Monday, January 28, 2013

"Beware of Mr. Baker"

Yesterday I had the privilege to go see the new Ginger Baker documentary "Beware of Mr. Baker"  (it's title being taken from a metal sign that greeted visitors outside his sprawling, compound like South African horse farm)with my friends from Mod Fun Mick and Chris. I couldn't think of better people to go to see the film with as Chris is the world's biggest Ginger Baker/Cream fan. Me I'm not so much a Cream fan as I am a Graham Bond Organization fan but I've always had an interest in self destructive rock n' roll mad men and their sorted stories so.....

It seemed perfect timing as I've been on this major Graham Bond related wave ever since the Graham Bond box set "Wade In the Water: Classics, Origins and Oddities"  (I swear one day I'll get around to writing a review of that) arrived on my door step on Boxing Day. Since then I've managed to watch a Cream documentary on Netflix instant view (which devoted a fair chunk to The G.B.O), started reading their saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith's autobiography ($9.98 from through their Amazon Prime) and am awaiting a copy of the Graham Bond biography "A Mighty Shadow" (long out of print) that are currently being sold on by the author Harry Shapiro (he'll even inscribe it for you if you ask!). So why not add another facet of info on the subject !! Baker's take on Bond ?  "He was a fat man".

The documentary starts out with Baker pranging director Jay Bulger across the bridge of his nose with a metal cane after threatening  "I'm gonna fucking put you in hospital"! What follows is nearly two hours of classic footage interspersed with interviews with Baker on his farm in South Africa (usually in his recliner smoking about 1,000 cigarettes, hidden behind his shades), chats with his band mates, children, ex-wives, peers etc.  His story is told using some excellent animation (much in the style of some of the sequences in The Sex Pistol's "Great Rock N' Roll Swindle") which perfectly illustrates the man and his making.  All of his bands are given fairly accurate descriptions, though his time with P.I.L. is never quite explained (though the film does feature John Lydon singing his praises right after we see Baker cane Bulger). One of the more fascinating parts of the film was his decision to move to Nairobi, Kenya and build a recording studio there (driving across the Sahara in a brand new Range Rover, one of the first models of it's kind, that in itself would've made a great film!). Whilst there he gets embroiled in Nigerians politics, playing polo with the countries social elite on weekends and recording and jamming with anti-government musicians like Fela Kuti during the rest of the time!! Of course this came to end end with Baker fleeing the country with armed soldiers in hot pursuit. 

The film doesn't paint a nice picture of him as a person and how he treats his children, family etc is never my concern regardless of how appalling.  I thought regardless of his crotchety behavior and demeanor ("If they got a problem with me come and see me and hit me on the nose.  I ain't gonna sue ya I'm gonna hit ya back") I got a pretty accurate picture of Ginger Baker as a whole.   The film does have lots of missing pieces, the above mentioned P.I.L period for one , there was very little mention of Cream's reunion (though apparently Baker received $5,000,000.00 for their reunion and blew through all of it) and there were lots of quotes by various people at the film's opening (The Moody Blue's Graeme Edge for instance) who we never see again in the film and though we learn Baker has to sell his ranch we're never informed where here is now and there is mention of a paternity suit by a South African woman, and nothing is said of it again. Loose ends aside I thoroughly enjoyed "Beware of Mr. Baker" and if you're a fan of rock n' roll mad men with self destructive personalities so should you....

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