As a child growing up through the late 70s and into the early 80s I was heavily into the music my parents listened to. If you look at the history of popular music I’m part of the first generation that really listed to the same kind of music my parents did. My parents, particularly my mother, were really into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the “pre-disco” Bee-Gees, and other groups like that. My father was into “edgier” stuff like The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream. It was through those experiences that I became a huge fan of Jack Bruce.
Like another hero of mine, John Entwistle of The Who, Bruce’s crunching bass line was often more than just keeping time with the drummer but was instead an integral part if the song itself. It’s because of him that when it comes to songs I tend to focus on the “low end” of things going on, and really respect artists that can drive songs using the end of the musical spectrum.
When it comes to the group Bruce is most famous for, Cream (with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker), it’s the stuff that didn’t get a ton of radio play that I like the best. On of my favorites is Tales of Brave Ulysses off of their second album Disraeli Gears. I believe it was the B-side for Strange Brew, but I’m not certain of that.
Another Cream performance that I love is called Sitting on Top of the World, a cover of an old blues song originally done by Mississippi Sheiks in the early 1930s. It really shows off Bruce’s musical abilities (even in 2005 when this version was recorded) and is one of the songs that brings out the bluesman Bruce was. It appears on Cream’s final studio album, Goodbye.
Bruce had some great solo stuff that I’d bet many have never heard. Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of YouTube videos of concert footage of them, but luckily Bruce did make a couple of TV talk show appearances and played some great stuff. Here he in on the Late Show with David Letterman (with Cream drummer Baker) performing Hey Now Princess off of Bruce’s solo album A Question of Time.
Throughout his career Bruce played with many of the blues guitar legends of his ear. A few years ago I stumbled into the performance with Bruce performing with Buddy Guy in 1969 on YouTube. The bass line in both songs is classic Jack Bruce. Great stuff.
Because it’s Cream Bruce is most famous for, it only seems fitting the last footage I post is of White Room, off of Wheels of Fire. In my opinion it’s one of the best songs ever.
I close out this post with the first verse of a song by The Righteous Brothers, as it unfortunately becomes more fitting as each day passes…
If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one-night stand
If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band…