Why Pete Townshend Called Cream ‘Empty’


In the early days of rock and roll, many bands were trying to make catchy and radio-friendly songs to ensure success. While that was the case with many acts, there were, of course, some exceptions. When the Who entered the rock scene, they took a different approach and used the song as a storytelling tool, becoming one of the precursors of rock opera. Compared to many other bands, the Who’s music was much more unique, both in its lyrical content and sound.

Pete Townshend contributed to the Who’s success with his original songwriting and lead guitar style, which differed significantly from the norm that expected the lead singer to be the only lead and sole dynamic member. As a prominent figure in the rock scene, Pete got the chance to observe many bands closely. The rocker is known for his blunt statements, and he once targeted Cream regarding their sound.

What Did Pete Townshend Think Of Cream?


Cream, featuring Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on drums, was also a part of the rock scene during the same era, both bands made their live debuts in America on March 25, 1967, at the RKO Keith Theater on 58th and 3rd Ave in New York City. Pete and Eric also performed together in Atlanta in 1974. Both bands undoubtedly left their mark on rock history.

Townshend has played with Cream member Eric Clapton and closely observed the rock scene. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1982, Pete Townshend once shared one of his observations about his contemporary rock band Cream and talked about his thoughts on Eric Clapton. The vocalist revealed that sometimes he thought that Cream sounded ’empty.’

According to Pete Townshend, one of the reasons was the difficulty of being in a three-piece band, since he explained that he thought this emptiness he felt in the sound could be solved with an electric organ player. Pete said he liked Eric Clapton’s guitar playing but did not always enjoy his sound because it was sometimes a littlemuffled.’ He explained that he found Traffic and Blind Faith, two other bands that featured Eric Clapton, better in this sense.

“I have to say, that was my experience listening to Cream, it felt to me that sometimes it sounded so empty. I thought they would’ve been so much better if they had a Hammond player. I always loved Eric’s playing, but not always his sound. It always felt to me like it was a bit muffled in the Marshall days. That’s why I prefer Traffic and Blind Faith. I like the sound of that.”

As it appears, Pete Townshend felt that the problem with Cream’s songs was not specifically Eric Clapton’s playing but how the band members sounded together. He personally observed the pressure being in a three-member band puts on the lead guitar and he explained this problem with Cream would be solved with a Hammond player.