Friday, 25 November 2011

George Gently and The Cream

I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve found watching the last two episodes of TV cop drama ‘Inspector George Gently’ a profoundly unsettling experience.  Now set in 1966, at which time I was a lad of 10 summers, it is a bit like watching your own childhood pass before your eyes.  Whilst the stories and acting are well up to the usual BBC standards for this type of drama, it is the period detail that really gets to me.

Like the cars.  A blue Ford Corsair similar to the one used in the series, used to sit on a neighbouring drive during those long ago childhood years and most of the other makes and models pressed into ‘Gently’ service would drive up and down our road regularly.  Then there are the boxes of Subbuteo left carelessly in a child’s room and the Airfix planes and…ooh, all sorts of other bits and pieces that are immediately recognisable.  It’s all a bit spooky.

And, of course, there is the music.  1960s music is so recognisable.  It has an aura all to itself and it proclaims a time when the UK music business was booming.  The programme is littered with fragments of English beat boom and American soul classics that threaten to divert your attention from the plot.  There was a moment towards the end of the second episode, ‘China’ where it did just that.  In the background was a strange wailing sound appended to a mildly oriental sounding backing and for an instant I couldn’t place it - but then a burst of fuzzy Clapton electric guitar put me right.  It was ‘We’re Going Wrong’ from the amusingly titled Cream LP, ‘Disraeli Gears’ from late 1967.  OK, so it was a little out of the correct period but somehow its haunting quality complemented the scene perfectly.

It made me think a bit about Cream, who as the first supergroup, bestrode the earth in the mid to late sixties like the most evolved dinosaur of their time and reconsider their place in the scheme of things.  Whilst their music was undoubtedly rooted in the Blues, there was a strange experimental side to them.  As a band very much of their time, they took Indian, African and oriental influences and fused them with the western attributes of harmonic progression and odd melodies.

‘We’re Going Wrong’ is a prime example of this side of their nature – a rather disconcerting keening vocal from Jack Bruce swoops over an atmospheric backing from Messrs Baker and Clapton.  In fact, you might almost say that Cream are the band most representative of the second half of the sixties, more so that the Beatles who tended to have a more scatter gun approach to musical styles.  A fusion of the past (Blues) and the future (Prog) was at the core of Baker’s primal, mystical percussion, Clapton’s wah-wah drenched rhythm playing and Bruce’s melodic bass and experimental writing.

Somehow, when I listen to them now, and especially if it is the 1968  ‘Wheels of Fire’ album, the music just screams ‘1960s!’ and you cannot help but be transported to that era.  As period pieces go, they were the Cream.


Jayne said...

Hello! Thank you so much for telling me about the mobile optimisation thingy. I am hanging my head in shame as I work on websites all day and yet don't really apply the same thought to my blog (poor blog!)

Dare I confess on a music blog, but I don't know a lot about Cream (apart from the riff to Sunshine of Your Love). Their musicianship (is that even a word?!) is amazing, though.

music obsessive said...

Hi Jayne - I shall look forward to future posts in phone-friendly format! You can confess all you want - we don't care over here on MO. I'm doing it all the time! And musicianship is most definitely a word and a word most suited to Cream - those were the days...