Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cream and Blind Faith at the Spectrum, Philadelphia, 1968 & 1969

WXPN Most Memorable Musical Moment #3

(L-R) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, & Eric Clapton

I could not have foreseen it at the time, but looking back on a concert going history now entering it's fifth decade, my first three concerts were absolutely formative in the development of the music obsession that has driven life as we know it from that point forward. Attending a rock concert pre drivers license was no small feat, that I even got to these shows is the first indication that I knew I was onto something even if I couldn't quite explain it.

I've already detailed my first concert (The Beatles at JFK Stadium) in my MMMM#1. My second and third concerts took place at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, they were less than a year apart, and due to the fact that concerts never end at the time predicted, these concert experiences both ended with a very angry driver stuck waiting in the car outside the venue until the last encore had finished.

I shot both concerts with the same starter camera I took to the Beatles concert, no telephoto lens, just a 35mm rangefinder camera. Looking at the enlarged scans of the slides from these shows, I'm amazed that there are any useful images at all. Apparently I was not able to get as close to the stage for pictures at Blind Faith as I did for Cream, but these pictures clearly reflect that even at a young age I knew that these were events that needed to be documented.

Cream - The Spectrum, Philadelphia, 11/01/68

According to the Slowhand Tourography website, the stop in Philadelphia was close to the end of their farewell tour which followed the Wheels of Firealbum, released in June, 1968. After Philadelphia there were three more USA shows followed by the final two night stand at London's Royal Albert Hall which was videotaped by the BBC for a television special and has been released on DVD as Cream - Farewell Concert.

We don't have an exact setlist for Philadelphia, but again according to the Slowhand Tourography website, the sets on this tour consisted of the following songs:
  • White room
  • Sunshine of your love
  • Crossroads
  • Spoonful
  • I'm so glad
  • Sitting on top of the world
  • Politician
  • Deserted cities of the heart
  • Traintime
  • Passing the time
  • Toad

The stage for this show was located at the center of the floor of the Spectrum, it was round and it slowly revolved. This staging technique was soon abandoned in favor of a stage at one end of the arena. Yes revived the circular revolving stage about a decade later for their 1979 tour. The stage arrangement on this tour had Jack Bruce on the left, playing bass and handling lead vocals, Ginger Baker in the middle on drums, and Eric Clapton on the right playing guitar.

As the stage revolved, the above shot was taken from stage left, slightly behind Clapton, looking across the stage. Cream took the seemingly simplistic format of power trio, electric guitar, bass and drums and excelled on any number of levels, not the least of which was Clapton's electric blues excursions. The audiences on this farewell tour were treated to the work of a master guitarist who earned with his playing, every one of the often ridiculous accolades that he accumulated during his tenure in Cream. Here is all 16:43 of "Spoonful" recorded live at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on March 10, 1968. Even though the Wheels of Fireliner notes list the live tracks as "Live at the Fillmore", numerous internet sources agree that only "Toad" was recorded at the Fillmore West, the other three tracks on the live album of Wheels of Firewere recorded at Winterland.

Cream - Spoonful (live at Winterland) from Wheels of Fire

In this shot of the back of the stage which faced half the crowd at any given time, a guitar tech replaces a broken guitar string for Clapton.

Above, Ginger Baker pounds out the drum solo during "Toad" which is basically an endless drum solo, an exercise that I've always felt fell into the "less is more" category. Baker's head is leaning to the right in this shot and he's looking down. Below, Jack Bruce wails on harp during "Traintime".

Opening the show was the band Sweet Stavin' Chain, a local Philly favorite whose excellent combination of blues and rock, "Stormy Monday Blues (Call it Stormy Monday)" may have been overshadowed by their popular novelty rendition of "Teddy Bears Picnic". Led by guitarist Danny Starobin, Sweet Stavin Chain was the house band at Starobin's Germantown club, Hecate's Circle. They made one and only one album which was released on Cotillion (div. Atlantic) in 1970.

Blind Faith - The Spectrum, Philadelphia, 7/16/69

Helping to define the term "supergroup", Blind Faith combined the talents of guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker from Cream with Steve Winwood from Traffic on keyboards and vocals. Rick Grech completed the lineup on bass. Critical assessment at the time was mixed, and Blind Faith was probably doomed from the start by the enormous commercial pressure generated by mountains of money and too short a period of gestation to develop a group repertoire.

