And Clapton Didn't Even Know

In one of the many tributes to Ornette Coleman I came across the following comment from Jack Bruce regarding Cream. "(Cream) was an Ornette Coleman band, with Eric [Clapton] not knowing he was Ornette Coleman, Ginger [Baker] and me not telling him."

Wow! I was blind, but now I see.
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If you listen to the live disc on the double album "Wheels of Fire", that makes some sense, although I would say Jack was being far too humble about his own innovative style.
Unfortunately, this "Ornette Coleman" turned into a Kenny G. In the Cream era, I had a lot of respect for him, but as the years have gone by, he has really (for me) become a bore.
Clapton ended up not liking the role he played in Cream (nor no longer liking the music Cream had created) after being played The Band's Music From Big Pink by George Harrison. Harrison started carrying around a portable record player specifically to play that album for people, and a carton of the LP so he could give a copy to everyone he played it for. Clapton, upon hearing the album, was stunned, he has said, re-evaluating what a band and even music can and should be. That's the effect Music From Big Pink had on an entire generation of musician's---it's importance, significance, and quality cannot be overstated (I'll get down off my soapbox now ;-). He told Jack and Ginger that Cream was over, and went to Woodstock to hang with The Band, waiting for them to ask him to join. He says he finally realized they didn't need him (duh), and went looking for a job as a sideman guitarist, finding one with Delaney & Bonnie's road band. That's where he met Jim Gordon, their drummer, who rejoined him in Derek & The Dominoes. Ginger worked again with Clapton in the not-so-hot "Supergroup" Blind Faith, with Little Stevie Winwood and Rick Gretsch.
Very interesting Bdp24. Thanks for posting! (Gotta go dig up my copy of MFBP now ...)
The Ornette Coleman band reference makes sense to me when listening to the simultaneous soloing on many of the Cream live tracks. Given Baker and Bruce's jazz backgrounds I would imagine that they were familiar with Coleman's work, whereas Clapton coming from a more blues/rock roots might not have been. It's interesting how musicians influence each other.

BTW, Blindfaith came before Clapton's D&B gig.
After Cream hit big, we young musician's searched out Jack and Ginger's previous work together in the Graham Bond Organization, a British jazz group in which their playing was not much different than that in Cream. Ginger was already doing an early version of his drum solo "Toad".
With some due respect to Cream, et al, Jack Bruce's statement must be an attempt at some sort of shallow humor.

so true. Can we all agree that (The) Cream was Rock's first power trio? If not, which band was Rock's 1st power trio?

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
I was going to say that I wouldn't argue with Cream being the first (at least with all members having equal billing), but then I remembered The Who, debuting two years before Cream. Does having a fourth non-instrument playing member disqualify them as a power trio? There are examples of the power trio sound before Cream but with the guitarist as the acts name, not a group name. American guitarist Link Wray (whose sound was that of a trio) is acknowledged by Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, and Jimmie Page (as well as other Brits) as being an inspiration to pick up a guitar. But Link was part of the "Rock 'n' Roll" generation (the 50's), not the "Rock" one (the 60's), if one wants to differentiate between the two terms and eras.

It was the power trio style of Cream that Clapton wanted to distance himself from after hearing The Band. Power trios, where all three instruments vie for equal frontline status, became known amongst certain kinds of musicians (like good ones ;-) as embarrassments, being comprised of "lead" bass players and "lead" drummers, not referred to as such as a compliment. The art of playing a supportive role (remember rhythm guitar? The power trio made it uncool to not be a "lead" guitarist. John Lennon was an excellent rhythm guitarist) was lost for a while, until The Band emerged from the basement of Big Pink to save Rock 'n' Roll.

