He was classically trained and would become one of the greatest bass players of his generation. His fights with drummer, Ginger Baker, became legendary, but when push came to shove, Bruce and Baker formed a group with a young superstar guitarist, Eric Clapton, and Cream was born. They were the band of my youth, the one I listened and played drums to most often. They didn’t use flash or gimmicks. They didn’t dress like clowns (Kiss), or jump all over the stage (Jagger), or destroy their instruments (The Who) … they showed up and played and no other band, no matter how many members, could play like them.
I probably played the Wheels of Fire album until it was worn out, but the live version of Spoonful and Crossroads kept me on my drum throne for days at a time. I couldn’t come close, but it was always fun, and I couldn’t stop trying. Bruce, Clapton and Baker took the Mississippi Delta Blues and reintroduced it to an America that seemed to have been wearing earmuffs.
They sold over 35,000,000 albums in the brief span of two years … they didn’t last as a group and kind of reformed as Blind Faith (minus Bruce and plus Steve Winwood and Rich Gretch), but Bruce went on to play with several other bands, including those he started, before his bash with drugs nearly killed him. A liver transplant that didn’t take at first nearly killed him again.
From Rolling Stone … On November 26, 1968,Cream walked off the stage at London's Royal Albert Hall for what they fullyexpected to be the last time. Exhausted by infighting and non-stop touring,their rare instrumental telepathy creeping into formula and all but obliteratedby arena-PA volume, rock's first supergroup -- guitarist Eric Clapton, bassistJack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, already individual stars in Britain whenthey formed in 1966 -- held rock's first super-wake in this majestic Victorianconcert hall, playing two final shows of what Clapton once described as"Blues Ancient and Modern" to audiences that literally begged themnot to go, with massed cries of "God save the Cream!"
Those prayers were finally answered, thirty-seven years later. At 8:10 p.m. on May 2nd, Clapton, Bruce and Baker walked back on to that stage to a standing, delirious, disbelieving ovation, opening the first of four shows this week at the Albert Hall with the perfect, galloping sentiment: the Skip James blues "I'm So Glad," from their first album, Fresh Cream. This was, admittedly, not the breakneck, juggernaut Cream of the concert half of 1968's Wheels of Fire or the post-mortem live albums. Clapton's old wall of Marshall cabinets was gone; he played through just two small tube amps, with a Leslie for that majestic bridge lick in "Badge." And Clapton has long since exchanged the assaultive snarl of his original Cream weapons -- the Gibson SG and Les Paul -- for the cleaner ring and bite of a Stratocaster. There was less assault in the music, but more air, which allowed the original swing in Cream's power blues to come through: the conversational way Bruce improvised inside Clapton's slalom runs and grinding notes during the instrumental breaks in "Spoonful" and "N.S.U."; the taut fire of Baker's snare and tom-toms under Clapton's solo in "Sleepy Time Time."
Clapton's brief remarks to the crowd suggested lingering nerves and fears of overexpectation. "Thanks for waiting all these years," he said, after a rare live outing of "Outside Woman Blues," from Disraeli Gears. "I think we're going to do every song we know," quickly noting, "We'll play them as well as we can." But when Clapton pointed out that "the slings and arrows of misfortune cut us down in our prime," Baker was having none of it. "What do you mean?" he interjected with needling glee. "This is our prime."
When they announced they would be coming to New York’s Madison Square Garden, I was tempted to go and see them … but the ticket scalpers wanted blood I wasn’t willing to spare. In the end, I wound up buying a new drum kit (probably for about the price the tickets would’ve cost me) and I had a blast. I did order the DVD of their reunion tour and must’ve played it a few dozen times before figuring out how to use Youtube and listening to them at work.
I didn’t know Bruce died until my stepson mentioned it at dinner last week. I knew he was sick, but had no idea how sick. I was saddened, because a part of my youth and love of music died with him. You can see just how sick he was when he was interviewed about his last album, Silver Rails.
Eric Clapton’s tribute to Bruce here. It is hauntingly similar to the one he wrote and played for his son.
The Cream reunion interviews …
From Wiki: Bruce maintained a solo career that spanned several decades and also played in several musical groups. Although particularly famous for his work as a vocalist, bass guitarist and songwriter, he also played double bass, harmonica, piano and cello. He was trained as a classical cellist and considered himself a jazz musician, although much of his catalogue of compositions and recordings tended toward blues and rock and roll. The Sunday Times said that "many consider him to be one of the greatest bass players of all time."
