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50 Years Ago: Cream Said Farewell At The Royal Albert Hall

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London’s Royal Albert Hall, despite hosting concerts by the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan and others over the previous five years, was in 1968 seen by most people as the UK’s home of classical music. And while there had been rock concerts there before, there was never a rock concert as intense and as significant as the one on 26 November 1968 when Cream officially said farewell as a band.

In their two years of existence, their success had been phenomenal; they conquered America, fell out with one another and redefined what a rock trio with blues sensibilities could achieve. There is not a band that followed Cream with a similar line-up that was not influenced by them. Cream became the template for heavy metal and yet their respect for the blues and Jack Bruce’s huge musical talent for composition always gave them an edge over their rivals.

Prior to playing two nights at the Royal Albert Hall, they had completed a gruelling 19-city tour of America, before the two back-to-back nights on 25 and 26 November. The opening acts for their farewell show were Yes, still 8 months away from releasing their brilliant debut record and using Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Something Coming’ from West Side Story as the highlight of their set, and Taste, Rory Gallagher’s band, who like Cream were a three-piece and one that was also steeped in the blues.

Cream’s set included classic blues covers including, ‘I’m So Glad’ (Skip James), ‘Sitting on Top of the World’ (Mississippi Sheiks), ‘Cross Roads’ (Robert Johnson), ‘Steppin’ Out’ (Memphis Slim) and ‘Spoonful’ (Howlin’ Wolf) along with the band’s compositions, ‘White Room’, ‘Politician’, ‘Toad’, with Ginger’s long drum solo and of course, ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, the song that broke Cream in America.

Cream’s farewell concerts were filmed by Tony Palmer, and the following year his insightful documentary was broadcast on the BBC to great critical acclaim. It was originally planned to release the concerts a double album, but eventually, the idea was scrapped and instead Goodbye was issued in February 1969 with some live songs and three songs recorded at IBC Studios in London in October 1968; the live cuts were taken from a show at the LA Forum in October 1968.

While Cream’s Farewell shows were perhaps inevitably not their best, there is no denying the importance, both in the folklore of the band and in rock music in general. How could a band last for a little over two years, be so successful and then break up? In fact, what they were doing was setting a template of another kind. The whole business of supergroups was to prove to be the thing in the Seventies, starting with Blind Faith that Eric and Ginger formed with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech in early 1969.

The Fresh Cream: Deluxe Edition expands the album to include both the mono and stereo mixes, plus alternate takes, early recordings and live performances. Available in both 3CD+Blu-ray and 6LP editions, it offers the fullest picture yet of a stone-cold classic and can be bought here.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Ric

    November 26, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Spoonful is by Willie Dixon.
    Please correct this mistake.
    Ric

  2. uDiscover

    November 27, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Ric, it’s not a mistake, it’s Wolf that made the song famous and first recorded it, Big Willie we know is the one that wrote it. Dixon did not record it until 1970, Cream were covering Wolf’s version.

  3. Sílvio B Passos

    November 28, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Thanks for the opportunity to see the images and the incredible sound of CREAM’s Farewell. At that time, in Brazil, I barely knew their existence and hardly ever heard of their huge talent, due to the lack of Internet … kkkk. Bur thanks to some brave and “investigative” journalist’s reviews and the radio I could imagine their performances and appreciate that unique, heavy and fresh sound. So, yes “I”discovered Cream by chance in 1968 and today it’s very nice to have them back again!

  4. Andrea

    November 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    What a wonderful video and “take” on Cream’s existence. What a memory, what a band, what an era…..what music! This should be enjoyed by all!

  5. Elliot

    December 4, 2014 at 4:32 am

    I was there. It was my first big concert.

    • Steven Leventhal

      November 26, 2015 at 10:54 pm

      It was my first concert@ MSG

  6. Hans jergelius

    March 24, 2015 at 3:29 am

    I have seen them live in Sweden in the 60:s and it brings back great memories of a great group. I have the CD sample from Albert Hall concert reunion and I just love it!!!

  7. Sean

    November 27, 2015 at 1:22 am

    Both concerts of the RAH Farewell were recorded on video, I was talking to Tony Palmer in Belfast years ago , he says he knows where the tape is , it would be great to see that

  8. karlejnar

    November 27, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Hi Sean. Is that not the recording, that’s linked in the article? It’s on Tony Palmers YouTube channel.

  9. MarkJ

    November 27, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    “Cream’s farewell concerts were filmed by Tony Palmer, and the following year his insightful documentary was broadcast on the BBC to great critical acclaim.”