On a separate note (no pun intended!), the internal bickering in Cream was well known, and assumed to be between Clapton and Bruce, since they were the frontmen, and had to split the lead vocal glory (though Bruce was really their lead singer, wouldn't you say?) and songwriting royalties. But it was actually between Bruce and Baker, who couldn't stand each other.
So "Music From Big Pink" saved rock? Other releases of 1968 include:

- White Light/White Heat
- Astral Weeks
- Bookends
- The White Album
- Beggar's Banquet
- Village Green Preservation Society
- Sweetheart Of the Rodeo
- We're Only In It For the Money
- Truth
- Electric Ladyland
- Child Is the Father To Man
- Cheap Thrills
- Lady Soul
- Traffic
- James Taylor
- Wheels Of Fire
- Waiting For the Sun
- This Was

As much as I love The Band I find it hard to single out MFBP as a cornerstone album when viewed amongst this group. Over time the Velvet Underground proved far more influential and we're currently on the third generation of female singers trying to sound like Aretha (Clapton plays a track on "Lady Soul"). I would also point out that the following year (1969) saw the release of two Led Zeppelin albums and the full blown emergence of prog rock. Clearly the long guitar solo still had life post MFBP.

The film documentary "Beware Of Mr. Baker" is well worth seeing. Ginger Baker is a fascinating person who's lived a crazed life. The movie provides nice insights into this period of music.

Re: the first power trio

Many say Cream

Some argue for Buddy Holly and the Crickets

From my perspective, it's probably Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (ca 1962)

I don't think there's a definitive answer
I'll have to listen to Change of the Century again to fully appreciate this. I know Cream's live playing pretty well and I think they had few equals--probably none in their time. A few years later the Mahavishnu Orchestra kicked up a similar amount of dust, but there were five of them and the bass player stuck to the bassics.
Rock could use some saving these days but not back then when it was firing on all burners.
Cream was a different breed than holly and the crickets. No need to compare.
I'll make an analogy: The Linn LP12 (The Band) rescued the turntable from the completely wrong path it's design was heading in. Yes, the AR table (Sweethearts of the Rodeo?) was already around, as was the Thorens TD-125 (The White Album) and TD-150 (Beggars Banquet). But the LP12 made a bold statement, much stronger than either the AR or Thorens'. Mapman, you list Wheels Of Fire by Cream as an example of Rock not needing to be saved in '68, yet it was Clapton himself who said (in The Last Waltz) that upon hearing MFBP he realized Rock, including his own musical journey, had taken a wrong turn (empty virtuosity), and that The Band was the beacon showing the way back. I'm paraphrasing, but that's Clapton talking, not me.

I actually didn't "get" The Band for about a year after I first heard them, not understanding what all the fuss was about (and if you weren't around, it was a big fuss. They were on the cover of Rolling Stone and Time magazines). I was still loving Cream, Hendrix, The Who (having seen all three twice, in '67 and '68), and all the other Groups big at the time (living close to San Francisco was great!). Then my little teen combo got a gig opening for The New Buffalo Springfield (drummer Dewey Martin being the only remaining original member, but with Randy Fuller---Bobby's brother---on bass) at a local High School. And as I watched and heard that excellent band, I suddenly "got it". An epiphany, truly. Just like that (finger snap), everything I had read and heard about MFBP and The Band came rushing into my brain. And everything changed. Not just for me, but for every aspiring young musician I knew.

Why are The Band singled out, above all others? Because though there were already real good Groups making fine music---as contained in your above list above---some
that may appear to be not that much different from that of The Band---The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Flying Burrito Brothers---what The Band did was at a level far, far above everyone else, and has still not been equaled, even after all this time. Those first two Band albums are a Masters Class in how to play Rock 'n' Roll, how to be a Band. The Bands roots are so very deep, going all the way back into Blues before it went electric, Hillbilly when it was still way back in the hills.

