Ginger was 77 yesterday…

Ginger Baker in Air Force
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK: Ginger Baker performs on stage with Ginger Baker’s Air Force on April 4th 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Jorgen Angel/Redferns)

Getting on but still hanging in there…. a true survivor and legendary icon from another time.

Drugs and jazz…

 

Ginger Baker early 60s

I’m sure that many times drugs played a major part in the many arguments my parents had, though of course in my earliest memories it was just upset at ‘bad feeling’ I had no idea what it meant or what had caused it. Later I came to understand what would set off the carnage and that in some was ways was worse because I knew where it was headed and where it would end; in violence. Mum would get black eyes and use the old chestnut excuse that she’d ‘walked into a door.’ She sported other bruises too. Yet she says now ‘I gave as good as I got’ and fondly remembers an incident when they were beating each other with lumps of wood when naked. In fights with his current wife my Dad says, ‘it’s just like Liz and I’. To them alone it is some warped expression of love.

 

Drug problems were of course at the root of many disagreements and the use of drugs made everything more emotional and certainly darker. During the Graham Bond years, my father made his first of many attempts to get straight and took me with him ‘up to London’ to Wimpole street to see the doctor who prescribed to many addicts, Lady Frankau. We waited for the bus that day on Neasden Lane where a low brick wall borders the shrub filled garden of a square and wholly unremarkable three-story apartment block.

 

Dad held my hand as I walked along the length of the wall, then sat me on his shoulders at the bus-stop where we sang ‘bus, bus hurry up’ together. He was excited at the prospect of collecting his script and getting high. Yet he maintains that after Lady Frankau had praised me as a ‘beautiful child’ he looked at my face and ditched the precious script on the way home. He then attempted to do a tour of the North of England whilst going ‘cold turkey.’ When he returned he went back to Lady Frankau and asked for help to withdraw using a process he tried on every occasion he got ‘messed up’ again. This involved the use of a drug called ‘physeptone’, though to me it is a ‘word’ I’m familiar with hearing very often throughout my childhood and beyond. The difficulties of withdrawal and stresses of running a band and dealing with family life only increased the conflict at home.

Ginger Baker’s inside story continued…

The Graham Bond Organisation

Dad had a gig in Brighton with GBO and so we went and Dad and Mum went and stayed at their friends for the night.  Liz, Howard and Moi were on their way on foot to the venue but unsure of its whereabouts having failed to get clear directions beforehand. But then my mother espied some splashes of vomit at intermittent intervals along the route and suggested they follow these, which sure enough belonged to Ginger and led them to the gig. This story is always told with humour but in fact it shows how established and accepted my father’s heroin habit had become. He had obviously had ‘a fix’ prior to the gig to help him play well; but was it also to mask stage-fright and the stress of coping with a social situation? After a fix, a junkie will often throw up and so there we all were already caught up in the dark myths of our own story.

 

I’m sure that many times drugs played a major part in the many arguments my parents had, though of course in my earliest memories it was just upset at ‘bad feeling’ I had no idea what it meant or what had caused it. Later I came to understand what would set off the carnage and that in some was ways was worse because I knew where it was headed and where it would end; in violence. Mum would get black eyes and use the old chestnut excuse that she’d ‘walked into a door.’ She sported other bruises too. Yet she says now ‘I gave as good as I got’ and fondly remembers an incident when they were beating each other with lumps of wood when naked. In fights with his current wife my Dad says, ‘it’s just like Liz and I’. To them alone it is some warped expression of love.

 

Drug problems were of course at the root of many disagreements and the use of drugs made everything more emotional and certainly darker. During the Graham Bond years, my father made his first of many attempts to get straight and took me with him ‘up to London’ to Wimpole street to see the doctor who prescribed to many addicts, Lady Frankau. We waited for the bus that day on Neasden Lane where a low brick wall borders the shrub filled garden of a square and wholly unremarkable apartment block.