    “Insightful documentary”? Who are we kidding? The overwhelming consensus is that Palmer’s editing job was an abortion rehashing many of the worst cinematic habits of the late 60’s. The hippy-dippy rapid “zoom-in’s/out’s”, “light show”, and BBC-style narration (particularly during “Spoonful”) are infamous examples. Eric Clapton was reportedly so incensed after seeing the finished film that he actually went looking for Palmer.

    Bottom line: If Tony Palmer has any residual respect for Cream fans, he’ll turn over all the original RAH footage (of BOTH shows) to a competent professional so it can be properly reedited, resequenced, and fully restored to HD and state-of-the-art audio formats.

    Fat chance of that happening, eh?

    • John Chapman

      December 5, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      That is absolutely right – the TV show was a disaster. I was so gutted not to go, having seen them already four times, I hated Palmer, but maybe without him there would have been no video at all.

  10. Adrian e

    November 27, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    I agree the filming was abysmal but it was in that era, and yes we should be thankful, just wish I was there , I was in 2005 , but it was too late.

  11. Michael Gatenby

    April 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Wonderful to see this. Jack Bruce was my greatest influence. I was at the LA Forum in October of ’68 and saw them play. Life changing experience. RIP Jack!

    • mike gerow

      November 27, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      Well once again Jack Bruce just went way over the top and sounded like a screaming banshee,singing way out of tune. Wait a minute that wasn’t even singing. Just totally destroys every song he tries to sing. What is wrong with you people? No wonder Ginger Baker could not stand Bruce and the band broke up after just two years. Not even one song sounds like the record. Obstinate fucking scotsman. Terrible bass player, terrible singer. Sounds pretty good on record but that is where it ends!!!!!!!

      • Cst

        November 27, 2018 at 3:32 am

        Why should it sound like the record? Bruce was a jazz man. Different rent every time.

    • mike gerow

      November 27, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      Yah I bet your life changing experience taught you to never try to have anything to do with music because you are obviously 100% tone deaf !!!!

  12. Len kelly

    November 26, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    I was there front row under jack best night ever, best band ever,

  13. MNJ

    November 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    The “insightful documentary” was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. The “Crossroads” segment focuses off Clapton during his solos. Awful, awful

  14. Larry Dyer

    November 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Creams farewell shows at the Albert Hall weren’t played over the course of 2 nights. They played two shows on the 26th…one in the afternoon and one later that evening.

  15. Ron

    November 26, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I was a photographer thereon stage that evening. I went on to see many concerts but none meant so much to me as that night. I ended up buying a bass and have played ever since … Thank you for the music Jack rip

  16. Bob A Cohn

    November 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    I saw this FAREWELL SHOW at Madison Square Garden, sat in the second row w Jerry Wexler and his daughter and son.I hated the stage that was in the round and spun……but it was one hell of a show

  17. Tim Hughes

    November 27, 2018 at 9:05 am

    To enter a slightly discordant note in view of the purpose of the thread, but, does any footage of either Taste or Yes still exist from the gigs?

  18. Ken Howe

    December 5, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    This is not the first time I have posted this, but does anyone realize that the true fact concerning Cream’s “Farewell Concert” at Royal Albert Hall is that AT THE TIME OF THE CONCERT, no one knew, including the band, that this was to be their last couple of shows. The concerts were not promoted that way as their farewell concerts. That was only brought up later , as seen in that poster, in January 1969, to promote the BBC TV broadcast of the shows (taped and slapped together in an awful documentary style). Cream did decide to call it quits AFTER the shows and their management put out a press release to that affect. At the time of the shows, only Eric Clapton knew that these were to be the last shows but he kept that to himself. Clapton had made that decision when he and George Harrison went to visit THE BAND in upstate New York (Woodstock) a couple of weeks before the shows. After being totally impressed with what The Band were doing that’s when he finally made a decision to leave Cream. Yes, Clapton had been unhappy for some time with the endless jams with the old volume knob on 11 and with Bruce and Baker’s contentious relationship, but Clapton’s experience seeing The Band cemented his decision to finally leave. But he knew the Royal Albert Hall shows were coming up so he kept his feelings to himself. After the shows, Cream were no more. This whole Farewell Concert business was only created after the fact for promotional purposes. The phrase hung on all these years to be used to sell the VHS tapes and on into the DVD releases, still using that same poster that was created AFTER the shows with the now all too familiar and inaccurate banner of “Cream’s Farewell Concert”. Didn’t happen that way.

  19. Jim Davis

    January 27, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    First time that I saw the video was 1984 on PBS in Denver. Already being a huge Cream fan, I was completely blown away by the live musicianship. Despite its shortcomings, it’s still one of my favorite concert films!

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