The premise of the following was to write something factual that required research, rather than just writing from the heart and imagination, without producing something overly dry.
Listen. Ginger Baker lives in my microwave. By which, of course, I mean his spirit, or essence, or whatever it is inhabits the circuitry. He’s not sat in there turning around when I put food next to him, he just exists as part of the microwave itself, with free run of the machinery. He can operate the vital functions even when he’s Unplugged, and he seems to prefer it that way. There’s no mouthpiece or speaker, his voice just seems to exude from somewhere inside, in whatever direction he chooses. Who’s Ginger Baker? Perhaps it’s best if I let him answer that one…
“Cream was all my idea.” Casually he turns my jacket potato “Such a perfect set up, you’d think it was the move of some record company exec or something.” I nod slowly, still unsure if he can see, or rather, perceive me agreeing with him. This is an old story. His favourite and one he tells often. Idly I watch the cheese begin to melt around the edge of the potato skin. “I’d been working with a lot of different blues and jazz outfits, bouncing from band to band looking for my right niche.” The rotating potato slows down slightly. “I got fired a lot.” The potato stops. I sigh, tapping out a basic para-diddle on the microwave door until Ginger and the potato wake up again. He does this often, so it always makes sense for me to leave extra time when cooking anything. “I caught Clapton just as he was leaving another project, the err, the-”
“The Bluesbreakers.” I interrupt, trying to stare him down. You never really know where to look when you’re talking to a microwave.
“Yeah, The Bluesbreakers. He was as excited about Cream as I was, but he wanted that bastard Jack Bruce on bass. I was gutted.” Sometimes, the condensation on the microwave door formed rivulets that looked like tears. There was never more condensation than when Ginger talked about Jack Bruce. The “bastard bass player” that had smashed up Ginger’s first custom drum kit.
“Cream was good, man, I mean really good. Fresh Cream came out in ’67 and the public loved it. We loved it. Then he came along.” If a microwave could spit, Ginger would’ve spat the next word all over my potato. “Hendrix. Eric loved that guy, and he loved Eric. Hendrix did a little performance for him when they met, and he was good. Then he starts throwing all that Hendrix Experience shit around, going wild, and I’m there thinking we’re musicians, we didn’t need that.”
Sometimes I think the decaying memories in the fading music magazines stacked around him in the shed are all that’s keeping him here, that and my blunt refusal to let him sit in the kitchen.
“Eric adored Hendrix.” The salt and pepper were starting to burn in on the skin of the bubbling cheese, “We never did any work with the guy, but we never had to. The execs pushed us away from blues and into that psychedelic stuff. They weren’t going to let us miss jumping the bandwagon.” He sighed, somehow. “Things only started to calm down when Hendrix died. Eric stopped perming his hair, and people began to read music again.”
You see, the microwave knows that Jimi Hendrix is dead. Yet it doesn’t know that Ginger Baker, himself/itself, is still very much alive. Sometimes I try and find out where the memories end. It’s hard. He’s stuck in this anecdotal loop somewhere at the end of the 60s. It’s almost as if something died then, something other than him, something the real Ginger Baker saw coming.
My potato is ready. Ginger flashes the light and releases the door. He never makes the pinging noise that most microwaves do, not anymore anyway. I had to open him up and remove the bell, when I heard him using it to practice eight minute drum solos at four in the morning.