It’s refreshing to watch a music doc, especially one with such intimate access to its subject, in which barely anyone is unreservedly polite about the person in question. By most accounts, Ginger Baker – celebrated Cream drummer, horse lover, polo player, serial husband and constant wanderer – is a right piece of work. In fact, we know he is: we watch the 73-year-old from Lewisham snarl at questions such as, ‘What was it like to meet Mick Jagger?’, and whack the filmmaker over the nose with a cane. He’s an unhappy, difficult character. Even his wife can’t bring herself to say positive things about his role as stepfather to her kids.
Perhaps the wisest voice belongs to his onetime collaborator Eric Clapton, who describes his friend as ‘seriously antisocial’ but refuses to play psychologist with his life and wonders, ‘Do I know Ginger well? Do I?’ In amongst all the snappy biographical stuff – Baker was born in London, bred on the 1950s jazz scene, had 1960s success with Cream and Blind Faith and spent the 1970s in Nigeria, the ’80s and ’90s in the US and the 2000s in South Africa – there’s just enough room for the most constant and complex love of his life: the drums. He’s not big on self-analysis but sums up the source of his musical talent succinctly. ‘Time,’ he calls it. ‘Natural time’. And he’s just as blunt when it comes to Jagger: ‘Stupid little cunt.’