The quality of the songs on their one recording holds up even now, but the touring with less than an hour's worth of material, playing for huge audiences that cheered regardless of the quality of performance, not to mention the occasional riot, took their toll. By the end of the tour, Clapton had built a relationship with opening act Delaney & Bonnie to the point that his next job after Blind Faith was the much more anonymous role of guitarist sideman with Delaney & Bonnie and Friendswhich led directly to the formation of Derek & the Dominoeswhich included several players from the Delaney & Bonnie band.

The Philadelphia show was the third U.S. date of the Blind Faith tour, only having previously played two shows in London and an eight show tour of Scandinavia in June of 1969. The London shows were released last year on DVD as Blind Faith - London Hyde Park 1969.Their first U.S. show at Madison Square Garden, NYC four nights earlier included a half hour melee when the crowd rushed the stage and tangled with the police, in the process destroying Winwood's piano and Baker received a police billy club to the head according to an excellent Blind Faith biography written by Bruce Eder for the All Music Guide. The Spectrum crowd was comparatively well-behaved and there were no fisticuffs that I can recall. For Blind Faith, the Spectrum used the same circular revolving stage as they did for Cream.

For the music enthusiast in 1969, the music and the excitement of seeing Blind Faith perform live, totally lived up to the excessive hype. Again, we don't have an exact set list for Philadelphia, but it most likely did not stray far if at all from the lineup of songs that were performed on this tour:
  • Had to cry today
  • Can't find my way home
  • Sleeping in the ground
  • Well all right
  • Presence of the Lord
  • Do what you like
  • Under my thumb
  • Means to an end
  • Crossroads
  • Sunshine of your love (Encore w/ Delaney & Bonnie)
With the possible exception of "Do What You Like", which is really just a vehicle for solos by each member of the group, this was a great set and it was worth all the baggage to see these icons (even then) play together. "Sleeping in the Ground" is a tune that was recorded for but not released on the Blind Faith album. The tour performances of this song are highly regarded for the searing Clapton solos. Here is a version that was included on the double CD Deluxe Edition reissue of the Blind Faith album.

Blind Faith - Sleeping in the Ground (from Blind Faith, Deluxe Edition)

Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie

The Blind Faith U.S. tour had two opening acts. British group Free ("All Right Now") and Taste which featured the blues/rock guitar of Ireland's Rory Gallagher alternated cities to open the show. The Philadelphia show opened with Taste. Playing second at all the shows was Delaney & Bonnie, offering up a decidedly more American sounding mix of soul, rock and blues.


Charlie said...

These are great pictures, especially when considering the limitations of your camera. I always found "Toad" to be over the top, but I loved Clapton's playing. Eric got better with age and I thought his solo albums were really his best stuff. Nice job with the narration!

koeeoaddi said...

Blind Faith, Cream, Sweet Stavin' Chain, Delaney & Bonnie, Hecate's Circle -- I'm either awash in hippie nostalgia, or having one of those flashbacks we were all warned about.

(Hey, I remember liking Blind Faith better than Cream. Is that heretical?)

Joseph said...

I attended the 7/16/69 Blind Faith in Philly.

Thanks for the photo's!

They bring back a lot of memories, Joe.

Stan Denski said...

A friend called me because he had an extra ticket to that Cream show and I thought about it but decided not to go because.... there wa sa new episode of "Wild, Wild, West" on TV that night and I really liked that show. I was 15, but in hindsight I have to admit that was still really unbelievably stupid.

I grew up at Cottman & the Boulevard, but I spent many evenings in Germantown at Hecate's Circle and I would give anything for a live tape of Sweet Stavin Chain which I watched go from a 4 piece blues band to a 12+ piece show band. They were fantastic, and their one album does them no favors unfortunately.

Neil Ayer said...

I was at the Cream and Hendrix concerts at the Spectrum. The revolving stage was awful but the concerts were terrific. Thanks for the photos and information.

WILLIAM T. VOGT, JR. said...

I was there for the Hendrix, Cream and Blind Faith shows too. A nice start to a life of loving live music. My first concert was jimi at the Arena Theatre at 69th Street the year before.
Thanks for your information. I was a little hazy on the set lists and the details, so it was nice to read your account. I have photos from the Hendrix and Blind Faith shows as well.
You can check out some accounts from this era on my blog which is

Miranda said...