But it's much more than that. Groups like The Who and The Yardbirds (first guitarist one Eric Clapton, second Jeff Beck, third Jimmy Page) were the ones who took R & R down that "wrong" (in Claptons estimation) path. And that path is the one of, to employ another metaphor, the manner in which the game of basketball is now played. Huh? If you look at footage of old basketball games, you see amazing set-ups and teamwork, the guy actually making the basket just the final link in a chain. The credit for the 2 points goes to the whole team, not just the guy who made the dunk. In fact the dunk was possible only because of the teamwork that allowed it to be made. You may know how it is played now; gimme the ball, I'm gonna make a basket all by myself. Sounds like a lot of guitarists I hear. The analogy holds up---Rock music became like sports. Who runs (sports)/plays (music) the fastest? Who plays the most "difficult" music, like how the judging in the Olympics includes the consideration of the degree of difficulty in performing any given athletic endeavor.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Musicianship. What each musician in The Band is playing is related to and dependent upon what the other musicians are playing. They all play supportive roles, both to each other, but more importantly, to the song. It's all in service to the song. It's takes a selflessness, and maturity, to play music that way. Amongst good musicians, The Band are considered to have no peers, they are that much better than everyone else. George Harrison heard The Band and thought so, as did Clapton when George played MFBP for him. It took me a year, but I eventually heard it. I sympathize with those who don't, and perhaps never will.
Martykl---Johnny Kidd! He did a pretty good version of "Shakin' All Over", the inspiration for the Who's Live At Leeds recording. But if you haven't heard Link Wray, you'll want to. Whereas Johnny had the clean, non-overdriven tube amp guitar sound, Link was already into distortion in the late 50's (it is said he ripped holes in his speaker cones to achieve his tone), and was an inspiration to not only Johnny, but Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and lots of other British guitarists (though Jeff--- the best of his generation?---has lots of non-R & R influences (Merle Travis and Les Paul the two biggest). Of course the original Rock & Roll Trio was Scotty, Bill, and D.J. Ya'll better know who they were! There was also a great band who actually called themselves The Rock 'n' Roll Trio (later The Johnny Burnette Trio), with the great Paul Burlinson on guitar. Their smokin' version of "Train Kept A Rollin'" (an old Blues) just screams, making Aerosmith and even The Yardbirds sound like a buncha pussies.
Perhaps the Linn LP12 analogy wasn't clear enough. A casual examination of the LP12 versus the AR and Thorens' could lead one to say "What's so different about the Linn? It's just a suspended sub-chassis belt-drive table---so are the AR and Thorens". But what Linn did was revolutionary, not just evolutionary. Linn said: 1- A turntable is a mechanical device, not an electronic one. It's all about the mechanical design and the precision machining, 2- The turntable is the most important part of the system. The information on an LP that is lost by the turntable can not be gotten back. 3- System hierarchy: Each subsequent link in the chain is less responsible for the quality of a system that that preceding it. This was absolutely revolutionary in Hi-Fi in 1973, when loudspeakers were generally considered the by far most important component in a system.

The Band were equally revolutionary. But this horse is quite dead. Either you hear it (like George, Eric, and the best musicians, singers and songwriters I know and don't know---Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Van Morrison, Nick Lowe, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, the list goes on forever) or you don't.
So, in summary, you feel sorry for anyone who does not agree with your opinion, which is actually presented as fact.
I disagree, but I support free speech.

I merely pointed out that Buddy & co are often cited as the original power trio, not that I'd choose them. In the context of the time, I get the argument. Given the music of their day, The Crickets were probably a lot closer to a power trio than they seem today.

I went with Johnny Kidd because, even tho there's still a fair bit of twang in the music, his trio sometimes ventured into the distorted territory that bdp (correctly IMO) identifies as characteristic of the power trio. I also agree that Link Wray was an early adopter of the power chord. That's a key part of the musical approach that effectively defines the hard rock/power trio to many listeners.

As to damaging the drivers in a cabinet, my understanding is that Dave Davies (The Kinks) usually gets credit for being the first to put knife to cone. If Link went there first, he deserves even more credit than I already accord him.

The problem of a "ringing third" with high powered amplification probably led to the power chord IMHO. This is a significant example of technological innovation driving musical innovation. (How much of Mozart's music vs Bach's is attributable to the shift from harpsichord to piano?). In my book, Link Wray gets historical kudos (tho admittedly not quite at Mozart's level) on that basis!

Depending on how you want to define a "power trio", your choice of the first example will change accordingly. Per my first post, I still don't think there's a definitive answer here.

Re: The Band

Another way to state your observations (particularly Clapton's view) is that The Band's greatest admirers were often high profile rockers that had simply their lost interest in rock, preferring The Band's blend of roots styles.

It's not like Clapton looked exclusively at The Band either. Clapton indulged a similar instinct when he hooked up with Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. You could even reasonably argue that The Band was simply one flavor of the moment for Clapton, tho it is true that he never really looked back to electric blues rock. To this day, Clapton plays little rock music in concert. However, he does not play a lot of Band style roots music, either. His shows now tend to be acoustic blues sets littered with a few hits to keep the audience satisfied.