 

Dad held my hand as I walked along the length of the wall, then sat me on his shoulders at the bus-stop where we sang ‘bus, bus hurry up’ together. He was excited at the prospect of collecting his script and getting high. Yet he maintains that after Lady Frankau had praised me as a ‘beautiful child’ he looked at my face and ditched the precious script on the way home. He then came home and attempted to do a tour of the North whilst going ‘cold turkey.’ When he returned he went back to Lady Frankau and asked for help to withdraw using a process he tried on every occasion he got ‘messed up’ again. The difficulties of withdrawal and stresses of running a band and dealing with family life only increased the conflict at home.

The story behind the story of Ginger Baker

Ginette Baker’s experience of writing the Hellraiser biography and her life growing up with Ginger.

Cream and Ginger Baker

When I came to write my father’s autobiography Hellraiser in 2009 I was transported back to our sixties world and so was he. The following paragraph (from Chapter Five) sparked my recollections.

 

Back at our little ground floor maisonette [recounts Ginger Baker], life seemed normal and happy. I bought a load of timber and constructed bookshelves and cupboards. We had a small back garden where I grew lettuce, carrots, radishes and large cannabis plants among the runner beans. Liz [my mother] was aware of my [heroin] habit but had accepted it and to all intents and purposes we were a happy couple with a beautiful young daughter.”

 

My first feeling when writing that was the conviction that the statement was in fact quite far from the truth as far as I was concerned! We were short of money, or as Dad later put it to me, ‘when I was twenty-one I had a wife, child and heroin habit to support’ (not necessarily in that order) and he often got paid £3 a night and would walk all the way back from London in order to save his bus fare.

 

In no way would I ever have described my parents as a ‘happy couple’ and in truth neither would they after about 1959!  As we shall see, Ginger Baker had insecurities like the rest of us, the existence of which had led him to seek solace in drugs in the first place.

 

The 1960’s sun did indeed shine brightly on the tall rows of runner beans twisting up their bamboo canes with their bushy leaves and scarlet flowers and the harvested cannabis, cut and dried, resided in a square red biscuit tin with multi-coloured balloons painted round the sides and on the lid. My very first memories are of 154, Braemar Avenue Neasden, but let me tell you briefly how I got there.

 

My parents were young and they had married young, when they were both nineteen on 17th February 1959. Dad definitely married ‘up’ you might say and my mother’s Auntie Dorothy on asking her if Dad was ‘nice’ and receiving the reply ‘yes of course’, countered that with ‘I mean OUR kind of nice’ (which of course he wasn’t)! They were too poor to become parents when Mum fell pregnant in the Spring of 1960 and had abortion been legal I certainly wouldn’t be here now but that doesn’t upset me at all. Their relationship was all consuming and volatile to them.

 

Nettie & Ginger 1962
Nettie & Ginger 1962

 

The story of my birth is recounted accurately enough in Hellraiser, though for the record my Mother swears that she never tried heroin whilst pregnant (but at another time) and my Father swears more vehemently that she did, which is the way of things with the history of those two! In the writing of his own book he also disagreed violently with his sister about certain events. But the women (as always) capitulated and my Mother said that as long as I got some money out of it she didn’t give a toss what was said about her. My parents loved me and were proud of me as an extension of them (he was ‘Ginger Monster’ and I became ‘Little Monster’). I shared their early adulthood with all its extremes of violence and glory. The old values were as at odds in their own personalities as the slums were with the concrete edge of the architectural ‘brutalism’.

Excerpt from Ginette Baker’s Biography

The Rainbow: February, 1975

Baker Gurvitz Army Live

On the day of the ‘Gurvitz Army’ Rainbow gig; Janet and I got tarted up in our satin bomber jackets, flared jeans and platform shoes. A limo duly arrived to ferry us there and we both took great pleasure in waving to all the snooty neighbours out of the car window. Once at the gig, we stood with Mum at the entrance to the dressing room tunnel and were denied access by a zealous bouncer. We said,

 

‘Look mate, we know the guy in charge, his name is Jack, just get him and he’ll confirm who we are, etc, etc.’

