At the beginning of documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, we’re introduced to the titular character when the misanthropic elderly man bashes his biographer in the face with a cane. Filmmaker Jay Bulger gets out of the car to show us his bloody nose, and from there we’re whisked back through not only the story of Ginger Baker, famed drummer for Cream, but also the story behind the creation of the film.
Bulger bills himself as a writer for Rolling Stone in order to get an interview with the reclusive Baker — this is a lie. However, the article Bulger comes up with once he meets with Baker in his South Africa compound does get published in Rolling Stone, providing the catalyst for the film. The brash Bulger, and his interactions with Baker, become a hilarious side story to that of Baker, the red-headed wild man who helped pioneer rock drumming as a member of Cream, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Baker’s unique, African and jazz-influenced style would go on to be widely used in hard rock and heavy metal in years to come. But Baker’s personal life is beset by drugs, family issues, several wives and money problems.
However, Beware of Mr. Baker is no predictable “VH1 Behind the Music” story, nor is it a sob story. It’s more a celebration of a life thoroughly lived, and of a character whose lust for life and for drumming supersedes his ability to live normally and care for anyone else. It’s riveting viewing, even (and perhaps especially) for those unfamiliar with Baker. The film’s editing, full of animated bits, stock footage and interview footage, jump-cutting and fading with psychedelic aesthetic, is nothing short of brilliant. It also includes enlightening, often funny interviews with the likes of Clapton, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Lars Ulrich and Neil Peart.