on 31 May 2013
I saw the film in the cinema and enjoyed it as a psychological insight into Mr Baker and as, what seemed to me to be, a really good piece of film making. Old footage was intelligently intercut with modern stuff. There was a good sense of his early life, musical influences and of his own music-making. I swung between liking and disliking Mr Baker as a person. His championing of black particularly African music and its exponents, who were often challenging the rulers of their own countries, contrasted with his polo playing with an exploitative African elite; a man of great contradictions. The most difficult bit for me re his personality was how badly he treated his wives and kids. He seemed to have been greatly under the influence of various substances for so long, which put him somewhere out there in hyperspace; and also under the influence of his only real true love - music. And yet despite his casual cruelty to family, aggression and rudeness I kind of liked the man.
There is a great deal of explicit swearing, so not suitable for young kids or anyone likely to be offended by this.
on 26 September 2013
Rock biopics aren't to everyone's taste, but I generally quite like them, and this one benefits from having as its subject a genuine rock legend about whom little is generally known and there is a real story to tell. Ginger Baker is best known as the wild-eyed, mad-haired, flame-bearded drummer with `60s supergroup Cream, but he has roamed the musical (and geographical) landscape before and since, leaving a heroin-tinged trail of destruction wherever he has gone, alienating pretty much the whole world in the process.
Documentary maker Jay Bulger himself has an interesting story to tell: of how he blagged his way into Ginger Baker's now necessarily reclusive world by posing as a journalist with Rolling Stone, thereby scoring an interview which he then ingeniously managed to get Rolling Stone to publish, launching his own rock career. In this film Bulger returns to Baker and, despite being tempted in early exchanges, manages to keep himself well out of the frame for most of the rest of the film.
What Bulger comes up with is a cleverly constructed biopic which pivots around a series of filmed interviews with Baker, now a frail old man with osteoarthritis, and more or less in penniless exile on a South African ranch. His eyes may be dim but Baker has lost none of his irrascibility - Bulger sustains a nasty bleeding nose at one point for suggesting he will be talking to former band mates - and is a magnetic subject. The back story - which includes Alex Korner, the Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, Blind Faith, Public Image Limited and of course Ginger Baker's Air Force, as well as a number of drum duels with legends of the jazz scene is filled in around the interviews with stills and archive footage, interviews with every rock luminary you could possibly ask for, and a series of ingenious animations to fill those parts of the narrative where cameras weren't on hand. Pristine recordings of Baker's distinctive drumming accompany and occasionally punctuate the narrative: the superimposition of falling London bombs, from which the infant baker was sheltered while his father was away at a war from which he did not return, over Baker's buckshot snare work, is striking.
For all his troubling personal behaviour, Ginger Baker remains the purist's choice: when presented with a comparison, Eric Clapton is surprisingly blunt in his dismissal of Baker's contemporaries John Bonham and Keith Moon.
As with all rock biographies, there are portions of Baker's story which are less inherently interesting than others, and here this presents in a somewhat flatter middle section where we learn about Baker's developing passion for, of all things, polo, in the pursuit of which the drummer has seemingly exported horses across three continents. Despite having fathered a number of children and even in his advancing years Ginger Baker is not the reconciling type, so the picture lacks a grand warm reunion conclusion but the picture we're left with, of a profoundly gifted, troubled, self-destructive and man, is never less than engaging.
on 29 May 2013
I was lucky enough to see the limited release in my local cinema yesterday, and I am still buzzing!
This is NOT easy viewing, and the 15 rating is to be taken seriously - if you want to show the kids your hero then let them see Cream's farewell concert or an Airforce DVD if you can get one.
I thought I knew a lot about Mr Baker, but I never knew he was bullied at school or is a polo fanatic (most of his money goes on buying stablefuls of polo ponies, apparently! (Probably should have read the book)
Don't be taken in by the list of "guests" - the real interviews are with Ginger's family, and especially his son.
If you want to join Ginger on the roller coaster of his amazing life, with some concert footage that I imagined had long since been lost, then you must buy this.
on 5 October 2013
This documentary will not please those who hold in their heads a picture, image, impression of Baker as a simple & gifted uber cool drummer ................ take the time to let the messages sink in and what you get is a bully, a whimp, a misogynist and a very insecure man. Yes, without doubt he is perhaps the most gifted drummer to date - the line up of greats who sing his praises atest to his reputation. Bottom line - great drummer. total egocentric waster. Worth watching? Well, yes not least of which to remind us that genius is often blighted by stupidity.
on 15 January 2015
An interesting study of a boorish, bullying, unattractive man, who was also a great drummer. In the film he claims that Phil Seaman, the great jazz drummer, introduced him to drugs, and they have clearly been his undoing. He is a rather sad character at the time of this film, isolated in South Africa, having spent the large amounts of money he has earned, full of anger and spite about almost everyone mentioned to him or by him.
on 8 July 2015
He’s a brave lad, that Jay Bulger. He must have a lot of admiration for Ginger in order to put himself in the firing line of the drummer’s intolerance and resulting temper. It doesn’t take long for the Boy Bulger to get Ginger’s goat and the film actually starts with Bulger’s departure, following a physical assault which involves ginger’s walking stick. Presumably Bulger was either quite proud of this incident or he wanted to get it out of the way.
