-eight polo ponies…polo is the most expensive sport in the world, and Baker simply found ways to spend fortune after fortune. But…genius drummer, yes…nobody but no one ever compared with him on many levels, but you folks know this.
One early morning Bulger was awakened by Baker in Bulger’s bedroom and Baker began berating baseball to Bulger…”it’s called “rounders” and it’s played by CUNTS!” I guess Ginger Baker was incensed by the coverage of the World Series.
It was a great interview and I’ll post it if it gets put up on the show’s web page.
Catherine said on November 30, 2012 at 1:15 am
I am so, so, so tired of the genius-and-crazy-go-hand-in-hand meme. I just read “The Center Cannot Hold” by Elyn Saks, about her journey with schizophrenia. In her case, yes. Van Gogh, yes. Most crazy people? No genius there, just sad wreckage. Sorry to rain on the crazy train.
Dexter said on November 30, 2012 at 1:35 am
nance mentioned she was a Cream fan…last night I watched “The Concert for George” as YouTube showed the entire film for free on the 11th anniversary of George Harrison’s death. Eric Clapton was the star of the show, and just another example was shown of Clapton’s greatness and stature in the rock and roll world and community. His tributes to George were outstanding.
Back in the 1960s a venue called Cold Springs was on the summer rock and roll list of places where big name bands played ; it is on Hamilton Lake, Indiana. I know The Yardbirds played there,and I think Cream played there in another year. These names, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker…how lucky most of the kids I knew were to have seen them. Me…I played on so many baseball teams I never got a night off. But I wish now I could have seen these guys play. Wasn’t that a helluva shot Jay Bulger took to the nose from Ginger Baker? Later, after that incident, the police were called and Bulger demanded an apology, and Baker finally did apologize.
Jolene said on November 30, 2012 at 3:22 am
Catherine, the story you linked to yesterday re the man who started a company helping autistic people find jobs is fascinating. A remarkable effort on his part and an extremely well told story with lots of detail re what worked and what didn’t. Also interesting is that the company started in the Neterlands, but is now opening in the U.S.
Am pasting the link here again to second Catherine’s recommendation.
basset said on November 30, 2012 at 6:10 am
One night awhile back we had some friends over and watched “Concert for Bangla Desh,” then “Concert for George”… picking out the musicians in the first show who’d died before the second got to be a running joke. George, Carl Radle, Jesse Ed Davis, the list goes on.
ROGirl said on November 30, 2012 at 6:18 am
“Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It’s just not widely reported.”
alex said on November 30, 2012 at 8:06 am
Dex, Cold Springs is still going strong, though the acts that come through aren’t exactly A-list anymore. And the dance hall is simply amazing because it’s up on concrete blocks and looks like a good gust of wind could knock it over. You’d think it would be declared too much of a safety hazard to have a rowdy crowd inside. This picture doesn’t do justice to its decrepitude.
J. Bruce Fields said on November 30, 2012 at 8:07 am
For those who would rather read about the “brilliant, and typically exacting” drummer stereotype, there was a profile of Questlove in a recent New Yorker. (Teaser only at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/11/12/121112fa_fact_bilger.)
I thought it was a good read.
Basset said on November 30, 2012 at 8:18 am
Whoever “Questlove” might be, never heard of him. Best drummer of the rock era… Bill Bruford.
And choking on vomit is probably more of an occupational hazard than spontaneous combustion, I would think.
coozledad said on November 30, 2012 at 9:07 am
Roy’s essay about Pete Townshend pretty much hit it on the head: pop rock is a dark place, and you’ve pretty much got to be fucked up to spend a whole lot of time in it.
I worked with a drummer who to this day will not stand for anyone badmouthing Zep. Not even the more egregious abdomen baring of Robert Plant a la Peter Allen.
We had a temp bassist who made the unfortunate mistake of disparaging the stickless portion of Bonham’s solo from Song Remains the Same and I thought there would be blood. This was a 35 year old man.
When I quit my last band, one of the guys had his wife call to see what was up.
she asked me “What’s a matter you don’t wan’t to be with the boys in the beer room?”
That about sums it up, give or take a little psychosis.
LAMary said on November 30, 2012 at 9:24 am
Questlove is with the Roots and they are worth a listen, even for us geezers.
