By Jim Hofman
Cream, the legendary musical power trio that first came into prominence in the late 1960's, finally reunited for a series of shows in 2005. Known as much for their tenuous relationships with each other as their intense musical chemistry, they haven't reunited since. What happened?
Cream: The Road To A Reunion
Cream, consisting of drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce, and guitarist Eric Clapton, broke up in late 1968 after a whirlwind 29 month existence. Over the next 24 years, the three men rarely worked together. Then in 1993, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At the induction ceremony, Cream played three songs after a brief rehearsal the day before. Clapton, in his emotional acceptance speech, noted it was the first time the three had played together in almost 25 years. The performance, although brief, was highly praised and it was clear the musical chemistry of the three virtuoso players was still intact.
Although further Cream projects were apparently discussed, nothing more came from the brief reunion. Clapton, in the midst of a soaring solo career, continued down that path. Baker and Bruce went on to form two thirds of another power trio with guitarist Gary Moore that disintegrated a year after it began.
In 2003, Jack Bruce was diagnosed with liver cancer which nearly cost him his life. During his recovery period from a liver transplant, Clapton finally proposed a Cream reunion. All three members agreed to meet for six weeks of rehearsals in early 2005, with four shows scheduled for London in May.
By all accounts, rehearsals went well. The three members, all with strong personalities and musical directions, meshed well. Cream finally reunited on May 2, 2005, at the Royal Albert Hall, the first of four shows that week.
Playing a varied set list covering hits and blues standards, Cream generated world wide praise for the reunion. The concerts were filmed and recorded, and the subsequent CD and DVD set were best sellers.
New York Reunion
Clapton admitted he was elated with the shows. Baker and Bruce expressed similar sentiments, so it was no surprise Cream announced they would play three shows in New York in October.
Each of the three concedes something went wrong during the first show. Old animosities between Bruce and Baker were at the root of the problem. Baker, complaining that Bruce was playing too loudly, threatened to not play the next two shows until cooler heads prevailed.
Bruce, meanwhile, stated he was suffering severe cramping and swelling in his hands, an after effect of his surgery and medication. This, he said, caused him to not be at his best. Clapton, ever the diplomat, stated Cream's sound was too small for the large venue in New York. The three went their separate ways after the shows.
Future Cream Reunions?
Clapton, in recent interviews, stated that reuniting Cream was much like putting a ghost to bed, but adds he would "never say never" to another go around. Jack Bruce, now fully recovered, states he'd like to reunite with Cream for one more time, if only to leave everything on a positive note. Ginger Baker, living in an almost exile state in South Africa, has refused to reunite, citing old animosities with Bruce.
And yet, reunion rumors persist. Bruce and Baker, the old antagonists, played at a 2008 tribute concert for Baker in London. Clapton speaks glowingly of both men and wrote the forward for Jack Bruce's recent autobiography. There are rumors of a one shot Cream reunion during the 2010 guitar festival, Crossroads, hosted by Clapton.
Whether a reunion happens or not, Cream's music continues to stand the test of time. This grouping of three brilliant musicians produced a totally unique body of work that still influences musicians to this day.
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