Post by Gerrald Bostock on Oct 30, 2014 13:26:49 GMT
Case for a Scots rock and roll hall of fame
by Alan Taylor
Wednesday 29 October 2014
UNLIKE the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, I do remember the sixties, not least because for most them I was too young to take anything more detrimental to my hard drive than aspirin.
Potentially lethal drugs excepted, I was a fully committed convert to Flower Power, wearing my hair almost as long as Janis Joplin's and my jeans as distressed as Neil Young's. Edinburgh's Usher Hall was my Fillmore, my Madison Square Gardens. There I worshipped at the feet of such deities as Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple and Soft Machine.
I saw Keith Emerson of Nice virtually destroy the venue's venerable organ, bashing it dementedly with the heel of a cowboy boot, and once I snuck into Ten Years After's dressing room and stuck a chipped drumstick under my tie-dyed T-shirt. I probably still have it somewhere. It doesn't get any better than that.
It must have been around 1968 that I saw Cream. Formed in 1966, it was the first rock supergroup, comprising Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce as singer and bassist. For a trio they made the sort of din that begets tinnitus. Corpses have been revived by fewer decibels. With Clapton's guitar loudly weeping and Baker bashing his kit like the neighbour from hell, it was left to Bruce, who died last weekend aged 71, to try to hold it all together, which he just about managed. Even in those halcyon days, when every week a new star ascended the pop charts, Cream - so named because they regarded themselves as the creme de la creme - were something special.
Given such intensity of performance, the band was bound to burn out sooner rather than later. As Bruce's obituarists have delighted in reminding us, few had bigger egos than the Cream three. Baker, apparently, was initially against Bruce joining him and Clapton. The two had history, having played together previously.
That association ended when the drummer pulled out a knife and told the bassist to be off or be scarred for life. Peace and love may have been the mantra of the age but it was rarely observed when emotions ran high. It was Clapton who insisted that without Bruce there would be no Cream, without whom, it's been suggested, there would have been no AC/DC, no Black Sabbath, no Yes, no prog rock. You may like to take a moment to savour that thought.
It was Jack Bruce, of course, who wrote and sang most of the band's songs. Since he shimmied offstage I've been replaying Wheels of Fire, the first platinum-selling double album, which was released in 1968, the year the band imploded.
It reached number one in America and sold by the barrowload, contributing significantly to the 36 million albums Cream shifted in total. It includes two exhilarating tracks - Spoonful and Toad -which were recorded live and which lasted more than 16 minutes. There was nothing unusual about that. Fans got used to gigs at which the solos seemed to go on forever. Baker was especially self-indulgent, hammering away endlessly, as if daring his colleagues to interrupt him, which, clearly, was not advisable.
After Cream split up, Bruce went solo with a modicum of success. But drugs and drink took their toll and he was eclipsed, especially by Clapton, who was selling out the Royal Albert Hall for weeks at a time when the man from Bishopbriggs could barely muster an audience in the local pub. Such is the fickleness of music lovers. Now, however, Bruce is widely regarded as one of the greatest bassists in the pantheon and an integral part of rock history. Would it not be appropriate for his home town to commemorate him, ideally with a statue?
As it is, the only memorial in his name is "an informal performance space" at the Royal Conservatoire which is also "the place to buy the best bowl of soup in town". Bruce deserves more but then so, too, do many of those who keep our feet bopping and our heads nodding. One thinks, for starters, of John Martyn, Gerry Rafferty and Bert Jansch, all of whom had a magical way of making music. For them and for countless others, the dream of a Scottish rock and roll hall of fame, mooted a few years ago, should be resuscitated