Formed in London in 1966, the rock band Cream has gone on to iconic status.
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Comprised of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, the group was formed by members of other bands that were known as some of the best in the business.
But where the did group’s name come from and what was its impact on music at large?
The First Supergroup
Today, bands often share members. Whether in local groups from city to city or in national groups, bands often have members that work with, collaborate with or even share time with other bands.
But in the mid-’60s? This was much rarer. That, however, did stop the trio who formed Cream.
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Made of three members, and over the course of three years, the group released four albums—Fresh Cream in 1966, Disraeli Gears in 1967, and Wheels of Fire in 1968, and their last, Goodbye, in 1969. Some of their most famous songs include “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love.” While also being perhaps the first modern supergroup, the band is responsible for the first platinum-selling double album. In total, the trio sold more than 15 million albums.
As the first supergroup, the band was made up of three superstars in rock, each a wizard on his instrument. Thus, the name cream.
Have you ever heard the expression “The cream rises to the top?” Well, if so, you understand why the group members named their project together Cream.
At the time, Clapton had risen to fame with the British-born rock group the Yardbirds. Baker and Bruce had played in the Graham Bond Organisation, which was getting old due to drug use and other complications.
A fan of Clapton’s, Baker reached out to the six-string player and asked if he wanted to join a new group, still unnamed at the time. Slowhand (aka Clapton) agreed, saying he wanted Bruce to be the bassist. Clapton had met Bruce when the latter was in another band, and Clapton didn’t know the extent of Bruce and Baker’s infighting, which included fights onstage and instrument sabotage. Baker even threatened Bruce at knifepoint once.
But they tried to put that behind them (perhaps naively) for the sake of the new project. Together, the trio settled on the name Cream, since the three were known to be the best of the best in the United Kingdom. At first, they were called The Cream but quickly, as with Facebook, the principles dropped the “the.”
The band played its first big public show on July 29, 1966.
As it would turn out, though Cream was a rather perfect, if not slightly arrogant name (but, hey, it’s rock ‘n’ roll), the band also considered other, not-so-good options.
First came, as noted, The Cream but another serious option included Sweet ‘n’ Sour Rock ‘n’ Roll.
A band by any other name would sound as sweet. Even Jimi Hendrix thought so, jamming with the band after he arrived in London from the United States.
The band broke up in May of 1968, though they released Goodbye in 1969. The breakup stemmed largely from friction between the rhythm section, Baker and Bruce. Their final concerts were held at the Royal Albert Hall on November 25 and 26 in 1968. Those shows were filmed and later released for fans in 1977 as the Farewell Concert. Cream was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Photo by Ivan Keeman/Redferns