In recent years, it's become quite clear that Clapton is looking more at guys like JJ Cale than he is at The Band. Is he more astute today, or was he more attuned back when he was more specifically enthralled with The Band?

As to musicianship, The Band was hardly the standard bearer for instrumental technique. (I do understand that that is a big part of your point.). That does beg the question of why you'd accord them such respect as musicians. They were fine players, but not remarkable. As to their fine ensemble playing, that's largely a matter of personal preference. Bands from Yes to Rush to Earth, Wind and Fire combined expert technique with fine with ensemble playing. I'm not at all sure that I'd put them at the head of the line.

To me, the more remarkable aspect of The Band was their ability to incorporate American roots music into expertly played pop music. I'd suspect that that was more of the attraction for their admirers. The Band's particular roots blend was self evidently appealing to many musicians that were looking for avenues of expression that harkened back to acoustic blues, but IMO that doesn't make them singular. A terrific band, but not singular IMO.
thanks Bdp24 for your insight from back then - fascinating & would like to hear more of your experiences. Just had MFBP on last nite & I wondered if I'm even worthy of another listen:)
Interesting perspectives=guys.
Nothing wrong w/ Johnny Kidd nor Buddy Holly, still, (The) Cream were something different and brought "something" different to Rock's table. Yes, I love The Who as well, however, they were chasing The Rolling Stones & The Beatles successes. Happy Listening!
Love the Linn analogy. Very inventive, but it ultimately falls short. Linn was a wonderful proponent of analog playback and was very influential, but direct drive (Technics) and non-suspended belt drive (Rega) turntables have dominated the market. Linn's now a digital company, is that like Robbie Robertson using samples and creating electronica?

Totally agree with Martykl.
I confess to, when first reading the Ornette Coleman comment, rolling my eyeballs and dismissing it as an attempt by an aging rocker to capitalize on the cache of jazz; avant garde jazz, nonetheless. Don't get me wrong, I have always been a fan of Cream and its three members individually, but I never really learned much about Jack Bruce's musical background and my listening preferences took me in a very different direction a long time ago. I came across this documentary that some of you may find interesting and taught me quite a bit about what a talent Jack Bruce was. Unlike a lot of other aging rockers he was playing and possibly singing better than ever (!) up to the time of his passing. The documentary explained for me the Ornette Coleman comment and pointed out that the animus among the members of Cream was between he and Ginger Baker; not Clapton.
Thanks for that link Frogman. We love Jack.
We may never know exactly what Bruce truly meant with his Ornette Coleman quip, but I immediately saw the connection when I read it. I thought I knew Cream, but the quote completely blew my mind! And it's not as if they are playing Ornette, but they were on a parallel path. The standard guitar, bass and drum trio was a guitarist with a backing band and that's not what Cream was doing. Clapton obviously understood that, but he might not have known where it was coming from the way Bruce and Baker did.
I watched the entire documentary on YouTube this morning , and I was transfixed, as well as very sad. I have loved and admired Jack Bruce since my teens, and it was great to hear him tell his life story and hear him play and sing. I once had the pleasure of seeing him play in person when he was part of West Bruce and Laing in 1973. That was a memorable night. A few years ago, they reunited without him, but his son played bass.
To me, he was a consummate musician and artist, and no one can replace him.
I too saw West Bruce and Laing in 1973 in Long Beach.
Here's a partial list of guitarist that Jack Bruce was in bands with:

- John McLaughlin
- Eric Clapton
- Larry Coryell
- Leslie West
- Lou Reed
- Steve Hunter
- Mick Taylor
- Gary Moore
- Clem Clempson
- Robin Trower
- Allan Holdsworth
- Rory Gallagher
- Peter Frampton
- Vernon Reid
- Phil Manzanera

It's an impressive list, but then again, he was Jack Bruce.
BTW, for anyone who watched the documentary, is it my imagination, or was there an uncanny similarity toward the end of his career between the sound of Jack's voice and style and that of Elvis Costello? Wonder if Costello is also a Bruce fan and was influenced by him?
I've only made it thru the first 15 minutes, but, so far, I'm lovin it. I'll try to finish it today.


