Sophie Brown from the Duke of York’s Picturehouse in Brighton takes a look at this week’s Discover Tuesdays screening BEWARE OF MR BAKER.
The drumming builds, and as director Jay Bulger incredulously asks whether Ginger Baker is really going to hit him with that stick, Baker viciously growls, “I f*cking well am.” And he does.
Bulger is audacious, if not foolish, in his attempt to win Ginger’s trust. The sign by entrance to his land is no joke: ‘beware’ indeed, because he is wild – aggressively so. Mr Baker has a wicked temper, and no amount of respect or attempt at bonding will tame his fury. Just ask his son. Opening with a violent attack on the director, the film hurtles back to Ginger’s childhood – when the chaotic, booming destruction of World War Two awakened an instinct to drum from an early age – and then journeys through his groundbreaking work as a musician.
Baker’s explosive temper dominates his behaviour in a way that is fundamental to his ballistic drumming, and also to the trajectory of his life; he has carved an astonishing path for himself, and alienated many. His cantankerous force is shocking, but he is a great musician who has been hailed as the archetypal rock drummer (just don’t mention the words ‘rock drummer’ to him).
The pace is dynamic, exciting and amusing. Johnny Rotten wildly snarls in Ginger’s defence, while other musicians refer to him as the ‘hammerer of the Gods’. Members of Black Sabbath, Metallica and Pink Floyd, among others, contribute praise for his influence on the history of music – but it is unlikely Ginger would have many kind words in return.
With energetic animation, stills and brilliant archive footage, the film blasts through his life story, and introduces his greatest influences and collaborators. Eric Clapton frankly discusses his weather-beaten friendship and experiences of working with Ginger in Cream and beyond. The thundering firecracker himself cheerily recalls how he “terrified the shit out of” Mick Jagger. Ginger’s foul mouth and lack of airs or graces is disarmingly funny, even endearing at times.
Hopeless with money, responsibilities and people, Ginger seems to have found greatest meaning and peace in playing among his idols, Max Roach, Art Blakey and Phil Seamen. As his daughter explains, he communicates through drums, not words. His temperament at times eclipsing his career, Ginger’s is a story of blinding natural talent. The film draws a map of the fires left behind as he has conquered and burnt his way around the world, and gives us a glimpse of the searing pain at the core.
BEWARE OF MR BAKER screens at Picturehouse Cinemas on 2nd July 2013.