IN HONOR OF JACK BRUCE: CREAM BASSIST, SONGWRITER
& FELIX PAPPALARDI, PRODUCER
Jack Bruce, who was a bass player, vocalist, and songwriter for Cream, passed away Oct. 25. He was best known for the 60’s blues-rock British band, Cream with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. But he was trained as a cellist and was considered to be one of rock’s best bassists.
He started out in the early 60’s as part of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated (see my article on Long John Baldry) which included at the time as well: later Cream drummer, Ginger Baker, organist Graham Bond, and guitarist, John McLaughlin. They recorded two Graham Bond Organization records in 1963. Bruce then joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, where he met Eric Clapton and he had also played briefly in ‘66 with Manfred Mann and their hit, “Pretty Flamingo”.
But it was when Clapton, Bruce and Baker formed Cream, that they were most commercially successful. Bruce not only provided the bass but also shared vocals with Clapton and co-wrote with lyricist, Pete Brown, many of their big hits like “Sunshine of Your Love”, White Room” and his “Toad”. Cream’s classic album is 1967’s Disraeli Gears.
Felix Pappalardi, another influential bass player, produced Disraeli Gears. Pappalardi, as well as producing, also co-wrote with Clapton their song, “ Strange Brew”. Pappalardi also was behind their 2Lp set, Wheels on Fire, the next year, and the band considered him to be almost the fourth member, he had such an influence on them. Pappalardi had also produced the 1st Youngbloods album with the 60’s anthem, “ Get Together” and would later found the heavy-rock band Mountain and write their hit, “ Mississippi Queen”.
Cream became known for their live shows with their long improvisational solos ( some said they went on too long), which are captured on their Live Cream albums. Their final record was Goodbye which included Clapton’s and George Harrison’s great song, “Badge”. But by that time, they disbanded, and Clapton, Baker, and Traffic’s Stevie Winwood, under pressure from their management, formed the “supergroup”, Blind Faith, which again soon imploded after only one album. Bruce released his first solo album, Songs from a Tailor in ’69.
After, Bruce would go in a more jazzy direction, (which he said, he always considered himself more a jazz player). So he reconnected with guitarist, John McLaughlin, from the old Blues Incorporated, and drummer, Tony Williams in the Tony Williams Lifetime band in the early 70’s.
In 1972, Bruce joined Felix Pappalardi’s former Mountain band members, Leslie West and Corky Laing to form West Bruce and Lang. Bruce would go on to play on several people’s albums, Lou Reed’s Berlin, the Stones’ Mick Taylor and their piano player, Ian Stewart, from his Alexis Korner’ days, and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra with drummer, Billy Cobham in the 70’s and 80’s.
By the 80’s, Bruce’s drug habits had made him bankrupt, but he did release two albums with guitarist, Robin Trower. And for the next several years he would make several guest appearances with buddies like Rory Gallager and Gary Moore and even a couple reunion shows with Clapton.
Felix Pappaladi was a bassist, producer, and very influential for many musicians. He also played on or was the arranger for several artists’ albums besides Cream, Mountain and Youngbloods: Tom Paxton, Fred Neil, Richie Havens, and the Canadians, Buffy Saint-Marie, Ian & Sylvia, and Kensington Market and many others. He was shot by his long-time wife, who co-wrote many of their songs, after an argument and died, in 1983.
Bruce was part of Ringo Starr’s touring All-Star bands with Peter Frampton from the late 90’-2000. But in 2003, even though he had finally kicked his drug habit, he got liver cancer and had a transplant. He passed away on Oct. 25, 2014 of liver disease at the age of ’71. Bruce, the Scottish bassist, was in some great rock, blues, and jazz groups and was considered one of rock’s best bassists and co-wrote some classic Cream songs.
See Cream & Jack Bruce perform, “Sunshine of Your Love”, from Disraeli Gears: