When discussing psychedelic rock bands, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd are the three most eminent names that crop up. Whilst Floyd started out as a psychedelic band in the Syd Barrett era before heading down a more progressive route, Cream and Jimi Hendrix’s position as pioneers of the form cannot be doubted.
It might come as a surprise to fans of all three outfits to hear that they are actually very closely connected, in that Cream and Hendrix had a defining impact on the Pink Floyd members, inspiring them to form the band, and by proxy, change the musical landscape in the process.
The information came by way of former bassist and frontman of Cream, the eminent Jack Bruce. The forerunner of the likes of Geddy Lee, Flea, and Geezer Butler, Bruce was one of rock’s first bass heroes. After Cream imploded in 1968, he enjoyed a prolific career, exploring the avant-garde as well as hard rock, playing with a host of heroes including Rory Gallagher and Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.
The amount of icons that have cited him as an inspiration is dizzying. Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler considers him as his “biggest influence and favourite bass player”.
Rush’s resident bass virtuoso, Geddy Lee, praised Bruce on the band’s website in 2015, saying: “(He was) one of the greatest rock bassists to ever live and a true and profound inspiration to countless musicians. He was one of my first bass heroes and was a major influence on my playing and my music.”
Demonstrating the great impact he had on Pink Floyd, after Bruce passed away in 2014, the former conceptual mastermind and bassist of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, lamented that he was “probably the most musically gifted bass player who’s ever been”.
Sitting down with Classic Rock in 2008, Bruce remembered his first encounters with a host of ’60s legends such as Cream bandmates Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton as well as the likes of George Harrison and Graham Bond. Undoubtedly though, the most fascinating was his anecdote about first meeting Jimi Hendrix, and how it led to the formation of Pink Floyd.
Baker recalled: “I first met Hendrix when we [Cream] did a gig at the Regents Polytechnic. Coincidentally, the guys that became Pink Floyd were in the audience, and apparently seeing that event made them become Pink Floyd. When I saw them recently, they told me that. I knew they were there, but I didn’t know that we were responsible for them getting together.”
Digressing slightly, he pondered the consequences of Pink Floyd forming: “Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I leave that for you to decide. I always thought that Pink Floyd were a band for people who don’t like music or rock’n’roll. So anyway, back to Hendrix.”
Nevertheless, he continued: “We were playing Regents Polytechnic. I was just having a pre-gig pint in a pub across the road and in comes this guy who turns out to be Jimi Hendrix. Now, we had already heard about Jimi on the grapevine. Jimi came up to me and said: ‘Hi. I would like to sit in with the band.’ I said it was fine with me but he’d obviously have to check it out with Eric and Ginger.”
Concluding this remarkable story, Bruce said: “So we went across to the gig, and Eric immediately said yes and Ginger said: ‘Oh, dunno about that’ [laughs]. So he came on and plugged into my bass amp, and as far as I can remember he just blew us all away. Hendrix had a positive effect on everybody, especially guitar players. He came to the sessions when we [Cream] did White Room in New York and was very encouraging about the song. He came up to me and said: ‘Wow, I wish I could write something like that.’ I said: ‘Jimi, what you’ve got to realise is that I probably nicked it off you.'”