In this edition: Give me some of what Cream was having, White Room not just drug-babbling, what advertisers must think of us, Men are from Mars (that would be cool).
In the white room with black curtains near the station.
Black-roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings.
Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes.
Dawn-light smiles on you leaving, my contentment.
I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines;
Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves.
You said no strings could secure you at the station.
Platform ticket, restless diesels, goodbye windows.
I walked into such a sad time at the station.
As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning.
I’ll wait in the queue when the trains come back;
Lie with you where the shadows run from themselves.
At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd.
Consolation for the old wound now forgotten.
Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes.
She’s just dressing, goodbye windows, tired starlings.
I’ll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd;
Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves.
— Written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, recorded 1968 by Cream
Cream was (as boomers among you will know) an early incarnation of the “Super Group,” wherein the musical natural selection process promotes top players closer and closer until they join forces in a new endeavor. Cream, a power trio, consisted of drummer Ginger Baker, bassist Jack Bruce, and guitarist Eric Clapton. Clapton had the most visibility at the time having played in The Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and he was known as one of the top British blues players. Ginger Baker was part of an early sixties R&B/jazz group called the Graham Bond Organisation, which at one point featured Jack Bruce on bass guitar, harmonica, and piano. (Mahavishnu John McLaughlin played guitar in the Bond Organisation for a while.) Bruce also played with Clapton in one iteration of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers group.
Clapton and Baker discussed joining together to work in a band. Clapton felt constrained by his work in Mayall’s band and Baker was troubled by internal strife and the bandleader’s addictions in the Graham Bond Organisation. Apparently Clapton wanted Bruce as the bassist and this shocked Baker, who had nothing but trouble with Bruce in Graham Bond and was tasked with firing him from that band. The story is that Bruce continued to show up for gigs until Baker threatened him at knife point. The conflict between Baker and Bruce continued in the Cream and led to the band’s demise after just 4 albums and 3 years.
Although the band was envisioned as a collaborative with each player having equal status, the conflict between Bruce and Baker was overpowering the concept and the players weren’t listening to each other. Bruce was trying to drown out Baker’s double-bass drumming with stacks of Marshall amps and it was reported that at one point, Clapton quit playing at a concert and his bandmates never noticed. Baker stated in a 2006 interview with Music Mart magazine, “It just got to the point where Eric said to me: ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and I said so have I. I couldn’t stand it. The last year with Cream was just agony. It damaged my hearing permanently, and today I’ve still got a hearing problem because of the sheer volume throughout the last year of Cream. But it didn’t start off like that. In 1966, it was great. It was really a wonderful experience musically, and it just went into the realms of stupidity.”
Immediately after Cream, Baker and Clapton went on to the group Blind Faith. Rick Grech played the bass in that band, with keyboardist and vocalist Steve Winwood rounding out the group’s personnel. Blind Faith lasted only one album, and Grech and Winwood stayed with Baker to form Ginger Baker’s Air Force, which also included Denny Laine (ex-Moody Blues) on guitar, Chris Wood (ex-Traffic) on sax and flute, and several other musicians; when that group ended, Winwood reformed Traffic with original members Wood and Jim Capaldi, and Grech joined as their bassist. The Air Force album had dropped out of site for 30-plus years but was re-released in 2005. The quality of the remaster may be inferior from postings I have seen but the content, a very textured jazz-fusion, was very interesting.
Poet and later musician Pete Brown collaborated with Bruce on the “White Room” lyrics. The song appeared on Wheels of Fire, the band’s third album. Jack Bruce sang and played bass on the song, Eric Clapton played overdubbed guitars, Ginger Baker played drums and a timpani, and Felix Pappalardi – the group’s producer – contributed by playing violas. The song features extensive use of the wah-wah pedal on Clapton’s guitar and the opening intro of tympani and viola is fascinating to this day.
The lyrics, considered sometimes to be drug-induced ramblings, are actually some pretty serious poetry. Much has been written about the imagery, and this site has an interesting exploration of the lyrics. In essence, we can see that it is boy loses girl, boy sees girl much later at party, time has healed the original wounds. A metaphor for tears like “Silver horses run down moonbeams in your dark eyes” was a little over the head of the 15-year old Lefty but can be appreciated these days with the onset of the serious maturity he now enjoys.
The advertising industry is a good barometer of the culture since it is usually focus-group tested and targeted to the consumers most desired by corporate America. Some of the demographics used for content and placement are Teens 12-17, Adults 18-34, Women 18-34, and Adults 18-49. I’m convinced that the focus of the Women 18-34 targeting is “Men are Stupid.”
The Merriam-Webster definition of a meme is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas that become easily transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, images or even gestures. So the men are stupid idea becomes a meme that appeals at some deeper level to women consumers. Here’s an example, stupid man forgets to pay the credit card and goes out for milk and buys a puppy:
And this one makes my stomach churn. Premature ejaculation, really?
Keep an eye out for the “Men are Stupid” meme in advertising. It’s kind of disturbing. In a way, it turns the Women’s Liberation concepts on their heads. Instead of empowering women by enabling equal treatment, they raise women’s self-images by lowering their perceptions of men. Just saying.
Yet, in print advertising women are subjected to a number of ads that suggest they are not too discriminating in their ability to be influenced by stupid images. Here’s a women’s magazine ad my wife was looking at that I snapped in the waiting room last week:
I’d suggest we keep this guy from getting too close to the salad. Does that make you run out to get the salad dressing, ladies?
I took this shot on the wall at a Banana Republic store:
What were they thinking? “Look girls, you can straddle a wall comfortably with our new brightly colored jeans?” Just looks painful to me.
Meanwhile, retailers like Sears are milking the heck out of their association with the Kardashians, smushing them against each other in various configurations to appeal to someone (just not sure who). And the very fame of the Kardashians themselves makes aged ex-teachers in Russia and Eastern Europe remember the lessons they taught schoolchildren 40 years ago about decadent America and the evils of Capitalism. “See, see,” they exclaim. “We were right!”
So without sounding like a total misogynist, advertisers are simultaneously pitching women the “men are stupid” track while offering up advertising that makes them look a little stupid (of course, as a disclaimer, they AREN’T! Especially YOU, honey, if you read this!!!)
But if you want to see real merchandising, visit a tourist town like I did this week. I couldn’t decide between the tee that said “I don’t get drunk, I get awesome!” and “I pooped today!”
But I get neither drunk nor awesome, and “Pooped” is much more age-appropriate.