New Rockumentary on troubled life of legendary drummer Ginger Baker reviewed by GSTV’s in-house Brit
By The Mad Dog
If you want to feel good about your life, feel secure in yourself, feel like you are, indeed, making a positive difference everyday, take the time to sit down and watch “Beware of Mister Baker,” the biopic about the flame-haired, genius madman, tub-thumper, Ginger Baker. Rockumenting his humble beginnings in proggy jazz bands, he is catapulted to stardom in super group, Cream, with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton. The former comes out of this seeming calm and forgiving whereas Baker clearly still hates him. Clapton says he’ll always have time for Ginger Baker but that he couldn’t be around him for long and Baker names Clapton as his best friend in the world and always will be. Go figure…..
This movie is a huge slab of rock schadenfreude littered with bilious outbursts from its subject, who appears scariest during the first and last minute of the movie. In the opening scene, Baker literally bloodies director Jay Bulger‘s nose with his walking stick in an unprovoked attack. Right at the end, Baker finally takes off the sunglasses he has worn throughout to reveal his swollen eyes which seem to portray to the outside world all the malevolence and spitefulness he has clearly harbored internally all his life. In between, he’s just downright miserable, sullen, peppery, querulous, brutishly arrogant and very, very committed to his own anger. I’m not sure quite why this movie is such compelling viewing but you can’t put it down and walkaway, even though there is really nothing likable about Baker.
Clapton describes him as a “lovable rogue” and a “fully-formed musician” and whilst the latter cannot be disputed, Baker has left a trail of personal devastation, heartbreak, debts and broken relationships with partners, wives and kids that looks like seven miles of bad road. Nursing a 19 year heroin addiction, he now sits rather forlornly in an arm chair, chain-smoking and taking blasts from a morphine inhaler. That said, the movie ends with a very recent clip of Ginger Baker playing live in Austria. He really is probably the best drummer of all time – and not, as we are reminded several times during the movie, a rock drummer, but a jazz drummer who has that special natural talent – time.
Incongruously, the movie also features Baker pursuing his other life love aside from the kit – polo player and polo club boss. He started polo clubs in every country he’s lived in….England, the US, Italy, South Africa, Nigeria….and he got kicked out of every one of those countries. Baker’s life story would keep a psychiatrists convention busy for weeks. He is an amazing drummer and there is plenty of top quality footage to attest to that, interspersed rather cleverly with charcoal-sketched, cartoon-like depictions of the man and his deeds. Difficult to end up liking a man who thinks John Bonham wasn’t much of a drummer and who once left one of his wives for his 17 year old daughter’s boyfriends sister. But he’s a perfect example of that fine line between madness and genius – and a churlish bastard to boot.
Lest I should be labelled a movie critic (based on this blog and the last one), hurry and get the new, self-titled offering from The Winery Dogs. This newly formed three piece consists of drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob, Avenged Sevenfold and most recently, Flying Colors with Steve Morse), Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr Big) and Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, Talas, Niacin) and probably the best new rock album of 2013. With already a million Facebook followers and over 650,000 YouTube hits, this album defies superlatives. I’ve always liked Kotzen who can shred with the best of them but, like early Schenker, its not gratuitous and he shreds with tuneful purpose. Sheehan and Portnoy gel like peaches and cream and there are monster hooks and choruses. I’m betting (or hoping) these guys survive the traditionally ego-laden, lead weight of the super-group moniker. But catch them on the road soon…..just in case they don’t.
Know the difference between a rock guitarist and a jazz guitarist ? The former plays 3 chords in front of 3,000 people and the latter plays 3,000 chords in front of 3 people. Know the difference between a drummer and a drum machine ? With a drum machine, you only have to punch the beat in one. I’m just waffling here whilst my iPod gently weeps…..here’s a smorgasbord for you to munch on…..
The Sirens – Talk Dirty To Me….Detroit’s skankiest girl band out-Motley the Crüe on this cover (good album of porn-dirty 70s/80s glam rock do-overs actually).
Dave Mason and Cass Elliott – Here We Go Again…from one of the best and unsung albums of the early 70s featuring songwriter extraordinaire Mason, coupled ingeniously with Cass Elliott – for fans of CSN, Manassas, Moby Grape.
James McMurtry – Childish Things….wow, Texas’ own John Hiatt – midway between Dylan and acoustic Tull (without the jiggs and reels).
Silvertide – Mary Jayne….Philly-based rockers are making a comeback in 2013 – look forward to hearing more of what made “Show and Tell” such a stonking album.
Jettblack – Raining Rock…..imagine being taken out back by a bunch of tatoo’d vagabonds, robbed, pissed on and left for dead..one to listen to with your mates and a keg of fizzy wife-beater.
Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers – Cool Guitars…..easily the best blues guitarist you can still see in your local bar with 50 other people….and mores the pity. Jimmy has it all….
Rock hard, roll softly…
The Mad Dog.