New book features eyewitness accounts of 60s supergroup Cream's 1966 performance in Hemel Hempstead

Cream – A People’s History is available to pre-order now from Spenwood Books

By Holly Patel
Thursday, 5th August 2021, 1:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 1:04 pm

A new book has been published about Sixties supergroup Cream, which featured guitarist Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and bass player Jack Bruce.

The band, rated in importance by many music fans as second only to The Beatles, formed in 1966 and split in 1968 and were highly acclaimed in America, playing to huge audiences in Los Angeles and New York.

But before their transatlantic fame the band, responsible for hits such as ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, served their apprenticeship in Britain, often playing small venues for just £75 a night.

Cream – A People’s History is available to pre-order now

Cream – A People’s History brings together over 500 fan memories of those shows, including multiple eyewitness accounts of their performances at a number of venues including Hemel Hempstead.

The book, compiled by Manchester music historian Richard Houghton, tells the Cream story through previously unpublished eyewitness accounts.

Cream performed at The Pavilion on November 2, 1966.

Former Hemel Hempstead Gazette reporter Steve Riches shares his experience of watching Cream perform in the new book.

Former Hemel Hempstead Gazette reporter Steve Riches considered Cream the cream of all the acts he saw as a local journalist

He said: "I worked for the Hemel Hempstead Gazette. One of the advantages of being on a local newspaper was getting free tickets to various places and events, which went some way to making up for appallingly low wages. We had press passes to the cinemas, the bowling alley, the swimming pool, the nightclub (there was only one), social clubs, all the sports grounds and to every function organised by the council and anyone else hoping for (and usually getting) a plug in the paper.

"But the jewel in the ticket crown was a pass to Hemel Hempstead Pavilion, which during the late Sixties and early Seventies hosted a whole string of touring bands from the brilliant to the truly terrible. I almost always went on a Friday or Saturday as the holder of our Executive Pass for Two, the Gazette being staffed by no other people who were remotely interested in the music of the day.

"That treasured pass enabled me to see a huge variety of live acts I would otherwise have been unable to afford. Not all of them were much cop. Indeed, I can still see and hear with complete horror the likes of The Foundations, The Barron Knights, The Walker Brothers, Crispian St Peters and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. But I saw some great acts too.

"Out of all that talent, I have to go for Cream at the Pavilion as my headliners. I had never seen anything like it and still haven’t. They played with consummate skill and enthusiasm, yet without any fuss.

"They just got on with it, rattling through classics like ‘White Room’ and ‘Spoonful’ and raising the roof with ‘Sunshine of Your Love’. They were musicians rather than a musical act, like so many. And yet I have never forgotten the climax of the show.

"Eric and Jack had already had their share of solos, when drummer Ginger was let loose as the crowd cramming the dance floor went wild. His eyes staring like a madman, his drumsticks mesmerisingly twirling between his bony fingers, he went musically bonkers.

"After a couple of minutes of bashing the daylights out of his drum kit, in a fashion he had personally invented, Eric and Jack plonked their instruments on the stage floor and walked off. But not exit left or right. They simply walked down the steps at the side, up the spiral staircase from the dance floor and straight up to the bar.

"There, they ordered a pint of beer each, downed it in fairly rapid time and walked casually back the way they came. They picked up their instruments, playing Ginger out of his trance, finished the song (I can’t even remember what it was), bowed a couple of times and walked off. That was it. Class, pure class."

Music historian Richard Houghton said: "Cream were one of the biggest bands of the 1960s. Their impact on modern music cannot be overstated.

"They took American blues, which bands like the Rolling Stones reintroduced to the world, and turned it into the progressive and heavier sounds which spawned progressive rock and bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.

"Without Cream, music today would look and sound vastly different."

Cream – A People’s History is available to pre-order now from Spenwood Books, the book will be published on September 17, and will be shipped on this date.