Ginger Baker will be forever remembered as one of the most twistedly talented percussionists of all time. A serial agitator and a virtuoso player. Put in simple terms, he was a drumming genius with a short fuse.
So we’ve chosen to remember Mr Baker the only way one should, as a fire breathing dragon on the drums. Listen to those drums on the isolated drum track of Cream’s landmark song ‘White Room’.
The track, ‘White Room’, is taken from rock legends Cream and composed by bassist, and one of the sixties preeminent artists, Jack Bruce with lyrics provided by poet Pete Brown. A heady combination of rhythm from Baker and guitar from Eric Clapton made the group an irresistible proposition and they all fused together on this song.
‘White Room’ was recorded for the sharply hedonistic studio half of the 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. While the other would showcase the band’s supreme live talents, something nobody could argue with, it was Baker’s flames on the kit that were particularly hot in front of a crowd.
Baker still found a way to deliver powerful performance when in 1967 the band sat down at the start of the sessions to create the then-unnamed ‘White Room’ inside the studio. The London studio time, which acted as a conductor for the many talents in the band, was fraught with musical tension and thus took longer than most.
The song was finished in 1968 at Atlantic Studios in New York City. It shocked through the speakers of all who heard it so encompassing was the sound.
Cream, more so than most, really represented an elevated form of rock and roll. These weren’t the mop-topped British invasion types, they were serious, methodical, and mercurial musicians. The band were built out of an incredible array of talent that all seemed determined to push one another and excel.
Across the entire decade, one could argue, the studio was likely one of the most musically intimidating places to be. So when the band sat down to record ‘White Room’ Ginger was faced with Jack Bruce on bass and vocals and the legendary Eric Clapton on guitar. He would have to rely on his extensive training and his unstoppable spirit to match the band.
Ginger Baker is to drums as Eric Clapton is to guitars, and if you ever doubted Baker’s ability to step up to the challenge in this story then you’d be dead wrong.
Baker delivers an unstoppable performance with the sticks. Not only did he use his impeccable timing and frenetic speed to motor the song along, but he also used his jazz beginnings to deliver a notable moment in percussion’s modern rock history as he added his off-beat timing to the intro of the track.
While Clapton was using his wah-wah pedal to create a “talking-effect”, Baker added the distinctive 5 4 or quintuple metre opening to what had been a 4 4 or common time composition. It’s a revolutionary moment in rock.
It added further gravitas to the composition of the song and the Impressionist-like detail of the band’s swirling sound. More importantly, it continued the legend of a drummer from south-east London. While personal issues would swirl around his life, even becoming the subject of a captivating documentary Beware of Mr Baker, he is undoubtedly a figurehead of the rock scene and an icon of the rock and roll lifestyle.
Below get a distilled taste of the late, great Ginger Baker and his isolated drums for Cream’s ‘White Room’.