the Cream reunion

Crossroads was the first music that I remember paralysing me with joy and the simultaneous knowledge that this joy was inextricably sad. Until then I had listened to music largely as a tribal thing. At my then school I was one of the weirdos, the freaks and the losers. This meant that we listened to Beefheart, Cream, Live/Dead, and the Mothers of Invention. The other two were in fact profoundly musical, but what bound us together was music as a kind of self-expression. We loved Trout Mask Replica because it would empty any room we played it in.

Then, one weekend, I was taken out to Julian’s father’s pub in Wantage. In the big empty room where discos were played, we turned up the PA. Somewhere in the middle of Crossroads, I stopped moving, and stood looking at the sunlight slicing up the dusty room while the guitar, which had until then smashed back and forth against the beat in a desperate, jailed despair, shifted register into an unendurable joy. It still does. There’s only about twelve bars, right at the end of the second solo and then the hoarse junkie’s voice comes back “I’m standing at the crossroads, and I believe I’m sinking down.”

My teeth were sticky with Watney’s Cream Label stout. I didn’t know whether I could breathe so I lit a cigarette.

Nowadays, when I pull out the MP3 and listen to it, I still sometimes hear the screaming turn into joy; sometimes I think “maybe he just started to play a little behind the beat, and that’s why you felt free.” But even when I thinkn I know how the trick is done, it still can overwhelm me. when I was fifteen I thought this was becasue the world is necessarily tragic. Now I suppose it’s just because I’lll never be very good at understanding the world.

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2 Responses to the Cream reunion

  1. So, I ripped Wheels of Fire last night and finally gave it a listen.

    I hear it (this version, anyway) a little differently. I hear a steady progression through the two solos, opening up a couple of bars at a time, rather that a distinct shift of mood in the second solo. Bruce does his share, too, urging Clapton along.

    There’s an odd tempo shift I hadn’t noticed just after the first solo, a couple of bars into the verse, and only for a couple of bars.

    (I’d have added Jim Morrison to your list…)

  2. acb says:

    All I know is that there was a moment when I realised he was channelling Spinoza.

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