Judybusy said on November 30, 2012 at 10:29 am
Baker’s “Horses and Trees” album remains one of my all-time favorites. I haven’t heard it in a long time–the ex got the music collection in 1999, and I think it’s no longer in print. I did get an iPod a couple years ago, but didn’t use it and gave it to my partner.
Dorothy said on November 30, 2012 at 10:39 am
Quick topic change – re what we were discussing yesterday: I am not acquainted with a lot of apps and don’t have a huge number on my Android. However I do have Google Sky Map and it’s a very cool tool for informing you what constellations you’re seeing. I especially love to point it towards my feet so it can show me what’s on the other side of the Earth! Anyone else use it or a similar app?
Jolene said on November 30, 2012 at 10:53 am
Sounds very cool, Dorothy. I haven’t tried that, but will give it a shot.
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 11:00 am
I saw Cream at the Tea Party in Boston (right next to the Mass Pike) in 1968, on a show that also included Johnny Winter and Led Zeppelin. Ginger Baker was one of the two best drummers on the bill, and Clapton either the second or third best guitarists, after the maniacal albino scarecrow and, maybe, Page. First time I ever heard J. Winter play Highway 61. A fracking revelation. And Ginger Baker did have his sticks affixed to his hands McGyver style (notorious heroin addict). In my mind, there is Clapton in Cream, then Clapton in Blind Faith, then everything else he did, descending into the lachrymose pit below Dante’s Ninth Circle with utter drivel like Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight and Tears in Heaven. I do love Cream, and find it odd and irritating Jack Bruce doesn’t get more of the credit he deserves for the brilliance of Cream’s songs, his vocals, the mercurial occarina solos, and his insanely virtuoso lead bass playing.
A Ginger Baker interview:
Ginger playing the Nines on drums with Art Blakey:
My best rock drummer? Barrie “B.J.” Wilson of Procul. Like an octopus, as the great John Cale song says.
Judybusy: Horses and Trees is available in a variety of formats on Amazon. There’s a pricey, 40buck reissue, an $18 CD and a <$6 digital download (probably not so hot for drumming).
I'm sure nobody agrees, but I think the greatest song written by anybody in Cream is "Theme from an Imaginary Western". So gorgeous it could have been in Once Upon a Time in the West.
Basset said on November 30, 2012 at 11:00 am
Who are “the Roots”?
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 11:10 am
An example of what I mean about BJ Wilson (and astounding Trower guitar):
and on a favorite Christmas song at our house:
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 11:12 am
Basset: The Roots are the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk and lame-o sketch show. They famously introduced Michele Bachman by playing a song called Lying Ass Bitch back during the Klown Kar Kampaign for the GOPer presidential nomination:
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 11:17 am
Lyin’ Ass Bitch, by Fishbone:
Kirk said on November 30, 2012 at 11:27 am
“Theme For An Imaginary Western” indeed is a great song, on a great Jack Bruce album, “Songs For A Tailor.”
Jolene said on November 30, 2012 at 11:40 am
From Ron Fournier, a political journalist who worked at Associated Press for years and is now at National Journal‘ a story about his son, who has Asperger’s syndrome, with cameos by GWB and WJC.
Very touching. A great follow-up to the NYT piece that Catherine posted yesterday and the Nehring essay re her daughter. http://mobile.nationaljournal.com/magazine/how-two-presidents-helped-me-deal-with-love-guilt-and-fatherhood-20121129
MarkH said on November 30, 2012 at 11:42 am
Don’t know if this little known fact is in the Ginger Baker documentary, but for a time in the mid-’90s he made the USA his home and lived in Denver. Now and then he would hold a drumming instruction symposium at a music store on the west side. My nephews there, taking after their uncle, took up drumming in high school and attended two of them. Zach even had a little one-on-one with him. Neither of the boys stuck with it, but they remembered Baker’s cigarettes very well. Eventually, he got very publicly pissed off at the USA and went back South Africa.
I was a big Cream fan as well back in the day, and this may be blasphemy, but as a drummer, remember being not that bowled over by Baker. Excellent, no doubt, and we all wore out the grooves on “Toad” trying to get it down, but…
The guy that got me into drumming in high school was one of those brilliant but temperamental sorts. He and his guitarist brother had a fairly good band playing around eastern Cincinnati on the ’60s. Dave still works as a musician in the Seattle area, hopefully no longer blowing up on stage when things didn’t go right.
