Cream- Disraeli Gears @55- Eric Clapton, the late Jack Bruce

Though Rolling Stone magazine ranked Cream’s Disraeli Gears  most recently at #170 album of all time, and the late Ginger Baker as one of rock’s three greatest drummers (along with The Who’s Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham), the other key numbers for Cream’s quicksilver career are startlingly single digits: years together- 3 ; albums released- 4; number of reunion albums/tours in the fifty years since – 1. 

In this  classic rock interview marking Cream’s Disraeli Gears  55th anniversary, Cream singer/songwriter/bassist the late Jack Bruce  reminded us of the competitive cycling world’s long, dangerous history of doping decades before deposed American cycling champ Lance Armstrong appeared in the Oprah Winfrey tv confessional. In 1967 Bruce was discussing with  guitar legend Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker the tragic sudden death of Tour de France cycling champion Tommy Simpson as he attempted to defend his title ( a first for Scotland) in the following  year’s race. The cause of death would later be determined to be amphetamine overdose, but a Cream roadie’s malapropism after overhearing the bandmember’s cycling conversation ended up becoming Cream’s title for their breakthrough second album in November 1967.

At the time, nothing sounded quite like the songs on Disraeli Gears: “Strange Brew”,”Sunshine of Your Love” (rivaled only by “Purple Haze” that same year as the most subversive single to ever penetrate Top 40 radio ), the elegant romantic falsetto of “Dance the Night Away”, and the psychedelic lyrics of “Tales of Brave Ulysses” absolutely mesmerized me with each repeated playing.

When I talked to Eddie Van Halen, Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush,  Sammy Hagar and Joe Satriani, or guitar phenom Eric Johnson, they and countless other musicians easily cite Cream as the gold standard which inspired them all to make the transition from rock music fan to rock musician. The degree to which my guests Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (who passed 2014), along with the late Ginger Baker as Cream, influenced multiple generations of bands  is incalculable. – Redbeard