The film ends, during the credits, with shots of Ginger getting very impatient with his interviewer and firing off a string of insults. But it has to be said , Bulger does ask some daft questions and he even starts off by asking Ginger his age. ‘You know my age’, retorts Ginger, ‘It’s in the book’. It’s a naive question to kick off with for sure but this, along with the walking stick incident, gives us more than a clue about Ginger as well as what poor young Jay is in for during the remainder of the film.
There are numerous documentaries about numerous people and many are neither particularly good or informative. TV docs usually contain about 10 per cent of interesting or useful information and the rest is largely padded out with irrelevant images and people trying and failing to explain something technical when some handy graphics would be of more use. That device appears to be a thing of the past. Jay, it has to be said, does provide us with some interesting background and we find out how and why Ginger actually got into drumming, his influences and we get an insight into his personal relationships and demons. He’s brutally honest but not especially likable but we have to appreciate his art and to that end his drumming features quite heavily on the audio. He slates John Bonham and Keith Moon, rather unfairly I felt because they are rock drummers whereas Ginger insists that he is jazz. What’s missing though is an insight into the technicalities of his drumming which made him so special, and a greater insight into the African influence.
But we do get more about what he does than we do in many documentaries. I recently watched ‘Looking for Light’, a Jane Bown biography and this was hugely disappointing as it failed entirely to address her work (photography). Surely this is vital – you have to talk about the work of an artist if you are going to offer a real insight into them as a person. Bulger does succeed in painting a rounded enough portrait of Ginger Baker and does balance his grumpiness with moments of real humanity. And he colours this with some fascinating archive footage and stills. The animations I could have done without though and thankfully some initial self indulgent visuals soon give way to a more mature approach. I guess that those who watch this doc will have an interest in Ginger’s music or at least drumming in particular – if so, they won’t be disappointed.
As a postscript, watch Ginger in Conversation with Chad Smith
I am a big Cream fan, an amateur drummer and had read Ginger's autobiography, so viewing this film was a must.
His background is covered very well, and there are great early music clips and interviews with contemporary musicians (and ex-wives). As is well known, Ginger is a rather singular character, and this film brings this out very clearly! I was interested to hear how much he made from the Cream Reunion, and how he managed to blow this money. His (achieved) desire to be respected by the great jazz drummers was particularly touching. Eric Clapton's various contributions were insightful and warm.
I hugely enjoyed this film, and I guess like most people couldn't help but despair of his inability to get on with people or handle his financial affairs with even a little practical judgement. But grateful (and surprised!) that the Cream lasted as long as it did. I hope Ginger has a settled last phase of his life back in GB, and appreciate his contribution to the music that I love.
on 19 August 2014
The title describes it precisely.
As Simon Kirke (ex Free) says during the course of the film, Ginger Baker the drummer was a source of inspiration from whom he learned a great deal, however Ginger Baker the person had less to recommend him.
Ginger Baker's drumming ( and Ginger Baker talking about drumming) is inspiring, but I was glad that I was sat in the safety of my front room when Ginger Baker the person was on display. Not quite "behind the sofa" stuff, rather behind riot shield stuff whist wearing ear defenders.
Nevertheless, it was .worth watching for the wonderful drumming by Ginger.
on 2 December 2013
For all true Ginger Baker and musician and drummer fans, this is an excellently informative and extremely interesting dvd about Ginger, and the many things that have happened to him in his life. In this dvd he certainly lives up to his reputation of being a hard and nasty person who was difficult to work with, but on the drumming side he is perfection and this dvd shows why many musicians put up with his cantankerous ways, just to be able to play with such a great drummer. Now age and lifestyle decisions have caught up with him, but his presence is still awesome. Rock on Ginger.
on 24 November 2015
While the format of the film is a documentary which attempts to offer the facts at face value, the narration becomes more and more emotionally charged and it loses objectivity toward the end. Ginger Baker seems to surround himself by an air of menace wherever he goes and some interviewees are still in awe of his reputation. Musically, the DVD is a great discovery. I knew some parts of Baker's remarkable career - Cream and his work with Bill Laswell - and I was struck by the variety of his musical experience and his lifelong search to ascend to the Olympus of jazz drumming.I was amazed by the drumming contests that he organised with Art Blakey, Max Roach and others. This is the central theme of the film, Baker's insatiable search for recognition from those who he considered the top musicians around, which led him in his odyssey across continents. The fact that he left everyone behind - first family left on brink of bankruptcy, other wives left after a few years, no more contact with his son and heir apparent - is shown in the film as a proof of this obsession. This becomes the main theme presented by the director and I am not entirely sure that this is a correct view. I find this DVD engaging and interesting nevertheless, an excellent introduction to the complex life of this musician.