MarkH said on November 30, 2012 at 11:47 am
Prospero, I’ve always felt the same was as you about Jack Bruce.
MarkH said on November 30, 2012 at 11:47 am
…the same WAY as you. Sheesh.
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 11:51 am
Probably won’t see this guy suiting up for the Redwings anytime soon:
MarkH: You know how uneasy it makes me when we agree about anything?
John (not McCain) said on November 30, 2012 at 11:52 am
“Best drummer of the rock era… Bill Bruford.”
Absolutely. For years I had assumed he must have been an older guy who’d been playing for years to play so well. A few months ago I got the recent DVD reissue* of King Crimson’s Red album, which has a video of them playing on some French tv show slightly before that album came out, and he looked like a teenager.
*Highly recommended, but you need to have DTS for best results. No Dolby option.
Dave said on November 30, 2012 at 11:53 am
Pros, complete agreement about Jack Bruce, I remember a solo album after Cream melted down but nothing after that, he disappeared into rock anonymity, AFAIK. Always suspected drugs did him in.
Clapton, in his autobiography, confesses to getting bored easily, losing focus, he didn’t do well staying with one group. Cream had a whole lot of infighting, as has been said, Blind Faith was a one-shot deal and one of the things that Clapton was unhappy about is how Ginger Baker inserted himself into the band.
So many rock n’ roll heroes ended so badly.
Dave said on November 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Oh, just remembered and can’t add it above, Jimi Hendrix would have turned 70 on November 27 of this year.
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm
Thinking about rock ‘n’ roll drummers, I came across this electric concert tape by Los Lobos on YouTube:
Louie Perez is a great drummer, and Los Lobos may be the best American band of the last 20 years.
brian stouder said on November 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Well, speaking of commercial music, and keeping in mind that some of us never even took note of which way the moon traverses the sky, let me just say that I think Amanda is going to win The Voice…although I’d be almost as happy if the girl with the two-toned hair won. And – Pam pointed out that the host of the show quit seeking comment from Christina after about the 3rd or 4th left-handed compliment she handed out, as the last of her picks got eliminated from the show.
That is all.
LAMary said on November 30, 2012 at 12:26 pm
The Roots existed before Jimmy Fallon and I’m sticking with my opinion of them. They are worth a listen.
Lex said on November 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm
Charlie Watts of the Stones is, from all available accounts, a perfect gentleman, about as far from crazy as you can get. But he is metrically exacting. If you go on YouTube and listen to his work on some of the deconstructions of Stones songs (“deconstructions” = separate video/audio of the different instruments and other tracks for the same song), he just sounds perfect, particularly on songs like “Gimme Shelter” — as precise as a machine, but with soul to burn.
Danny said on November 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Bill Bruford is a definite, but Neil Peart gets a very, very honorable mention. And Bonham, Moon and White (Alan) round out my top five.
Dorothy said on November 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm
My daughter shared this link with me. She knows me so well! Apologies if most of you have seen this already (it’s Bo at the White House). https://www.youtube.com/embed/lce5gWKgMXI
nancy said on November 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm
I kept expecting him to stop for a pee on one of the trees.
Jolene said on November 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm
I liked that video too, Dorothy. I posted it on my FB wall earlier today. A surfeit of cuteness, to be sure.
For more on aging rockers, check out David Letterman next Monday, when he’ll be interviewing John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
Dexter said on November 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm
prospero…thanks for the ginger baker-art blakey battle…amazing stuff.
Deborah said on November 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm
My only Ginger Baker story is very far removed: a few years back my husband and in were in Verona in Italy (fair Verona) a lovely little city. We noticed a poster that was advertising an upcoming Ginger Baker concert in their ancient colosseum in the middle of town. We weren’t staying long enough to attend, but oh how we wished we were. For some reason I have remembered my disappointment of having to miss that concert for lo these many years.
Deborah said on November 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm
My husband and I…
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Dex, I put that link up for you. I knew you’d get it. Kinda like MC-5 getting Sun-Ra. Jazz and great rock are not far apart. I have to say, my straight jazz drummer is Alan Dawson. How does anybody keep three time signatures in mind at one time? I went into the basement lounge at the Copley one night with my then wife and a couple of friends. I saw the polyrhythm at once and said, “That’s Alan Dawson.” I was right.