 

But no, this bouncer thought we were a bunch of liars and said as much very rudely, which of course, resulted in him getting a thick ear from Mother, who bashed him so hard that her heavy jade bracelet broke into a thousand pieces and scattered noisily across the stone floor of corridor. Then, as if by magic ‘Jack’ suddenly did appear to let us in. We told Dad about our difficulties, so he had a fit and went and smashed the naughty bouncer’s room up. I felt a bit sorry for the guy I have to say, but power trips can often end badly. We had to walk across the back of the stage to get to our seats. This resulted in much whistling and cat calling from the audience. How we loved it!

 

That exciting walk across the stage pretending we were famous, reminded me of a time back in the ‘sixties when I had been with my parents at a Jeff Beck gig and Rod Stewart was with his band. Rod had looked after me for my Mum and Dad for about half an hour or so; he kept me entertained by clowning about and never being one to remain unmoved by a pretty face, whatever my age, I quickly became well smitten. Somebody or other then suggested that I might like to go up on stage and introduce a song. Rod led me to the front of the stage and reminded me to, ‘Mind the wires love’, as I stood for a moment, completely mesmerised by the reflected light that bounced back at me from the many spectacle wearing members of the audience.

 

‘This is Ginger Baker’s daughter Nettie’ said Rod, ‘and she’s going to introduce our next song’.

 

He handed me the mic. Rather tentatively I introduced ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and everybody clapped.

It really IS us here!

Team Baker at Work

Perhaps you don’t believe it, but this website, forum, blog and Facebook Fan page are all run by the Baker family!  For the most part Nettie (Fan page), me (website), Mickey (a lot of other important stuff), Kofi (forum), Liz designing t-shirts, and of course Mr. B commenting, blogging and starting threads (with a bit of help) on the Drummers’ Forum… We really are all here!

 

We’ve been getting a ton of emails in from talktoginger@live.co.uk, and have been doing our best to read them all, and reply to them when we can. Currently Nettie is handling all these incoming and doing a grand job, I must say! And because we’ve also been getting some technical questions and comments we’ve created another email address – technical@gingerbaker.co.uk – where you can send all your technical questions and suggestions.

 

And let me say, we’re also having a lot of fun too! We’re enjoying the interaction – your input, comments, posts, and support!

The story behind gingerbaker.co.uk …

A long time ago in a country far far away… Nettie and I found we were ruminating over the same idea: how to communicate the Ginger Baker story, without the frills? We shared a good part of that story and knew it had to be told– and somewhere people wanted to hear it.

In 2008, Nettie took on the daunting task of writing Ginger’s autobiography, a feat she accomplished in just 4 months, going out to South Africa to sit with Ginger and work through it. She completed the editing herself the night before she was due to go into hospital for surgery…

Nine months later, Nettie organized a book signing and a gig at the Jazz Café in Camden, London to launch the book and celebrate Ginger’s 70th birthday – we thought this would be the end, the story was told. But as time went by we knew something was missing…

It wasn’t until Nettie met Mickey Banks (of Jimmy and the Destroyers) at a gig in London that the plan began to take shape. Mickey, a long time fan of Cream and Ginger Baker, immediately saw great potential in the idea.

So we started the Ginger Baker Facebook Group to find out if there were still some die hard fans out there and got Mr. Baker involved. The response was incredible! We hit the Facebook limit of 5,000 friends within a month and grew to over 9,000 in the following month, with Ginger’s profile quickly hitting the 5,000 friends limit; he still has over a 1000 (probably disappointed) fans waiting to be his Friend …

To be free of all  the limits we finally created the Ginger Baker Fan Page.

Running the group and fan pages proved to be a lot of fun for all of us; reading the daily responses, posts, comments, and messages – then we KNEW we had to make a website. At last, there in the Facebook pages we’d found the answers we’d been looking for.

In earnest, we began bashing out our initial ideas and designs, and started the work that continues today – www.gingerbaker.co.uk

As we continue this journey, we want to include you in it as much as possible, to add your experiences of Ginger, Cream, and Blind Faith to our archives, read your posts on the Drummers’ forum and your comments on these blogs.

Most of all, we look forward to reading Ginger’s posts on the Blog and his answers to your questions on the Drummers’ Forum.

Looking forward to some cool times ahead!

Leda