The second part of my 1973 Jack Bruce interview in which the great bassist assesses the legacy of Cream and regrets that Lifetime wasn’t given more of a chance to develop.
Much of Jack’s recorded material, whether it be Cream material or solo stuff, has been re-packaged recently and like most artists he’s not too keen on the idea, although he seems resigned to the situation.
“When you sign a record contract, all the material you do, once it’s on tape, becomes the property of the record company and they can do what they like with it. I haven’t been asked about this record [The Best Of Jack Bruce] at all, or invited to select the material. Somebody just handed me a record and there it was.
“Also I don’t feel I have stopped creating, so you can’t say that what is on a record is ‘the best’ of Jack Bruce. I think the best is still to come, or at least I hope so. It was the same with the Cream. I thought the last Cream album was a good record, but then there was Live Cream which was fair enough because we had actually recorded those tracks for a live album, and thrown out a lot more. Now these have turned up again and obviously they are the second best otherwise we’d have released them at the time. There are different versions of the same songs but they are second best versions. I would never buy them.”
The stretch of water that separates Jack from the other two thirds of W, B & L helps the group, he maintains. They’re pleased to see one another after a spell off the road and it gives them a fresher outlook on the music. “Up until the end of this European tour we have been working very hard but that’s probably not apparent to people in Britain because it was mostly work in America.
“We’ve been more or less on the road all the time or recording. I never have enjoyed being on the road, but it’s something you have to put up with. Obviously you enjoy the couple of hours when you are on stage because that is what the whole day is about, but the rest of it is a drag. I’m getting very paranoid about flying because I’ve had a couple of nasty incidents.”
The writing in the group, says Jack, is shared around. “Leslie is the lick man and I do the harmonics and arranging and Corky does a lot of the lyrics, although some of them are written by Pete Brown and myself. I Like Pete’s influence to be in there because he is a very important guy. It’s nice to have that influence carried on from the Cream because he did a lot of the lyrics in those days. There’s a distinct evolution going on there.
“The Cream never set out with the idea of being a success. We jut set out to make music and it happened that we were a success. The strange thing about the Cream, as far as England was concerned, was that we weren’t a success until the last concert at the Albert Hall. In America we were a success from the second time we went there. I don’t think the Cream ever filled a concert hall in Britain until that Albert Hall show.
“It was a pity because probably the group would have stayed together if it had been more encouraged by the fans. It was an uphill struggle for us. I suppose there are some old Cream fans who come to see me now, but I think it’s more a new audience which is tremendous. We are playing to a much younger audience of school age kids, and some people I have talked to didn’t even know I was in the Cream.
“Cream is a name they have heard of somewhere in the dim past. I saw the Albert Hall film on television the other night and it was the first time I’d seen it. It struck me then that the Cream really was a very, very good group. I did go through a time thinking it wasn’t as good as people thought it was, but I’ve had a re-listen to it recently and now I think it was a better group than any of us in the group thought at the time. If we had really known how good, potentially, that we were, I am sure we would have given it more of a chance to develop.
“I think the best things we did, apart from the improvised solos, were on the last record with songs like ‘Badge’ and so on. We were really getting into a nice sort of bag, but we didn’t continue. In another way that’s a good thing too, but it was a shame that the things Eric and Ginger, and to a lesser extent myself, didn’t get the recognition that they should have. I even think Blind Faith was a tremendous group, but everybody slated it at the time. To my mind they were the best group around at the time.
“I thought the things that Eric did later were tremendous as well, and should have been accepted for what they were. Ginger’s Airforce was a unique attempt to do something different but people put it down. I’ve found that with everything I’ve done since the Cream, people have put down before they’ve heard it because in their minds they think it couldn’t possibly be as good as the Cream.
“In fact, everything I’ve done since the Cream has been a step forward, both Lifetime and this group.”
Jack was overjoyed when the results of the MM jazz poll were shown to him. He came second in the British and world male singer categories, fifth in the British bass section and the Escalator Over The Hill album, with which he was heavily involved, was voted the LP of the year in the world section.
“I’d like to say thank-you to everybody who voted in the poll. It was really a knockout. I’m sure Carla Bley will be really pleased. I never was regarded as a jazz musician when I was playing jazz but now I am which is strange.
“When I hung out with Tony Williams a lot in New York, I found a lot of the old jazz musicians put him down for being commercial, but all he was doing was a progressive step forward. In their mind anything that used electric instruments was commercial and I was regarded as a rock and roll bass player. Now we’ve got Miles Davis doing the same thing. I’d like to get together with Tony, John and Larry Young again now.
“I can’t help feeling that a lot of the people who put down Lifetime are the same people who are giving the Mahavishnu Orchestra rave reviews. I was really hurt at some of the reviews we had with that band because it was so difficult getting them over here. I felt we were doing something that reviewers would be knocked out with, but some of the reviews were a real drag. We thought we were hammering out heads against a brick wall. I can’t help feeling that if Lifetime was around now...”