RIP, Mr. Jack Bruce …
The Unbearable Lightness of Being … Czech author, Milan Kundera’s highly praised novel spanning the 60’s and 70’s, is a philosophical romp challenging Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence; the idea that all events have occurred and will recur again and again … or, as Yogi put it: It's déjà vu all over again.
Does sex require love? Does love require sex? And what about emotion (kitsch) vs. reason? Ayn Rand would have had a field day putting the kybosh on emotion, and there are those who still buy into her lustful greed 1000%, but they’re most often the people the rest of us avoid (or try to avoid) like the plague.
Written in and out of chronological order, with the author making brief appearances and announcing his presence, Kundera offers his readers two couples, a young man and a dog to present his case(s) … or are they dilemmas? Much of the action (or non-action) has to do with the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Tomáš (the protagonist) is a surgeon consumed with the Oedipus story: When someone acts with total conviction while doing something with the best intentions, and later learns those same actions were used (or indirectly supported) something evil (i.e., Czech intellectuals supporting communism), are they blameless or guilty? Tomáš once wrote an article suggesting those responsible, no matter their best intentions, are guilty and therefore should “cut out their eyes” (so to speak). And for that gem, although his article was actually edited down a third of its original length, gets him booted from the hospital and eventually finds him washing windows for a living (not that that makes him a bad person).
Tomáš is also a once divorced serial womanizer who believes sex and love have nothing to do with one another, so once he beds down a waitress he met in a small town (after she shows up to his door by invitation), he falls in love with her (Tereza). His infidelity runs wild (remember, he doesn’t connect sex with love) and drives Tereza a little pazzo. What happens between these two is often told in separate perspectives, which enhances the story for me. Kundera also ponders a Beethoven Quartet Es muß sein! (It must be) … although I have to admit there were a few times where the philosophical back and forth, as interesting as they could be, became a bit dry and interrupted the flow.
Tomáš has a favorite mistress, Sabina (a painter who lives a life as far from emotional attachment as possible; she’s the kitsch hater, so to speak). During the Russian invasion, she escaped to Geneva and started an affair with a bored professor (and his issues). We learn early and it is sustained throughout that Sabina believes in betrayals.
From tender youth we are told by father and teacher that betrayal is the most heinous offence imaginable. But what is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown.
It is following Sabina’s story when we come across the novel’s title: Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.
For Sabina, emotion equates to heaviness … something she abhors … for her, avoiding the emotional (the heaviness) leads to a lightness (a form of bliss).
No spoilers, but there’s a female dog named after Karenin – named after Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin (Anna’s husband) from the Tolstoy novel. The way humans treat animals is most telling. That Kantian statement is also posited in the novel via the pooch, Karenin: “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
When Tomáš’ son from his first marriage enters the story, it is near the end and their relationship (which has been a conscious non-relationship for Tomáš), and is immediately put into jeopardy. Again, no spoilers.
This was a good read for me, but I have selfish reasons for enjoying it maybe more than I should claim. The best thing writers can do outside of doing the work that is writing is and always will be read(ing). I have been working on a novel that involves young couples and infidelity. It’s a good sized draft, but the more I work on it, the more I want a new beginning. Kundera’s Omniscient 3rd provided it for me … at first probably subconsciously, but now it’s a very intentional plagiarizing of a writing style I’d long been neglecting.
I’ve yet to see the movie, but I will have to … even though the author himself was appalled at the production and claimed The Unbearable Lightness of Being would be the first and last book of his to wind up on the big screen.
TK RECOMMENDS THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.
Skype me in the morning, baby … I’ll be switching days off next week (working Monday/taking off Tuesday) to participate in a Skyped(?) discussion about POV (point of view) with students of my 4th semester mentor, Diane Les Bequets (what I used to pronounce: Less Buckets). I’ll be using my third semester critical research paper on Richard Yates use of third person omniscient in the discussion, as well as why I chose to move from my own use of third person (from my crime writing) to 2nd person in my thesis. Thanks to Diane for the invite.
Check out a previous TK mentionof all things SNHU MFA, including Diane, DRL, Krista Zobel and dinner with Rickand Melissa Ollerman here:
Check out and get Diane’s works here:
Funny Poster of the week ...
Jack Bruce (playing with Cream) … one of my favorites, We’re Going Wrong …
Tales of Brave Ulysses …
Sleepy Time Time …