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Beware of Mr. Baker

Directed by Jay Bulger

USA, 2012

Cornerhouse, 18 May 2013

Beware of Mr. Baker

The film presents a well-rounded portrait of Ginger Baker, brilliant jazz drummer and troubled soul.

Although occasionally obnoxious to his interviewer here (Jay Bulger, a conventionally pretty, well-fed American and the fellow whose film it is), Baker comes across as an aged eagle, someone who got what he wanted out of life, and who paid for it.  The downside is that the people around him, not least his family, generally paid a high price too.  In serving his talent (he ‘had time’, as he puts it, a natural sense of tempo and rhythm, that’s what made him a great musician), he hurt and abandoned others and damaged himself.

Among a handful of musicians who can be put in the same class as Eric Clapton – the two men played together in Cream, perhaps Baker’s finest moment – Baker has done more than enough to earn our respect.  Not that he cares whether he gets it.  Even so, Clapton himself, whilst emphasising Baker’s exceptional qualities as a drummer (vastly, quantumly superior to John Bonham or Keith Moon, in his view) speaks of him as someone from whom it is best to keep a measured distance.

As well as learning about Baker’s life and achievements, you come away with an understanding of how those who made an impact in the ‘60s, swinging London and all that, were often traumatised by World War Two.  Baker lost his father early and as a child lived through the Blitz.

I could have done without a sermon from the likes of John Lydon, otherwise all else good in Bulger’s film.