Shooting stars at Sensible Music
Pete Brown wandering into the studio on a fine mid-September Monday morning? We’ve seen that too, here at Sensible Music.
The world-acclaimed lyricist, mainly known for his collaborations with the band Cream, was here for three days to star in a film that will be released in the next few months by an American record label.
Being at Sensible on the frantic days of the shooting, all I could see was a dozen people running purposefully from room to room, downing coffee and making phone calls – oh, and Pete Brown. With his professional head on and a kind smile on his face throughout the entire duration of the project.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later however, when I called to ask him some questions, that I got to have a proper conversation with him - and it ended up being such an enjoyable chat that I completely forgot I was interviewing him; the singer, who started out as a poet, had quite an inspiring life.
The rise towards success with Cream
“How did I get into music?” my question seemed to spark up some fervour in his voice, as he started telling me “Well, I started my creative life as a poet and I was making a very poor living, supporting myself by doing performances of poetry - and sometimes those poetry readings happened with jazz musicians taking part as well.”
It’s quite surprising these days, when you talk to a musician, to find out their dad wasn’t in music himself or that they didn’t first strum on a guitar at the age of four and never stopped since. Quite refreshingly human, to be honest.
“In 1965 we did the really big poetry reading at the Albert Hall with a lot of the famous American poets and my name was a lot more prominent after that. And the next year the guys in Cream asked me to write lyrics for them. So that was my passport into the music business - which I was really happy about, since music was always my first love, I have to say”.
I went on asking him about the filming they carried out here at Sensible Music.
“It is meant to celebrate the songs of Cream in an acoustic way” said Pete, when I asked him what it was about “The first sessions that we did, which happened at Sensible Music, were with Malcolm Bruce (Jack Bruce’s son) and myself as the lead singer. We put together a group of people whom we knew would be right and sympathetic for those particular songs. People that we regularly work with. People we like.”
When I asked, Pete said that a title had not been chosen for it yet and corrected me for calling it a documentary for the umpteenth time: “It’s not really a documentary. There will be some interviews in it, it looks like. There are going to be some very big names on this project, so we will try to get some little bits of interviews from some of those names, although it’s predominantly going to be about the music.”
I couldn’t help but noticing a note of devotion in his voice when he clarified that “The music won’t be chopped up. There won’t be people talking over the music or anything like that.”
It was only in an e-mail I received from Pete a couple of days after the interview, in which he kindly said he thoroughly enjoyed our chat, that he let me know the title was probably going to be Cream Unplugged.
Life as a musician and a lyricist
“In the past I have made more of a living from songwriting than from being an actual live musician, although live music has always been my favourite thing - which is why I’m still doing it at my very old age. But yeah, it’s something I will not give up easily”.
If there is one thing you do get to see when you work at a studio like Sensible, it’s how committed some people are to their craft. It’s inspiring to hear gratitude in the voice of an artist whose records have been played on the radio for the past 50 years “and I think also, strangely enough, I’m pretty ancient to be doing this but at the same time I’m probably singing better now than I ever did, which is quite strange.”
We both chuckled. And, I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled to see what the creators of Cream Unplugged have in store for us.