Great list. I'd have guessed that John McVie would have had the best list

(Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer, Bob Welch, Lindsey Buckingham, Dave Mason, Rick Vito, among others)

But I gotta admit that Jack's list trumps John's. Now I have a whole new "best of" list to think about. ;-)
John McVie surely has the best list of guitar players he has played with over the years in a single band/act.
Um...McVie also played in the Bluesbreakers with Clapton, no?
Frogman, thanks for the video (with a clickable link). A great watch and it has made me re-evaluate "We're Going Wrong". One thing that was nice in the video was how many references there were to Bruce's vocal talents. Like B.B. King, Bruce is primarily known as an instrumentalist, but he was a marvelous vocalist. I see your point about Elvis Costello.

McVie started with the Bluesbreakers just as Clapton left the band (in July, 1966). As far I can tell, they never actually played together. That's certainly not definitive, but, based on what I've been able to find, I don't think McVie crossed paths with EC in that band.
Actually my bad. Faulty memory, I guess.

I just checked and saw that McVie played with the BB as early as 1964. Clapton was in and out during 1965-1966, so they did overlap. I thought I recalled that Jack Bruce played bass on "Beano", but he was in on only a few tracks, McVie did most of the work. So, per your observation, add Clapton to McVie's list.

Thanks for the correction.
Bruce had a very recognizable voice. SImilar to John Wetton who is another similarly talented bassist musician and vocalist.

Come to think of it I bet John Wetton has played with many star guitarists over teh years as well. But more in teh progressive rock vein than roots/blues.
Marty, McVie is on the cover and on the record: The band on this album includes Mayall on piano, Hammond organ, harmonica and most vocals; bassist John McVie; drummer Hughie Flint; and Clapton. Augmenting the band on this album was a horn section added during post-production[citation needed], with Alan Skidmore, Johnny Almond, and Derek Healey (misrepresented on the sleeve as 'Dennis Healey'). (from Wikipedia)
Oops, sorry Marty--I didn't read subsequent posts before re-posting!
Clapton was very confused about what he wanted musically prior to getting off drugs and alcohol. He has sometimes been reluctant to really play his guitar much on his recordings. Other times he has been quoted, in his autobiography, that he liked it when they said Clapton is God.
That may be true--however, the music discussed here is from the 60s. His addiction was in the 70s.
I was a Dylan freak from 1964 to whenever I lost touch with his stuff (meh), so I was stoked to see him and The Hawks (Band sans Levon) in 1966. A life changing event musically for my soft 15 year old brain, and the loudest thing I'd seen up 'till then as most Big Deal bands simply used the "house" PA…these guys had piles of Altec A7s and were substantially more substantial. A cool thing about the Big Pink and The Band albums was the relative mysteriousness surrounding these guys, along with their utterly original production of what would now be called "Americana." That's what blew my generation of musicians away…songs that seemed to be carved from logs and performed with gusto with 3 lead singers. Hell yeah…After the Band my fave (and the fave of people like Zep and the Stones) became Little Feat for pretty much the same reasons…roots deep in the mud of what came before with supercharged musicianship.
Americana is a broad category and I would include in addition to Little Feat, Los Lobos, Nelville Brothers and The Blasters (Dave Alvin). You could also include the Mothers Of Invention, but that might be a pushing to boundary.

The Band also had a somewhat unique instrumentation. It was far more common at that time period to have two guitar players, but the band instead had twin keyboard players, a pianist and an organist. I can only think of Procol Harum and Mott the Hoople having similar lineups at that time.
Were there others?
Little Feat was a monster. Interesting comparison to The Band - maybe a funkier, muffuletta flavored variation on the same theme. Lowell George was just a hero of mine. From The Mothers to Little Feat, LG spanned just such an amazing range of musical sensibility that I think he might have had one of the great, long careers in popular music had he not died so young. What a shame.
Ditto on the Lowell George hero thing. I luckily saw the classic Feat live a couple
of times, and a couple of post Lowell versions too. Something about George's
gonzo yet precise cerebral soul (from a self described "fat kid from
Hollywood")…I still listen to all the Little Feat stuff and George's solo album
(an amazingly well recorded LP for my tastes anyway) often. There's a new Lowell
George DVD I just read about (Feats First)…interviews and things that looks
really interesting.
The Band was very talented and influential with some good stuff but I tend to prefer classic Little Feat's act more.

Neville Brothers never disappoint.