If the Bobby Liebling doc Last Days Here was a testament to a man hitting rock bottom due to drugs, once could say that Jay Bulger’s new doc, Beware of Mr. Baker, shows the heights one can ascend to while totally whacked out on smack. But unlike Liebling, who got by with a little help from his friends, Ginger Baker finds himself in the twilight of his life isolated and alone–in South Africa, no less. OK, so this probably isn’t a pro-drug PSA, either…
What started as a piece pitched to Rolling Stone turned into a full-fledged documentary about the man and his music, taking a look at the many marriages and changes of scenery along the way. Cream is given the proper reverence, with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton interviewed extensively, while some of Baker’s later projects are semi-glossed over, though the film does touch on his brief stint in Masters of Reality. We also get a whole lotta strange, trippy animation meant to illustrate the delusion and paranoia swirling around in the man’s brain. Case in point: in perhaps this doc’s most famous scene, director Bulger is attacked by Baker after mentioning that he was going to interview some other people for the film.
In spite of that vicious assault, Bulger manages to speak with a pair of Baker’s ex-wives and all three of his kids, along with some other musicians who played alongside him and a score of drummers, from Lars Ulrich to Stewart Copeland to Neil Peart, who cite him as an influence. Let’s face it, the guy could really play, even if he wasn’t all there mentally. And his personal problems certainly make for good theatre, that’s for sure!
Amazingly enough, after the film was shot, Baker sold his South African compound and all his polo horses (how he spent his $5-million paycheque from the ’05 Cream reunion) and went back on the road, touring with The Jonas Hellborg Group in October of last year. You could say he’s still marching to his own beat even to this day.