The feelings must have been bittersweet when Cream arrived on stage in America in October 1968. At the beginning of their farewell tour, the group were in the hottest commercial form of their short lifespan — just as the curtain began to come down on the rock trio.
The Wheels of Fire album had recently completed no fewer than four weeks at No. 1 in America, and been a top ten success twice over in the UK, where the double LP version reached No. 3 and the single No. 7. But during September, Messrs Baker, Bruce and Clapton had confirmed that they would be calling time on Cream after a closing American tour, and their famed Royal Albert Hall farewell at the end of November.
That US tour, only their second, started on 4 October in Oakland, California, moving the next night to New Mexico and then to two nights at the Civic Centre in Chicago. The itinerary wound its way through the States, with a Fillmore East show on the 31st, before a concluding night on 4 November at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence.
The tour was a showcase for some of the best-known songs in the Cream catalogue, including ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love,’ as well as some of their staple blues covers, such as ‘Cross Road Blues’ and ‘Spoonful.’ For those who didn’t make it, three songs from the Los Angeles Forum gig — ‘I’m So Glad,’ ‘Politician’ and ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’ — became the opening tracks on the Goodbye album that marked Cream’s departure early in 1969.
In 2012, Clapton opened up to Uncut magazine about his feelings during that last American tour. “I was calling home to Robert Stigwood, our manager, and saying, ‘Get me out of here – these guys are crazy. I don’t know what’s going on and I’ve had enough.’ He’d always say to give it one more week. That was bearable as long as there was no visible alternative. But when something came along that showed another way, that was it for me.”