Despite a long and varied career, Jack Bruce is still best known for those years he spent alongside Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in Cream. “What we did with Cream was to take our jazz roots and apply it to a kinda rock, and came up with a new music,” Bruce told BP back in 2004. “The three of us developed a style, but the real chemistry was between Ginger and myself. So, really, it was a jazz band, we just never told Eric that he was Ornette Coleman!”
After Cream split in 1968, Bruce released a string of solo albums, and toured in Ringo Starr’s band, before joining forces with Ginger Baker and guitarist Gary Moore to form the power trio BBM (Bruce, Baker and Moore). Baker and Bruce had a famously volatile relationship. “I got a great insight into the chemistry between Jack and Ginger,” Moore told Louder in 2017. “I think Jack really looks up to Ginger, and Ginger knows it, so he’ll never tell him he’s any good. They’re like two brothers, just winding each other up.”
In 1998, Bruce released an instructional video for bass players. “I don’t think of myself as a technical player, so I don’t think I’ve got anything like that to pass on, but I was playing with two of my favourite people: Gary and Gary. Gary Husband is a wonderful drummer and I love Gary Moore's guitar playing, always have. In fact, I think one of the best bands I've been fortunate to be in was BBM. ”
Sadly, BBM was quite short-lived for a few reasons. “We made the album, which was very successful, sold a lot, had a hit single and everything – but it's a similar story to Cream. That band kinda soured, if you like, when there was this terrible article in Rolling Stone where they were deliberately trying to be controversial. They said some terrible things about Eric and about me and Ginger and it hurt.
“And certainly the same thing happened with BBM, 'cos Gary Moore was just being compared with Eric, with phrases like 'He's no Eric Clapton’ – which is fairly obvious, really. He's himself, and for my money he's a more exciting player. I mean, Eric’s a great player, but I think Gary's got this passion about his playing. I love playing with him because he just turns you on, and Ginger was really playing great in that band, some of the few live gigs we did were really fantastic.”
While Cream’s debut album, Fresh Cream, had its roots in the blues, Bruce was never comfortable about being described as a blues bass player. "I would never consider myself a blues musician. We took the language of the blues and tried to use it in our own circumstances, but none of us were born in the Mississippi Delta. We took the language and made it our own, but there were still some good, memorable songs in there. I always wanted to write the ultimate pop song and I think if Cream is remembered in the future it'll be for those songs.”
Memorable is certainly an appropriate phrase for the 1967 hit Sunshine Of Your Love. “When I wrote the riff we didn't know what to do with it. Eric came up with the chords at the end, I remember, and it was in the studio that he came up with that first little turnaround, which made it into a song really. It certainly worked and is probably the most well-known track: it's certainly the one that's been played the most and the most covered one too.”
At that time, British bands were taking American blues and turning it into a new genre. As a result, royalty payments actually helped some of the original blues men who had never made much money out of their music. “That's true. At the beginning of Cream we didn't have much original material, so we covered a lot of blues, most of them not very well known at the time. There were people like Skip James who were very neglected and because we did a couple of his things he got some attention which was nice. We were just in love with the blues.”