Rear View: Cream Disraeli Gears

Monday, 6 May 2013

Disraeli Gears.jpg

Here’s a classic example of how quickly things progressed in the hothouse musical world of the late sixties. Barely six months after the sessions that produced Fresh Cream, coming off the end of nine shows as part of Murray the K's Music in the 5th Dimension concert series in May 1967 the band had three and a half days before their visas expired to record a second album at Atlantic Studios in New York. Their American label, Atco, was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, so the sessions were engineered by Atlantic’s Tom Dowd with label ownerAhmet Ertegun present through the sessions.

It was around six months since the sessions that produced the first album and were, with the benefit of hindsight, aimed at building the core of a live repertoire, but things were moving pretty quickly in early 1967, and  it must have seemed fairly obvious that the three players weren’t possessed of the sort of skill set that would deliver material of the quality that was needed on their own. That must have been obvious at the time, at least as far as the lyrics were concerned. If you glance back to Fresh Cream the playing was fine, the instrumental interplay close to spot on, but the words were in desperate need of attention.

There’s probably no better example of that situation than the contrast between the tracks that open and close the first side of the vinyl version. Clapton had taken a Buddy Guy riff and reworked it slightly after the style of Albert King, labelled it Lawdy Mama (a title that obviously needed changing) and needed some words. Cream had been playing it live as an instrumental. It could have remained in the set list in that guise, but a live tape had Disraeli Gears’ producer Felix Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins playing with the melody line and adding some suitably psychedelic lyrics and the result was Strange Brew.


B© Ian Hughes 2012