Cream at Klooks Kleek
Updated: Apr 3
I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been mightily influenced by Cream-era Clapton, in spite of my mixed feelings about his subsequent music-making. In my opinion, he has never surpassed or even equaled what was going on in that group.
Furthermore, my Cream influence is primarily comprised of the live stuff, rather than the studio recordings.
I have written in detail about this in Back Down to the Crossroads.
I recently stumbled across a bootleg recording that I’d not heard, or even heard of, before; Cream at Klooks Kleek Club in London on November 15, 1966.
It’s gotta be one of the first, if not the first, recording of Cream. In spite of the fact that this is a bootleg recording and therefore of less than stellar quality…
Holy crap…there’s that tone!
That’s the tone on all the Live Cream albums.
Again my opinion; Clapton's tone on the Stratocaster of the last 40+ years just flat-out sucks compared to this! I have no idea why he made that switch. I wish he would go back to Gibsons.
It seems like post-Cream he just turned his back on that tone as well as the potential of where the concept could have gone and walked the other way.
I said, “could have gone” - but nevertheless Cream, and Clapton’s guitar playing, was revolutionary for the time. This was before Hendrix (barely), Mountain, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Santana and many more ground-breaking bands immediately following, all of whom cite Cream as influential.
Upon hearing Cream in San Francisco in 1968, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “These are men, we are like teenagers.”
Eddie Van Halen cites Cream-era Clapton as his primary influence.
I could go on for days.
Clapton reinvented himself roughly every decade from the 70’s through the first decade of the 2000’s with several Pop hits each time, and in between played the Blues. His pop star career subsidized his Blues stuff.
The avant-garde elements, the musical boundary-pushing, the improv, the chance-taking and hence the excitement, all went away post-Cream, at least for me.
Even back in the day I considered Clapton the weak link, musically, in that outfit. I think he was getting his ass kicked by a couple of superior jazz musicians masquerading as rock stars. That’s why he played crazy like he did. On his own, he’s not inclined to be experimental. He’s conservative and likes to play safe. That’s what I think, anyway.
Or maybe because of his conservative nature, he was the glue desperately holding all the chaos together. Probably both things were in play; the band only lasted 2 years.
But his tone, man!
One of the things that stands out to me on this performance is Clapton’s use of bending to quarter-tones - the notes between the notes. He does it so often and consistently that I don’t think it’s sloppy technique; he’s “hearing” those frequencies.
I’ve felt the same about BB King when I hear him get 3 distinct notes out of a whole-step bend; he’s “hearing” the quarter-tone. Anyway, if you’re a Cream/Clapton fan and not familiar with this, you should check it out. It’s bootleg recording quality (👎) but nevertheless I think it’s significant from a historical perspective:
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