Ginger Baker is one of the holy trinity or British rock drummers: Keith Moon (The Who), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) and Cream. British drummers are the best hands down. Baker is arguably the best of the 3 and inadvertently invented heavy metal drumming (although he loathes it). But what about the man himself? He’s proof enough that gingers are nutters. Drummers are mad. Ginger drummers are just nucking futs.
For example, there is a very small list of people that Baker isn’t pissed off with, in very few countries. He’s very pissed off with former wives, managers, horse grooms people, authors, publishers, gangsters, journalists, Americans, Canadians, Argentinians, racists, South African private armies and prima donna bass players like Jack Bruce. Especially Jack Bruce (Cream bassist and self proclaimed ‘band leader’). Apparently he’s a bit of a dick to work with. Baker’s sparing with his words and he doesn’t mince them either. Even if he’s correcting his holiness Eric Clapton. How the world’s most firebrand drummer and the world’s most boring guitarist managed to work together for even a few short years I’ll never know.
This autobiography is not constrained to music by any stretch. It’s a Boys Own Adventure. His setting up a studio Nigeria during the war and recording with African legend Fela Kuti was worthy of the price of admission alone. Baker’s never lost the passion for his drumming and has constantly reinvented himself. Cyclist, polo player, rally driver, subsistence farmer, heroin enthusiast, even an actor at one point. But he made such a hash of it being a junkie was preferable.
At times it’s also very hard to keep up with the 4(?) wives and incredibly nonchalant attitude towards ‘shagging birds’. He seems to go through them like a chain smoker does packets of fags. Kids rank somewhere between drums and horses in terms of priority. At one point he’s driving along with three girls in a Shelby Cobra (a two seater) when a radio DJ announces that he’s died. He quite rationally decides me must be dead and in heaven and keeps going. But if all that’s not enough, why is he a nutter? Well after a few too many arguments with the missus, he decides to drive from England to Nigeria with no prior experience or plan. No big deal. Just crossing the Sahara Desert for a pack of cigarettes. Back soon love.
One thing is for certain though, Baker may be the only person crazier than Hunter S Thompson to call him crazy – lucky he’s dead. He’s a firebrand, going against the grain to the bitter end making this book one hell of a read.
Worth also checking out the 2013 documentary Beware of Mr Baker.