Writer: Robert Johnson
Producer: Felix Pappalardi
Recorded: March 1968 at the Fillmore West, San Francisco
Released: August 1968
|Players:||Eric Clapton — vocals, guitar
Jack Bruce — bass
Ginger Baker — drums
|Album:||Wheels Of Fire (Atco)|
Cream formed in July 1966. Singer-guitarist Eric Clapton had recently finished with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Singer-bassist Jack Bruce had credits in the Graham Bond Organisation, Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, and Manfred Mann. And drummer Ginger Baker had also played in the Graham Bond Organisation and Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated.
The trio was hailed as rock’s first supergroup, and they defined the power trio format. According to Clapton biographer Ray Coleman, “They made musicianship hip.”
Cream played their first concert — under the members’ individual names — on July 31st, 1966, at the sixth annual Jazz & Blues Festival in England.
Clapton arranged Cream’s “Crossroads” from blues great Robert Johnson‘s “Crossroad Blues.”
Clapton has said of Johnson’s music, “When I first heard Robert Johnson, it was quite frightening for me. I wasn’t quite used to the idea that there was someone who did this almost against his will, who when he was recording couldn’t face the microphone out of fear and paranoia. That this was a real thing this guy did, for no reason other than because he had to. And I suddenly realized that it might be something like that for me — it was something I had to do.”
While Clapton’s solo on “Crossroads” is considered one of the all-time greatest by many players and fans, he finds that ironic because “that solo is on the wrong beat. Instead of playing on the two and the four, I’m playing on the one and the three and thinking, ‘That’s the off beat.’ No wonder people think it’s so good — because it’s…wrong!”
“Crossroads” hit Number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The two-disc Wheels Of Fire album — one studio, one live — earned a gold record and was Cream’s only Number One album in the U.S.
In the U.K., it hit Number Three, while a single-disc version of just the studio material reached Number Seven.