On May 19th, one of the greatest lyricists in Rock history, Pete Brown, died. As the cowriter with Jack Bruce, Brown’s lyrics psychedelicized some of Cream’s most memorable songs, including “I Feel Free”, “White Room”, “SWBALR”, “As You Said”, and “Sunshine of Your Love” (with Eric Clapton too).
My favorite Bruce/Brown composition is “Rope Ladder to the Moon” from Bruce’s debut solo album Songs for a Tailor (1969).
The track seems to be about a lover’s manipulation and dominance. In the first three verses he/she lures in their “prey” with fun, love, and promise.
You asked me to a party To a house just by the moon You gave me silver loving The end was all too soon
You asked me to the theater In a place quite near the sun You gave me golden sunbeams Your act was all in fun
You asked me to a meeting In a cottage in the snow You gave me central heating I can’t forget the glow
But by the end the lover is in total control.
You asked me to a weekend Down by the stormy sea You took me to a ceremony And the sacrifice was me!
You asked me to a storm cloud Up near the rainbow’s end Then you threw away the ladder And gave me to your friend
You took me to a prison And you said its chief was me Then you locked me deep inside you And thew away the key
“Rope Ladder…” has been covered a few times with the version by Brian Auger and Julie Tippet that is worth a listen.
Anyone that follows this blog has already heard that Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce died today at the age of 71. I had the privilege to see him perform a few songs back in 2008. That performance inspired me to write a song of the week in August of 2008 that I’m re-posting today.
One of the things that I enjoy most about the “song of the week” is keeping my ear open for musical gems that have slipped by my attention. I discovered another one when I attended the Hippiefest at the Mountain Winery in July. Amongst a pleasant evening of light pop nostalgia acts – Badfinger, The Turtles, Jonathan Edwards — was one giant of serious rock, Jack Bruce.
Bruce, now 65, was a child prodigy, multi-instrumentalist, with training in both jazz and classical music. After working his way through the early 60s British blues fraternity (Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, John Mayall, etc.) he landed with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in Cream.
At the Hippiefest, he opened his brief set with a solo, 12-string acoustic guitar version of “As You Said” from Cream’s 1968 album Wheels Of Fire. I must admit, this isn’t a song I ever really “heard” before. But Bruce’s performance was sublime! It really captured my attention.
The version included here is the original studio recording. It is driven by a simple open tuned guitar and cello pairing that sets the perfect mood to support its haunting lyrics. The soaring vocals may have been an influence on Jeff Buckley’s Grace.