Swansea singing star Steve Balsamo recalls the time he rocked out for the late '60s music legend Jack Bruce, who he says was the 'real star' of the band
One is the Swansea-born stage star who found fame in Jesus Christ Superstar, the other the classic rocker who formed a band with the guitarist many fans claimed was ‘God’.
But for Welsh West End singer Steve Balsamo it was late bassist Jack Bruce, rather than six string wiz Eric Clapton, who was the true talent behind Cream, the infamous late ‘60s super group that sold an incredible 35 million albums during its fleeting two year career.
And, as he paid tribute to the late musician – who died from liver disease aged 71 on October 25 – Balsamo added that one of the biggest thrills of his life so far was singing some of Bruce’s most famous compositions in front of the great man himself in 2008.
“A good mate of mine who used to drum for (Paul Weller's band) The Style Council got me involved in a tribute concert at Shepherds Bush Empire in honour Ginger Baker,” he said – name-checking the polyrhythmic percussionist who made up the other third of Cream.
“It was an amazing line-up, a real who’s who including the likes of Charlie Watts from The Rolling Stones and Jon Lord from Deep Purple.
“But the most incredible thing for me was getting to meet Jack during rehearsals.
“I mean, this is the guy who co-wrote such timeless tracks as Sunshine Of Your Love and I Feel Free.
“Best of all I got to perform White Room” – the seminal Bruce-penned single from ‘68 – “while he watched.
“I’ve never done anything so nerve-wracking in my life because no one could sing that song better that Jack did, but he was lovely about it.
“When I finished he just came over to me and said, ‘Great work, man’."
Balsamo, whose currently performs in a folk rock duo with Rosalie Deighton, added that while many Cream devotees may have worn badges saying ‘Clapton is God’, it was Bruce who gave the band its heart .
“He had a great voice, was a virtuoso bass-playing and a fantastic song-writer - a real triple threat.
“I’ll never forget sitting next to him on the bus back to hotel and him telling me that, whatever I do in life, I should always go with what my heart says.
“It may sound so obvious but it’s true, and it’s something I try to adhere to daily.”
However, Balsamo joked that he couldn’t say the same for Bruce’s former bandmate Ginger Baker, the notoriously cantankerous sticksman with whom he would often argue - rows that frequently descended into fisticuffs, reducing the nearby Clapton to tears of frustration.
“I remember the comedian Al Murray compering that 2008 gig and going up to Ginger afterwards to introduce himself, at which point he just blanked him and turned his back.
“Al was mortified because Ginger had been an idol of his – he just walked over to me all embarrassed and said, ‘Well, that went well’.
“Then, later on, I was in the loo and Ginger came in and stood at the urinal next to me,” remembered Balsano.
“He just looked me up and down and snarled, “Know what? None those ***** out there can swing.”