Hi William,

I came across your blog through a Google search of Cream US tour dates which was prompted by nostalgia after watching the Farewell Concert at the Royal Albert Hall DVD that a friend loaned me.

I also attended that concert at the Spectrum on Nov. 1, 1968, and I enjoyed seeing the photos you posted. Until reading the info there, I hadn't realized how close to the end of Cream's short run that show was, though I did know it was part of their last US tour.

I grew up in State College, PA. In those days there was a local entrepreneur who went by the name of "Buttonman". He made his living selling buttons, bumper stickers, yo-yos, and other such paraphernalia to the Penn State students and local hippies from a sidewalk pushcart. He also organized a number of trips to Philly for concerts by buying a block of show tickets, chartering a coach for transportation, and selling a package deal.

That was how I wound up going to that concert. I would have been 16 at the time. I remember paying about $20 for the ticket and round trip coach from State College to the Spectrum. Such a deal!! Needless to say, the coach journey was a nonstop party both ways thanks to our having a professional designated driver.

I remember that show quite well considering all the years that have passed. The set list seem pretty accurate. And I remember that revolving stage. As another poster said, it wasn't the greatest idea. At any given time about half the arena couldn't see the band and the sonic conditions were constantly changing.

I went to a couple of other shows at the Spectrum courtesy of Buttonman. One was billed as the "Quaker City Rock Festival" and featured the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. That darn revolving stage was still in use. And another Buttonman trip was to see none other than the Rolling Stones. Try and see them for $20 for the show and transportation nowadays! It would cost more just to park.

Anyway, I just wanted to say "thanks" for sharing your archival material. Those photos are better than some I produced years later with much more advanced equipment.

The last I heard of Buttonman, a friend reported seeing him in Trafalgar Square in London in the early 70s selling buttons, stickers, and electric yo-yos.

Miranda Vand
Seattle, WA

Steve F. said...

thanks for the photos,i was there up close for Cream.My buddy Jay got one of Gingers drumsticks,we were only 14 yrs old,i saw many great shows there. Hendrix in '69 the Allmans w/Duane in'71,Zeppelin in'69,'70,'72 and the Who perform Tommy in its entirety just to name a few.It was a geat time to be a music fan!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi kids. I came across the blog trying to prove to my brother in law that I unfortunately saw the band Journey in the 70's at the Spectrum. My first show at the Spectrum was the Allman Brothers 2nd Annual Eat a Peach Tour. The Spectrum had the great Electric Factory show lineups with great bands like Caravan, Seatrain, Savoy Brown,Tull, Yes, Stones, Zepplin, Who, and all the 70's bests. My favorite show was the 75 Dark Side of the Moon Show.

Anonymous said...

Also on that great bill with Cream and Sweet Stavin' Chain was the U.S. debut of British rocker Terry Reid, supporting his Epic Records release "Bang,'re Terry Reid. The title track being a heavy remake of Sonny and Cher's mid 60's hit.

Anonymous said...

I was at both of those concerts at the Spectrum. Cream was my first concert and Blind Faith was my second. I seem to recall that for Blind Faith, the stage was on the side , center ice as it may. The revolving stage for Cream did suck as the music volume would keep changing everytime it went around, Or was that just me. Afterward, I bought the Terry Ried, Taste and Delaney & Bonnie albums. Should look for a Sweet Stavin Chain album, too. All great additions tp anyones collection.

milo said...

Pity you didn't take pictures of Taste at the Spectrum. I'd much rather see those.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for Taste photo's also! Great photos though

Anonymous said...

Taste photos would be interesting.

Anonymous said...

hi coudnt believe those cream photos at spectrum.went with my mother she loved it.saw them at the electric factory too.i have a great shot of all them onstage their too black and white very close.saw all 3 msg shows unreal a dream come true bruce

Anonymous said...

saw them there too .and also electric

JohnHerald said...

The revolving stage configuration for Blind Faith's Spectrum Concert in Philadelphia was absurd. While the stage revolved slowed, it sounded like a freight train going by. Apparently fearful about the possibility of knocking over the wall of amps, they stopped the stage and then periodically revolved it to another stop position, so that everyone had a chance to see and hear the band. Funny, I don't recall a revolving stage for Cream's appearance there, but as they say, if you do remember the 60s, you really weren't there.

bookman said...

I had front row seats at the Spectrum Cream concert. It was Terry Ried that opened for them.