Cream performed at the New City Opera House on May 5, 1968.
Magoo’s was next to the NCOH, and was open to kids under 21. The Castaways were booked to play at Magoo’s, “celebrating” Cream.
I got to see part of that show. Jokers Wild was playing at Magoo’s… We went over to New City every break.
Well, I will attempt to add my recollection of that day. I was the guitarist in the Castaways at that time. It was certainly an honor to be on that bill that day. The Castaways played a set, maybe two, at Magoos that evening. To whittle a finer point from a previous comment, Magoos served 3.2 beer, so the 21 age requirement would have pertained to Magoos, not necessarily NCOH. We finished our set and headed next door to catch Cream’s set. The two clubs were connected through a hallway.
I think accounts by various Litter folks are pretty accurate. Cream was way late, Litter played quite a while, and there was a lot of nothing prior to Cream coming on. There were vocals from Clapton and Bruce, for sure, but there was also P.A. trouble. I remember Sunshine, Spoonful, and Ginger Baker’s solo tune. There may have been one or two others, but it was largely a jam set which reflected their new album which just came out, Wheels of Fire.
As far as Cream playing Magoos after – I seriously doubt it. David Anthony (booking) as I recall, may have gotten Lonnie, Pete and Denny (Jokers Wild) to play a set at Magoos, as they were all present, and Cream was late. The observer may have seen the Jokers and thought they were seeing Cream, I don’t know, But I think the Jokers were asked to play in order to have some music happening either before or after the Cream set.
All in all, one of the coolest near disaster gigs in Minnesota history. Will live in infamy.
The opening act for Cream was the local band the Litter.
The actual ticket to the Cream show, also sent by Steve, shows both the Litter and the Castaways on the Opera House bill:
And the poster (with an erroneous “The” before Cream) lists both Magoo’s and the New City Opera House:
Members of the Litter remember:
Denny Waite, lead singer:
The Litter opened for the one and only Cream concert in Minnesota. It was in the Spring of 1968, a Sunday afternoon gig at ‘The New City Opera House.” For those of you who don’t know, that place was an old 1920s dance hall on Nicollet Ave, just off Lake Street. K-Mart sits there now. (Zippy Caplan, our lead guitar player, won the contest to re-name the old Mr. Lucky’s with the new grandiose title.)
On the day of the concert, we set up our gear in front of Cream’s towering Marshall amps, and of course Ginger Baker’s hallowed drum kit. The place was packed with Cream’s loyal Hippie fans. The fire marshal would have shit if he saw how packed! We were supposed to play a half hour. Cream showed up an hour late, which gave us (the Litter, in stage hog heaven) an hour and a half to warm up the crowd. Cream finally arrived to a huge welcome of clapping and cheers.
When they started the first song, “Sunshine of Your Love,” Clapton went a fret too high for a couple measures, then a fret too low before settling into the right key. He was just messing with us. Halfway through the first verse their P.A. made a loud buzzing noise and quit working. Ours was about as good as theirs but they didn’t use it. They kept playing “Sunshine” as an instrumental for about 15 minutes, then two more 15 minute instrumentals, including the one with Baker’s drum solo. They played incredibly well of course. They couldn’t help that, but there were no vocals.
When 45 minutes were up they walked out the back door, no encore. They had said not a word to the totally packed house of adoring fans. As they left, the dangerous Mr. Baker took a big swig of beer and spit it on the fans near the edge of the stage. We were astonished, and didn’t react, too Minnesota nice and repressed? Applause was short, as we looked at each other and asked, “What the hell was that all about?”
Later, back at the Litter House by Lake of the Isles, their road manager told us the back story to their rude behavior. Being from Europe, where every decent city has an opera house, they looked forward to playing in a great concert hall with wonderful acoustics. When they arrived at the creaking, old dance hall with the fancy name for a sound check, they were royally pissed off. They told their manager they wouldn’t do the gig. He said they would get sued and end up paying New City Opera House. He told them they had to play a minimum of 45 minutes. They said, “Okay, but we’re not gonna fuckin’ sing.” (quoting their manager) It was part of the plan to make their own P.A. system go down at the beginning of the first song.
I must admit that they sounded fantastic, even on auto pilot, and probably half asleep! Reminds me of the old saying, ” Sometimes it’s better not meet your heroes in person.” Oh well, rock gods are only human, after all.
After playing drums in the Litter that show, I was still playing with one kick-drum. After watching Ginger playing two kicks, the next day went to B-Sharp and bought another kick !!! Been playing double kick whole career since that show !! Now I use double kick pedal on shows. Cream was a great band . I had a short talk with Ginger in the late ’90s here in Colorado just before he moved to South Africa . He is a true Legend !!!!!!
The show was reviewed by Connie Hechter in the Insider, who admitted that he wasn’t actually there. But from what he was told, the night was fraught with problems:
- The band was late
- They insisted on setting up their own amplifiers instead of using that of the Castaways, already on stage
- Their microphones didn’t work
- The show was less than an hour long
Connie reported that NCOH manager Gary Jorgenson perceived an attitude that the musicians were doing the audience a big favor.
But reviews of the music were positive. “They played like schooled jazz musicians,” said one fan. Connie’s take was that “the experience to hear really supberb instrumentalists in the pop vein was worth the agony; the ecstasy was delicious.”
Someone said that Cream played so loud that a structural beam in the floor had cracked and split.
The city had been flooded with counterfeit tickets and we had gotten ours. Security at the door was lax and aside from a surly look from the ticket taker everybody got in — and I mean everybody, that place was jammed. I remember it so well because we found a place to sit directly in front of these gigantic speakers, and once we got there moving away from them was impossible. There were some warmup bands, there was a lot of waiting, and to say Cream played for an hour would be generous (I’d say more like a half hour). It was very obvious Cream was not happy.
I remember the Litter playing and then waiting forever for Cream to arrive. I think it was over an hour. I also remember the crew nailing Ginger Baker’s bass drums to the floor with about 6″ spikes.
I was on Nicollet Avenue near Lake Street and went into a club just by chance (it must have been Magoo’s) and when I got to the band room, the Cream threesome were in there playing to an empty room. From time to time, a person might come in and would leave, but for the most part I recall myself being the only person present for their jam. Ginger Baker was kicking a double bass drum-kit. The room had a very low ceiling, black walls, and a few unnoteworthy colored lights for illumination. I can only attribute the lack of people as the band must have wanted to practice and play in relative secret. Of course, the other people present were Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton.
According to the Insider, Stillroven was preliminarily to be on the bill as well.