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Beware of Mr Baker

May 24, 2013 | by Faber Social

Tags: Documentary, Film, Ginger Baker

Last night I went to see Jay Bulger’s documentary film about the rock ‘n’ roll legend, Ginger Baker. It is an instant classic, and will surely end up sitting on my shelves alongside the likes of Dig!, Some Kind of Monster and Anvil as a portrait of a monstrous and compelling rock ‘n’ roll ego.

‘I’ve got more regrets than you’d ever care to believe: hundreds of them.’

— Ginger Baker

Baker is riveting and appalling in his unpredictability, not only through the course of his chaotic life, but in the documentary himself. Uncompromising is not the word. At times the uncomfortable intensity, style and intimacy of the filming reminded me of Louis Theroux’s now classic encounter with Jimmy Savile – not least because Bulger also lives with his subject. But there’s a warmth, a generosity and a reflectiveness about Baker that keeps you onside. And that’s before we consider his musicianship. Next to this man his perhaps more famous peers are poor relations. The scenes of his playing in the late 60s with Cream, Blind Faith and in Nigeria in the ’70s with the imperious Fela Kuti are breathtaking, the genius pouring out of him in every beat.

Here’s a man who makes Bonham, Moon and Viv Prince the 3 Crown Loons of the Rock n Roll Drumkit, destined to die young and become myths before their fourth decades were done, look like apprentices – on the drums, and in the pharmaceutical stakes. But for all the bad behaviour, the relentless poor career choices, the musical highs and lows, its the personal story of Beware of Mr Baker that rings loudest in my ears this morning. A warrior and a man of uncompromising vision and truly god-given talent, Ginger Baker seems to have spent his life in pursuit and retreat at once – though from what and to what, I am not sure. He’s a consummate self-sabotager, or as Julian Cope might have it, ‘an intuitive non-career mover’.

God Bless You, Mr Baker. And thanks Jay Bulger, for an unflinching and sensitive film, destined to take its place in the handful of rock n roll films one could really claim greatness for.