With baby boomers heading into retirement, there's been a bull market on biographies and documentaries about baby-boomer rock-star heroes. There's a sense of summing up, of valedictory in the recent pile-up of books and movies by and about Neil Young, David Geffen, the Rolling Stones, Pete Townsend and Rod Stewart.
So it's refreshing to see a film that goes to the opposite extreme of hagiography: Jay Bulger's Beware of Mr. Baker. This intense, imaginative and wild little film celebrates an unrepentant madman, one of rock'n'roll's surprise survivors, drummer Ginger Baker.
Indeed, while Keith Richards always topped the early-mid-1970s chart of rock stars most likely to suffer an untimely demise, Baker was always in the top five -- at least until he seemed to topple out of sight sometime in the early-to-mid-1980s. I always assumed he had died -- though I guess I also always assumed that I would have heard about it if he had.
There are a couple of generations of music fans who have no clue that, for a certain period in the mid-to-late 1960s, Baker helped invent the power trio with the ultimate expression of the concept: Cream, which teamed Baker with jazz-bluesman Jack Bruce on bass and emerging guitar god Eric Clapton on guitar. No band burned hotter or brighter, though oh so briefly.
The film tracks Baker down to the farm/ranch he keeps out in the veldt in South Africa. Married, with a gaggle of young African step-children, he sits in a chair in his den, sunglasses on (of course), alternately growling out his story and snapping angrily at Bulger's questions. The very first image of Baker features him threatening -- and then striking -- the cameraman with his cane.
This review continues on my website.