I know Basset thinks any fool whacking a tambourine on a TK (FYTK) track is a better musician than anybody connected with MC-5, but I don’t agree by any consideration. The two guitar players in MC-5 are stunning in their technique and encyclopedic knowledge.
Here’s an interesting piece about Detroit music in those days, but as per, it misses the astounding sustain rock guitar of Quackenbush and his little brother blowing out a B3.
Deborah, wish y’all had split some ripe acid and great local wine with the music.
Dorothy said on November 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Maybe he did, Nance – the video is edited pretty tightly!
nancy said on November 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm
That dog is so cute I can’t stand it. He really is a stuffed animal.
Prospero said on November 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm
Deborah, are you OK?
LAMary said on November 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm
I was thinking he was impossibly cute as well. I want to smooch him.
Charlotte said on November 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm
Bo is adorable, but the way they have him groomed makes him look like he doesn’t have feet! It kept freaking me out — it’s like his legs go straight to the ground like a stuffed animal.
I did like how wigged out he looked by the fake-Bo though …
Catherine said on November 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm
Jolene, thank you for sharing the Aspergers article. I totally teared up. And, thanks for reposting the link from yesterday. Such an object lesson in taking a strengths-based POV… which I obviously didn’t do re Ginger Baker… Sorry!
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm
Jack Carter seems to have much the same opinions of “club era” drummers; the drummer comment is a bit over halfway in this long final section of an eight part interview that stretches over the last two years, but if you’re at all curious about the whole Berle-Jolson-Lindy’s-21-Copa world of New York, Miami, and LA/Vegas, you’ll find yourself stuck reading the whole thing. He repeats a few stories, but Carter’s old enough to have earned the right.
Julie Robinson said on November 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Thanks, Dorothy, I’m posting the Bo video for some non-partisan joy.
Mouse said on November 30, 2012 at 4:07 pm
Dexter,the Yardbirds appeared at Bledsoe’s Beach in the summer of ’65.Probably the same year at Cold Springs.I don’t remember anything about Cream being at either place.I was a big fan and pretty sure I wouldn’t have missed it.
Basset said on November 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm
I knew Prospero would bring up the MC5 sooner or later. We’ll be hearing about Catholic school in Detroit any minute now, and swimming, and his brothers, and how smart an athletic they all were.
Danny said on November 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm
I knew Prospero would bring up the MC5 sooner or later.
You can say that twice and mean it.
Deborah said on November 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Prospero, my comment at #38 was a correction to my comment at #37. At #37 I had tried to say “my husband and I” but my computer inaccurately auto-corrected it to be “my husband and in”. Everything is fine.
brian stouder said on November 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm
I think I like the second phrase best!
Dexter said on November 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm
I have all my chores done, dinner is done early and the dishes washed, the dogs are walked and fed, no laundry to fold … I want to take a little bike ride but it’s dark as midnight. Never before this year has this S.A.D. thing kicked in at me like this. I want DAYLIGHT!
coozledad said on November 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm
Here’s the drummer from my old band Laughing Matter. He’s done some work with Eric Idle, among others. Note how he he works with the singer.
He was so good I used to forget what I was doing and stand there agog. It’s cool to hear him correctly miked for once:
LAMary said on November 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm
“My husband and I…”
Makes me think of a friend’s imitation of Queen Elizabeth using the royal we.
“Our husband and we..”
Connie said on November 30, 2012 at 7:33 pm
Dexter, only 3 weeks until the days start getting longer.
Deborah said on November 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm
“Our husband and we”, my new favorite phrase.
MichaelG said on November 30, 2012 at 11:20 pm
I think I’ll sit this one out.
alex said on December 1, 2012 at 8:31 am
Managed to find my old flickr photo stream, the one for which I no longer remember the login and password. Anyhoo, came across a scene from Butler Center that Pilot Joe might recognize. This was from seven or eight years ago. Do you know the car in question, Joe?
