When Gary Moore joined Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in the ‘ersatz Cream’ BBM in 1993, it was a dream come true for the guitarist – but one that was over almost as soon as it began.
It all started calmly enough. The new band went into the large residential studio at Hook End, Berkshire. And as a present for Ginger, Gary’s team managed to track down Ginger’s old Ludwig double-bass-drum Cream drum kit on sale in a drum shop in North London. “Ginger walked in,” said Gary, “and he was just freaked when he saw it. But he didn’t end up using it because it didn’t sound as good as his modern kit.”
Gary did have concerns, though, when Ginger first arrived at the studio, as producer Ian Taylor explains: “Ginger had been paid a lot of money for the session, flown in from America Business Class and so on, and he turned up with hands full of cuts and calluses. Turned out that Ginger had been building fences for his horses and his hands looked like a stockman’s.”
He also had a whopping great bump on his head. Apparently he had been doing a spot of roof repairs on a windy day. He tried to grab his hat as it blew off, forgetting that he was holding a hammer at the time.
After they ran through some Cream songs to warm up, “we started putting down tracks and it was very easy,” Gary said. “There was no problem at all. It was really fun and I got a great insight into the chemistry between Jack and Ginger. It wasn’t what I thought at all; they weren’t at each other’s throats. I think Jack really looks up to Ginger, and Ginger knows it, so he’ll never tell him he’s any good. They’re like two brothers, just winding each other up.
“One day I said to Jack: ‘Can you ask Ginger to play the hi-hat pattern like he did on Born Under A Bad Sign?’ ‘No way. I’m not fuckin’ asking him. You ask him.’ So I just pressed the button in the control room and asked him to play that pattern and he said: ‘Yeh, sure, man. No problem.’ And Jack looked at me speechless. They were just like an old married couple. It’s just the way they were.”
Ian Taylor agrees that, for the most part, and given the egos, it was remarkably plain sailing.
“We did have one problem over timing with Ginger. For some reason we were using a click track on Where In The World, and Ginger just couldn’t or wouldn’t get on with it. It can be a problem for the older drummers. I remember the contacts sheets back from Virgin, it was such a strong image.”
It was also the most amazing juxtaposition: rock’s Grade-A curmudgeon in a long black coat, smoking a fag, presented as a heavenly celestial being – one of rock’s classic album covers.
The album, Around The Next Dream, was released on May 17, 1994 at the start of the tour. The whole vibe about a possible Cream reunion, and the fact that half the songs clearly had their Cream antecedence, gave the critics ample ammunition for comments along the lines of: ‘They couldn’t get Eric, so they got Gary instead’, which was a world away from the truth.
Gary recalled that one interviewer actually asked him: “Have you always wanted to be Eric Clapton? And now you can be?”
“And I thought: ‘No, fuck off.’ And then Ginger chimed in with ‘Gary plays like Gary. Eric plays like Eric.’”
Jack also found the ‘ersatz Cream’ jibes very irksome: “We deliberately wanted to nod towards Cream. It was around the time when Oasis were copying The Beatles, so I thought: ‘Why shouldn’t I do a copy of me?’ So it was very deliberate, and I thought it worked very well.”
Some reviewers did buck the trend: Q magazine concluded that the album was “satisfyingly well rounded… which proves that BBM are not Cream re-formed with one notable omission, but a credible band in their own right.”
Even the ever-astringent Charles Shaar Murray, writing in Rolling Stone, felt that improved recording techniques gave this band a sound that was “bigger, cleaner, rounder and more defined than the often fuzzy, scuzzy, overcompressed Cream”, and thought Gary had out-Gibsoned and out-Marshalled his illustrious predecessor.
Despite all the carping, the album sold well in Europe and got to No.9 in the UK chart.
Gary Moore was off the road and hardly in the studio during 1993, until he took a call from former Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, who had just lost his guitarist Blues Saraceno to the glam-metal band Poison. Jack had a couple of gigs coming up in August in Esslingen, Germany, where his wife Margrit was born. Steve Topping was down to play the first night, but couldn’t do the second, so Jack asked Gary if he fancied stepping in.Gary Husband was Jack’s drummer at the time: “I was immediately pretty impressed by Gary’s ‘lightning strike’ impact as a guitarist. He meant every note, and that means a lot to me. For the majority of the time we were playing Cream material, which wasn’t my favourite endeavour with Jack because I always hated trying to fill someone else’s shoes in a very particular and personally formed way of playing. Gary, on the other hand, came in and ‘owned’ those songs, seemingly from moment one, almost as if he had been the guitarist in the original group. It was always very impressive how he did that.”
Gary Moore told me in 2009: “That gig in Esslingen went so well, I asked Jack if he fancied doing some writing together, because I was planning the next Gary Moore album.”
Gary had tried to set up a studio in his house in Shiplake in Oxfordshire. He experimented with the changing room of the outdoor pool but it didn’t work, so he rented a house nearby that would serve as an office and an eight-track studio. Gary said: “Jack would come over and would work with me during the day. I’d written some songs, but it was kinda weird because the songs were moving more his way and I was starting to think of Jack singing them.”
At the beginning of November 1993, Jack celebrated his 50th birthday with an all-star concert over two nights at the E-Werk in Cologne, featuring many of the musicians he had played with over the years, including Ginger Baker, Simon Phillips, Clem Clempson, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Pete Brown and Gary Husband, and Gary Moore was invited to take part………