Cream: 10 Throwback Riffs

via @peruven | YouTube

June 11, 1966, the British music magazine Melody Maker carried a surprising headline that ostensibly infuriated John Mayal, he had just learned that his much appreciated and famous solo guitarist Eric Clapton left the Bluesbreakers, without warning and was in the direction of a newly formed project, Cream.

It was a historical journey since one of the 10 most irrepressible and most original bands of the 60s had developed, that is, the one made up of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. In a way, this “power trio” established a virtuous and torrential fusion of lyrical pop, psychedelic rock, and white blues. Consequently, between 1966 and 1968, Cream showed their titanic ability to track innovative sensations in the music scene and to cause a high alteration of the auditory sense.

This British “super-group” (the first that existed with that definition), fed on the very animal competition between three prodigious musicians who, under no circumstances, wanted to be less than the other when they played together; although that soon exploded towards its rupture.

Sweet Wine

“Sweet Wine” already grabs you, immediately, with its infallible melodic beginning of “ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-baaaaa”. This was presented as the first song written for Cream by drummer Ginger Baker, although he needed the cooperation of Janet Godfrey, the wife of Jack Bruce himself: a total bassist par excellence. Janet herself had also collaborated with her husband to compose “Sleepy Time Time”, both from the 1966 opening album Fresh Cream. From this point on, the band began to challenge the standards of the time in favor of directions. unexplored, until then, of “psychedelic blues-rock.”

Those Were The Days

Although drummer Ginger Baker contributed the mythological lyrics to the precious “Those Were the Days” (1968), the music was conceived by the tormented jazz pianist Mike Taylor, although he does not play on that tune. . The heavenly bells are played by Baker himself (in addition to his radiant beat on drums and cymbals, of course) and also by producer Felix Pappalardi. It is worth reproducing a fraction of the poetic, sonorous and ethereal lyrics that, on many occasions, Cream distilled: “When the city of Atlantis was serene on the sea, long before our time, when the world was fiber. Those were The days. Golden saucers flying over ocarina sounds, before Medusa’s wild serpents gave birth to hell disguised as the Those were the days. ”

Strange Brew

It was at the Atlantic studios in New York in 1967 that Cream had spawned two versions of the blues song “Lawdy Mama.” The first performance was removed from the Disraeli Gears album (though it was later added on in the 2004 reissue) and the second take was transformed into another lysergic blues-rock song constructed by producer Felix Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins. They called that branch “Strange Brew” and Eric Clapton liked the work of Pappalardi and his wife because the guitarist considered that it contained a renewed pop rhythm but retaining the spirit of the original cone. Eric himself was the one who was in charge of singing the song in suggestive and syrupy falsetto.


Some other hypothesis relates that Jack Bruce himself, who sings this magnificent rock in a very operatic way, had sued the florist for a type of lilies that had the nickname “bearded rainbows” and wanted to give them to his girlfriend. We hope that after these explanations things will be somewhat clearer for the reader. For his part, Eric Clapton decided, once again, to mix blues with “fuzz” and “wah wah” effects on his virtuoso guitar, all to enhance the psychotropic feel of “Swlabr.”


Two good colleagues like Eric Clapton and George Harrison are the ones who made the extraordinary and juicy “Badge” in 1968, in a San Francisco studios. At first, the song did not have a title and then the following anecdote occurred. On the score, Harrison had handwritten the word “Bridge” (referring to the notation of a “bridge” in a song), however, Clapton read it wrong and asked what the word “Badge” was or “chapa”, in Castilian) and also the title remained.

Deserted Cities Of The Heart

Singer and bassist Jack Bruce and producer Felix Pappalardi are the two who add, for a few seconds, the distressed cello and viola, respectively, in this galloping rock-funk-jazz song; where Eric Clapton is imperial with both the acoustic guitar and the metal vibrating sitar. On the other hand, it is quite impenetrable and the lines drawn by the official poet of Cream, Pete Brown, are lent to the reader’s cabalas, although a certain curtain of romanticism is guessed in the lyrics of “Deserted cities of the heart from the heart”):

Tales Of Brave Ulysses

“Tales of Brave Ulysses”, from 1967, was inspired by a trip by Eric Clapton to Greece, in 1965, where he verified all the seductive mythology that you will keep that country. After several unsuccessful attempts to incorporate the “wah-wah” pedal and a box of “fuzz” into the song, Clapton finally managed to couple this effect, successfully, to his guitar and other guitars differently from other colleagues. However, it had been his friend, Jimi Hendrix, who had influenced him, with his song “Burning of the midnight lamp” (single from that same year 1967) and it is that the one from Seattle had used that pedal in a really avant-garde and pioneer. However, Eric did not resort to this device too many times either, since it was not his specialty to distort the sounds of his instrument, but he always tried various types of guitars to see what feeling he could get out of each one. The mysterious, suggestive and illuminated way of singing Jack Bruce and the muscular drums of Ginger Baker complete the grandeur of this fabulous cut.

I Feel Free

The way of singing of Jack Bruce in “I feel free” is overflowing with light and sensitivity, in addition to the fact that the clapping and catchy choruses at the beginning, “born-born-born-born”, remain to live in your eardrum forever. For his part, Eric Clapton had his usual Gibson Les Paul guitar stolen in rehearsals, so he had to get another one. For his instrument, Clapton himself, in addition to a distortion box, I used a technique called “feminine tonality” (a designation influenced by his soulmate Jimi Hendrix) as I turned up the high-pitched sounds, played with a sharp note and placed the Marshall amp at full volume. Eric applied a voiced variant of the one used by B.B. King.

White Room

Producer Felix Pappalardi added the distressing sound of violas and again, Eric Clapton, resorted, again though as an exception, to the distorting “wah-wah” pedal, achieving a “talking effect” with his instrument. The riffs from the ‘White Room’ became very popular (the song reached # 1 in Australia, for example) and Rolling Stone magazine placed the tune at # 367, among the top 500 songs of all. the times.

Sunshine Of Your Love

In addition to the arrangements of the respected engineer Tom Dowd, Eric Clapton also integrated his extensive guitar magic (specifically, the aforementioned “feminine tonality” with a Gibson SG-1964 ya & ayes from a Marshall amplifier), in addition to composing the suggestive riffs; all in style. For his part, Ginger Baker defended his own criteria, and based on African and American Indian harmonies, he also contributed an “arrhythmic” and martial drum to the “Sunshine of your love” itself. This summation of all the different forces of nature, which are Cream’s three musicians, gave rise to this historic psychedelic pop-rock-blues (No. 5 on the US charts).