Film review: Beware of Mr Baker (15)
Drummers are axiomatically the madmen of rock, but there's never been a mad drummer quite like Ginger Baker, subject of this hugely enjoyable documentary profile. It gets off to a magnificent start, with a scene of the 73-year-old Baker attacking the film's director, Jay Bulger, with his walking stick – and just gets better.
What had roused Baker's famously hair-trigger temper was the prospect of the film bringing in others to offer testimony, which they duly do: ex-bandmates (Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce from Cream), ex-wives (three of them), grown-up children, and a variety of rockers, jazzmen and drummers (Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, Lars Ulrich of Metallica).
The verdict is more or less unanimous: as a drummer he was blessed with preternatural talent, head and shoulders above the likes of Keith Moon and John Bonham. And as a human being he's been pretty much a disaster. Clapton, in an otherwise fond reminiscence, calls him "seriously antisocial", and even that's putting it mildly.
With his shock of carrotty hair, gangly frame and wild eyes, Baker always had the look of one destined for the life of rock-star perdition, and he embraced it fully. The heroin addiction, the groupies and the screaming rows almost come as standard; whenever archival footage runs short, the film supplements the story with jazzy animated sequences of Baker as a galley-slave, rowing the seas, keeping time.
The voyage has been far from predictable. Having crashed and burned in a series of early-70s supergroups, Baker hied himself to Lagos to join musical forces with pioneer-activist Fela Kuti, pursuing not just his love of roots music, but a faintly bizarre passion for polo. (A lifelong need to have a stick in his hand?).
There is much, probably too much, besides. Still an irascible chainsmoker, Baker now lives in semi-seclusion on a South African ranch with many dogs, polo horses, and wife number four. The sign at his front gate announces: BEWARE MR. BAKER. Director Bulger has braved this dragon's lair, and brought back treasure.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Kate Bush: Previously unseen photographs reveal new side to comeback star
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head