Cream was a band in the late 1960s (1966 - 1969) that broke new musical ground and set new records for record sales. Its members were Eric Clapton on electric guitar and vocals, Jack Bruce on bass, harmonica, piano and lead vocals and Ginger Baker, who was the drummer. All the band's members came from the same general sort of musical background; Clapton was a blues man, while Baker and Bruce were regulars on the jazz circuit.
It all started when Ginger Baker got fed up with Graeme Bond and quit his band, The Graeme Bond Organisation, and decided it was time to start his own band. The first person that came to his mind was Clapton. At the time Clapton was playing with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, so Baker travelled up to Oxford where they were playing. They found each other in the changing room, and Clapton asked Baker to sit in. He did, and turned the gig around.
There was also the matter of a bass player. Clapton said, 'What about Jack?', meaning Jack Bruce. Baker wasn't too sure as he and Jack had fallen out when they were both involved in The Graeme Bond Organisation. In the end it was decided in Jack Bruce's favour. They had a band.
They did not, however, have a name for the band. After Clapton's suggestion of 'Sweet'n'Sour Rock'n'Roll' was rejected, they chose the name 'Cream' after Clapton said 'we're the cream', referring to the fact that they were all the most proficient players of their respective instruments at the time.
A record deal was stitched up with Robert Stigwood on his Reaction1 label. Stigwood, their manager, was not confident of their success, so he tried to milk the band by putting them on a relentless touring schedule that would eventually contribute to their downfall.
That was in 1966. Their first 'gig' was at Baker's house at the Welsh Hart, outside an artificial lake where kids used to play. The band were playing, and as they did they looked up and saw numerous small children dancing. This was a good boost for their confidence - a sort of good omen.
In the early days, the band had hoped for an element of humour in their style and music. They gave up on the idea quickly, having tired of it, and now only early promotional photos show what they'd hoped to be.
In early 1967, a man at Atlantic Records named Felix Papparlardi heard a song that Cream were working on. He liked it, and offered to take it home and do some work to it. That song was 'Strange Brew', which would go onto the Disreali Gears album, by which time Cream had taken on Papparlardi as their producer.
Cream ultimately released eight albums, four during and four after their time together:
- Fresh Cream (December 1966)
- Disraeli Gears (November 1967)
- Wheels Of Fire (August 1968)
- Goodbye (March 1969)
- Live Cream (June 1970)
- Live Cream Vol.2 (June 1972)
- The Very Best Of Cream (1995)
- Those Where The Days (1997)
Disraeli Gears got its name from a word game with anagrams. Their roadie, who was into motorcycles, rearranged the letters of a comment Clapton had made about the gears on Ginger Baker's new motorbike and ended up with 'Disraeli Gears'.
The biggest album for the band was Wheels Of Fire, the world's first ever platinum-selling album. Cream's record sold more copies in 24 months than all the vinyl sold in 24 years up to that time: 35 million copies. Some people say Cream was the world's first supergroup.
The members of the band became very rich and very famous. In 1969, while on tour, Clapton said, 'I'm just fed up with this', and Bruce agreed. They decided to split. They released the Goodbye album, did a farewell concert at the Albert Hall in London, and that was that. Clapton had evidently concluded that the band was becoming too restrictive.