(Jorgen Angel/Redferns – courtesy of Pitchfork)
Have you ever noticed that the snare drum never quite hits usually in “Sunshine Of Your Love”? Maybe you have; Ginger Baker never would have assumed that you would expect something like that, given the circumstances. Circumstance is everything, and what you don’t notice can alternately end up killing you, or being the very reason you feel love.
Baker, best known as the drummer of Cream, passed away on Sunday at the age of 80. Anger and belligerence are as key to his story as they are to those of his dairy bandmates’, and Baker was perhaps the most prominent person that enabled the expansion of what we thought a rock trio could be. Getting Jack Bruce to run through a fuzz box helped, sure; throwing Ginger Baker as many drums and cymbals as he could handle, though, was the key revelation to tying the British blues rock push together.
(Public domain, hopefully? Let us know if this is a problem)
After the fact, he would simply refer to the performance as “beautiful” in an attempt to deflect accusations of controversy in the face of a divided nation. A few months after that, around the change of the calendar, he would roll out his true protest, the finest electric guitar symphony ever conceived, in what would end up being the only showcase for his talents that were actually on his terms. He would be dead within the year, nobody the wiser.
But in this moment, at 9 am the morning after the damn thing was supposed to end on the saturated grounds that were never as good as they looked on film long after the fact to the millions upon millions who were nostalgic for something that never was, he was free. He hoped only for as much as that for everyone else. Fifty years ago today, at right around the time this post is publishing, Jimi Hendrix played the longest set of his career at Woodstock, a sloppy, convoluted mess which nevertheless gave us an interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that has confounded and inspired ever since.
Imagine being the world’s biggest pop star at 24, an icon of one musical genre and the reluctant voice of a stifled, conflicted generation. At just the time your organic rise became meteoric, you re-discovered an old passion for electrified rock and roll, the kind you used to play rambunctiously before leaving it behind in Minnesota.
To people of a certain age or inclination, July 25, 1965, is a date of considerable magnitude. On that date, in Newport, Rhode Island, the most influential songwriter of the twentieth century made perhaps the most important decision of his life, one which has left an indelible effect on pop music and American life.
“Anytime you thinkin’ evil, you thinkin’ ’bout the blues.” – Chester Arthur Burnett, AKA Howlin’ Wolf
Slowly, timidly, the sun set over the Hudson River. Thousands of people had gathered in the World Financial Center, soon to be renamed Brookfield Place, to see an 87-year-old, diabetic black man play a six-stringed instrument he had named “Lucille.” When the backing band took the stage and played its way through a few instrumentals, stretching out seemingly in an effort to prove its worth to the audience, anticipation growing to a fever pitch. The band’s tight transitions and familiarity with the changes in direction one member would make in leading the others, all the while acknowledging the formidable vacancy at center stage.