“I’ve got more regrets than you’d ever care to believe. Hundred’s of them”
– Ginger Baker in a Q &A regarding this film.
Just caught a screening of Jay Bulger’s new documentary Beware of Mr Baker which documents the current and past situations of one of rock’s most famous skinsmen. Baker, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, resisted the urge to sell out and never comes across as remotely contrite for anything he’s ever done. Moreover he’ll likely punch you for suggesting that he ever should be.
After the dissolution of his overrated, but nonetheless pivotal band Cream, Baker bugged out to Lagos where he joined the crowd surrounding Fela Kuti and Africa 70 and according to Femi Kuti (Fela’s son), lived, played and fucked (women) with his father. He also imported music equipment and set up a studio where he recorded the cream of African talent for several years, before reportedly fleeing Nigeria in a hail of bullets.
Certainly, escaping one country to re-establish his life in another is a recurring theme of the film, and the reason that at least one of his four wives divorced him. Various well known musicians speak up to offer their guarded opinions of Ginger, including the obvious choices of Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, as well as Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Stewart Copeland, Marky Ramone, Bill Laswell and John Lydon.
Sadly Baker’s contribution to P.i.L’s Album/Cassette/Compact Disc is glossed over very fleetingly and his time in Hawkwind does not appear at all, but the director gets good mileage out of his time in Africa and L.A and spends a considerable amount of time detailing his polo obsession, which not only caused his alienation from Fela Kuti (due to the ruling African elite all playing polo with him), but also seemingly bankrupted him more than once.
His children appear to point out that he probably should have never had any and his current 29 year old African wife pointedly says nothing in response to the interviewer asking whether he’s a good step dad. Various other people also step to the camera to highlight that he seemed ‘mad’ or ‘…like the devil…’ in his dealings with them. Like Keith Richards, Baker appears to have the constitution of an ox and the film shows him still kicking along after a long history of heroin abuse, popping pills and smacking the director in the eye with a cane for announcing he will interview people from his past. All in all, he comes across as the gloriously cantankerous geezer one would imagine him to be. Aware of his strengths and not prepared to put up with other’s weaknesses, while nonetheless being acutely cognisant of his own.
I really admire him. The amount of honest individuals in music who haven’t sold out their ideals for a pension can be counted on one hand and while the director appears to be using Ginger to make a name for himself, we should be grateful that someone has finally turned their lens to one of music’s less understood and less represented virtuosos.
Ginger Baker and Africa 70
Politician taken from Cream’s 1968 London farewell concert.
Art Blakey Versus Ginger Baker Drum Battle [Quality is shite, but footage is gold].
Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
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