Prospero said on December 1, 2012 at 8:46 am
Basset, my Catholic School experience was in Williamson WV, Memphis TN, and Bloomfield Hills. In Detroit, I went to Jesuit School. And you may prefer the Eagles sans balls, i.e. sans Joe Walsh, MC-5 was a spectacular rock band, and Danny is still a clueless ahole.
basset said on December 1, 2012 at 8:56 am
Well, appears to be a ’66 Fairlane, I had a white one… exactly what IS going on there?
Meanwhile… been cleaning out the freezer. anyone have a suggestion on how to prepare beef heart? Based on prior experience, “grind it up and give it to the dog” is looking like the best option right now.
basset said on December 1, 2012 at 9:02 am
Pros, in my opinion the Eagles went downhill after “Desperado” and the MC5 were just loud. I ignore Danny, and I ignore you when you’re repeating yourself, which is most of the time. Or at least that’s how it looks when I can make out what you’re typing.
Enough of this, time to go out in the back yard and cut up a deer… then make sausage.
Kaye said on December 1, 2012 at 9:48 am
Basset – I recall beef heart as a tasty, tender dish. Can’t tell you how to cook it though, sorry.
Prospero said on December 1, 2012 at 9:54 am
Basset, that internet conundrum: Not worth reading, but worth mocking with a comment.
Julie Robinson said on December 1, 2012 at 10:04 am
Dexter, I’ve been using a therapy light for the last several SAD seasons and it’s been nothing short of miraculous. I had a really, really, really hard time every winter and even went on antidepressants one year, which didn’t help at all. Sunny days still perk me up, but gray days no longer make me want to stay in bed all day eating cookies. I just set it on the table while I’m having breakfast and reading the paper; you’re not supposed to look directly at the light but have it at an angle. There’s no reason to let the dark win.
brian stouder said on December 1, 2012 at 10:44 am
This link, which was on a local tv news website, is worth a chuckle.
A Univision weathercaster never misses a beat during his live broadcast, as a kitty-cat (who somehow wandered in from the parking lot) saunters past his feet.
beb said on December 1, 2012 at 10:59 am
When we were kids Mom cooked up a lot of things I’d now consider offal. Pigs brains and beef hearts come to mind. On the beef heart I think it was slow roasted, probably with some onions. Then just sliced into sections.
Thinks I don’t understand include “classic rock” stations that never play Neil Young. God, is there a more rocking person than Neil? Also the band Frost. They did a kickin’ version of “Rock and Roll Music” that never gets played. Anf speaking of great guitarists, for years I thought Santana was founded by the drummer.
Jakash said on December 1, 2012 at 11:14 am
Right, beb. And I don’t understand why the rotation on those stations has to be SO repetetive. (Well, part of the reason would be that they don’t play enough Neil Young.) If you had a decent radio station “record” collection, how long do you think you’d be able to go playing classic rock songs before you’d have to play one over? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Yet, every time I listen to a station like that for 20 minutes, it seems that I’ve got about a 1 in 3 chance of hearing “Free Falling”.
brian stouder said on December 1, 2012 at 11:19 am
My mom used to make “heart and noodles” – which might possibly have been beef heart (although I don’t know that it was) and flat noodles (maybe 3 or 4″ long?) all cooked up in a pot.
A plate of that, and maybe a piece of bread to sop up the juice, was good stuff. (We didn’t do the Indiana thing of putting a glop of mashed potatoes on the plate, and then splooshing the heart and noodles over that….but it woulda’ been good if we had!)
As a kiddo, I thought that that was marvelous stuff
Prospero said on December 1, 2012 at 11:35 am
Jakash. Better Tom Petty than fake Fleetwood or some atrocious faux cunt-ery like Desperado. The Eagles made two good albums, Hotel California and The Long Run. Everything else was horseshit, like Witchy Woman.
Prospero said on December 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm
beb: the guitar player in Frost was Dick Wagner, who plaid part of the immortal Rock ‘n’ roll Animal version of Sweet Jand. But that’s just loud:
Danny said on December 1, 2012 at 12:22 pm
I was under the impression that a lot of drummers who make their journeys into jazz and more subtle beats, eventually explore and sometimes adopt traditional grip versus matched. Then I saw this:
In the mid-90’s, Neil Peart took lessons with Freddie Gruber. He switched for a while to traditional grip, but I think he is mainly back to matched.