Drummer Ginger Baker is arguably not as well known as his contemporaries Keith Moon and John Bonham but his fierce reputation among his musical peers as an unsurpassed drummer and terrifying character is suitably captured in 'Beware Of Mr Baker'. Indeed, as it transpires here in Jay Bulger's SXSW award winning documentary, the enigmatic Baker considers even a comparison to Moon and Bonham an insult to his craft.
Baker's career has been varied and, at times, wildly successful. He initially gained fame through his work with the Graham Bond Organisation, and in later collaborations with the likes of Public Image Ltd and Fela Kuti. However, Baker's efforts in Cream - one of the first supergroups - saw him find worldwide fame.
One of the characteristics of 'Beware Of Mr Baker' is the fleeting sense of Baker's success. Cream lasted less than two years, as did the vast majority of his other bands. His former band mates, such as Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton, reporting their unease and perhaps even fear of playing with the erratic yet brilliant Baker.
'Beware Of Mr Baker' is partly a celebration of a tremendous drumming talent but partly a cautionary tale. Baker's volatile behaviour can largely be attributed to his drug abuse, to the detriment of his obvious talent. His ills and clouded judgement are highlighted vividly in this documentary, chronicling his crumbled relationships encompassing bands and family - Baker's lack of concern for his children particularly disheartening.
Baker's complexity is at the forefront of the film however, thanks to Bulger's interviewing style - "poking the bear" is a phrase that comes to mind, and the film is bookended by a scene where the now elderly Baker gives Bulger a bloody nose. Baker's passion for jazz, and his love of horses, are made obvious but it is his discussion of his time spent in Nigeria with Fela Kuti that is most engaging.
Fans of Baker's music will enjoy the frequent clips of archive footage, while animated sequences ensure interest in never lost in his stories, especially those which focus on his life growing up. Talking heads aplenty (everyone from Lars Ulrich to his first wife) equally build up a portrait of his influences (his debt to African music underlined) and a better understanding of his curious personality.
Despite being in his mid-70s and battling a bone condition, Ginger Baker is still drumming away - collaborating with Iggy Pop on a tribute album to The Black Keys. Despite his drug addled malaise and his generally unpleasant disposition, Baker's all-consuming passion has always been the drums. 'Beware Of Mr Baker' but embrace this fine documentary.
'Beware Of Mr Baker' is screening at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, showing today at 13.00. For more info and tickets, head to bfi.org.uk/lff.