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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Wrinkled Rockers

This week, the mega super group, Cream reunited for reunion concerts at Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, from all newspaper accounts that I read wowed the audience and as a result the evening was a great success. How does a group that last performed together over 36 years ago elicit such love and support? After all, the only released 7 albums and 10 singles from 1966- 1969 that resulted in over 35 million units sold. Their time together as a group lasted less than a 1-term American Presidency. Their 3 brief years as Cream was fraught with great tension that hastened their premature breakup.
As I sat in the audience at the Jammy’s last week, I wondered how many of the performers that were featured that night would stand the "test of time" like the boys from Cream. In 36 years from today, will the members of Umphrey’s McGee reunite for a charity concert at the open air, newly remodeled Jets Westside stadium in New York City? In 36 years, will Trey reunite with his Phish band mates and have a sold-out concert at the last remaining farm in Vermont in an attempt to save that last green spot of land while at the same time holding the builders of a proposed condominium at bay? In 36 years, will Bruce Hornsby still be around to draw a crowd? The answer my friend, as Bob Dylan eloquently stated is "blowing in the wind."
Seriously, though what causes us to spend large sums of money to see aging rockers? Clearly, many of our wrinkled rockers have suffered the same illnesses as us mortals. Jack Bruce of Cream for example, has had a liver transplant. One needs only to look at the face of Keith Richards to know that his health may not be the best. Gray hair and less than svelte waistlines (except for Sir Mick) are more the rule than the exception. Yet, these guys continue to perform. The answer is not so much blowing the wind, but more appropriately the ability of the music to endure through time and our personal desire to hold on to our youth. If we’re willing to pay, they’re willing to perform.

Recently, I received e-mail notification that Paul McCartney will be touring again later this year. If I hurried, the ad said, I would be able to secure my tickets now through their website or at the very least be queued up when the ticket become available. Fortunately, I was sitting down when they announced the price for tickets. You want me to pay HOW MUCH for the privilege to see Paul yet again? I saw Paul and Linda and the band approximately 10 years during their "Flowers In The Dirt" tour. The concert was great, the seats by virtue of their cost were great and all in all, I had a great time. I felt that although Paul’s energy level was phenomenal and the band was extraordinary, that this could be his last foray onto the concert stage. After all, he wasn’t getting any younger. And that was ten years ago! Much to my surprise, the following ten years have seen him and a variety of musicians crisscross the world stage to the delight of his fans and his bank accounts. Now I don’t begrudge any performer, be it on stage, screen or playing field, to earn as much money as they possibly can. But there comes a time when that performer after many years of professional and monetary success should give a little something back to the fans or to charity. Run a free concert in Central Park like Paul Simon did. Perform for no cost as a thank you to your fans like U2 did this year under the Brooklyn Bridge. Or at the very least, lower your ticket prices.
I think one of the reasons Cream did so well this week was that they haven’t been together for so long which made this concert such a unique event. We have also not been spoiled by repeated Cream reunion get togethers. Nor have we been deluged by a myriad amount of Cream reissue CD’s. And finally we have not been tricked into believing that this is the year of their last concert together so we better buy those tickets now. Certainly, Clapton has performed extensively since the groups’ breakup and so has Jack Bruce. Ginger Baker to a lesser degree has been out of the public spotlight, so it truly was a treat to see them once again play on stage. I’m sure there will be a DVD of this concert, but I would recommend that you look for their 1968 filmed farewell concert called "Goodbye Cream" which was filmed on November 26, 1968 also at Royal Albert Hall. It is definitely one of the best rock concerts ever filmed. The beauty of the music and the tense interaction between Clapton, Bruce and Baker is extraordinary. I know that if Cream decides to reprise their Royal Albert Hall 2005 concert and come to the U.S., this wrinkled fan of wrinkled rockers will buy the best ticket I can possibly afford.
Cream Discography
Wrapping Paper / Cat’s Squirrel (released October 1966)
I Feel Free / N.S.U. (released December 1966)
Strange Brew / Tales of Brave Ulysses (released June 1967)
Anyone For Tennis / Pressed Rat and Warthog (released May 1968)
Sunshine of Your Love / Swlabr (released September 1968)
Spoonful part 1 / Spoonful part 2 (released September 1968, on Atco label only)
White Room / Those Were The Days (released January 1969)
Crossroads / Passing the Time (released January 1969, on Atco label only)
Badge / What a Bringdown (released April 1969)
Sweet Wine / Lawdy Mama (released June 1970, on Atco label only)
Recorded: July, August, and September 1966
Recorded: May 1967
Recorded: July- August 1967
September-October 1967
January- February 1968
June 1968
Live Tracks Recorded: October 19, 1968 at the Forum, Los Angeles
Released November, 1969 (CD available only as Japanese import)

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