Going back to the Dark Ages when I was a teenager I have to be honest and admit the brilliance and joys of the supergroup Cream – rightly lauded as a seminal influence upon rock musicianship and heavy metal music – rather passed me by.
Perhaps in those days I was a bit of a wimp. While I was still bopping along to The Who and The Kinks, the really cool guys at school had long moved on to headier, more serious stuff like that purveyed by Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Cream.
Later I cottoned on to the sheer musicianship of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton and began to appreciate their achievements, both with the band and afterwards. I was also privileged to be invited by a pal to one of their “reunion” concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2005 – a most memorable event.
I first heard that Ginger Baker had died yesterday on the BBC television news. I had a twinge of regret and sadness but not much more.
Which brings me to my point today.
Especially when someone dies, there’s a lot to be said in life for the maxim “If you cannot say anything good about someone, best say nothing”.
I was immediately interested to see exactly what Ginger Baker’s obituaries would be like.
There’s no doubt he was a great drummer, steeped originally in jazz, technically outstanding and also innovative. I once listened on radio to an extract of a “two-header” concert billed as “The Battle of the Drummers” when he and jazz great Elvin Jones supposedly ‘played off’ against each other to see who was the best in the world. The agreed outcome was a drawn. Jones was sensationally brilliant and precise – Baker no less dazzling but more adept at crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics.
In print and elsewhere Ginger Baker was often described as challenging or “difficult”. In truth as a individual, by all accounts, he was deep down an undisguised and unrepentant shit.
As I hinted above, I was interested to see how true to life his obituary-writers might swerve.
Which is why today I want to give a tip of the hat to Alexis Petridis, whose effort appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN