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Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00

Beware Of Mr. Baker (15)

Film
Directed by Jay Bugler
by Jeff Sawtell

Ginger Baker, up there in the pantheon of percussionists, is a tempestuous talent and genuine hell raiser who has always resisted sucking up to the Establishment, or rock royalty for that matter.

His attitude is best summed up in his description of Sir Mick Jagger as a "stupid little c***."

As is the wont of many moody musicians, he's never known for his social airs and graces - the drums provided an ideal way to pound out his passions as well as smashing up relationships.

It's a remarkable journey that began in London with The Graham Bond Organisation and then on to Cream, Blind Faith, Ginger Baker's Airforce and his collaboration with Fela Kuti in the 1970s.

Often wrongly compared to the late Keith Moon, the Who's frenzied drummer who hadn't the wit or the subtlety that Baker displayed, his roots were in British jazz and those origins were a continuing influence throughout his rock career.

Most biopics are hagiographies but that's not the case with this Jay Bugler film, which includes some excellent animated sequences by David Bell and Joe Scarpulla.

Bugler lets the camera roll and Baker speak, alongside contributions from fellow musos like Carlos Santana, Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich and Eric Clapton. The latter, along with Jack Bruce and Baker, constituted the legendary band Cream.

Clapton simply describes Baker as "seriously anti-social," which is a bit rich coming from the guy who thought it "social" in 1976 to support Enoch Powell and his "keep Britain white" comment which became the slogan of the National Front.

Though often associated with hard rock, Baker was never a purveyor of overt macho-metal for dead-heads because he was an improviser who broke free in his drum solos, most memorably on the album Fresh Cream.

Setting up studios in Nigeria, he worked in the US in the '80s and '90s and later South Africa where he was nearly ruined financially. Latterly, he's resumed his collaboration with Jack Bruce.

Despite omissions, Bugler perceptively charts the career of a remarkable musician whose cantankerousness over the years doesn't seem to have mellowed. "Time, natural time," is how this travelling troubadour and Awkward Squad hero sums up the secret of his success.

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