Wheels of Fire

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Wheels of Fire
Studio album / Live album by Cream
Released July 1968 (1968-07) (U.S.) [1]
9 August 1968 (1968-08-09) (U.K.) [2]
Recorded July, August 1967 at IBC Studios, London
September – October 1967, January – February, June 1968 at Atlantic Studios, New York
8 and 10 March 1968 at Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, California
7 March 1968 at The Fillmore, San Francisco[1]
Genre Blues rock
Psychedelic rock
Hard rock
Length 80:32
Label Polydor (UK)
Atco (USA)[3]
Producer Felix Pappalardi[1]
Cream chronology
Disraeli Gears
Wheels of Fire
Singles from Wheels of Fire
  1. "Crossroads"
    Released: January 1969 (1969-01) (U.S. release only)[4]
  2. "White Room"
    Released: January 1969 (1969-01)[4]
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Rolling Stone mixed[5]
AllMusic 4/5 stars[6]

Wheels of Fire is a 1968 double album by the British rock band Cream, consisting of a studio and a live record. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album.[7] In 2003 it was ranked number 203 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[8]

It was also released as two single long-players, Wheels of Fire (In the Studio) and Wheels of Fire (Live at the Fillmore), released together with similar cover art. In the UK the studio album art was black print on aluminium foil while the live album art was a negative image of the studio cover. In Japan the studio album art was black on gold foil while the live album art was black on aluminium foil. In Australia both covers were laminated copies of the Japanese releases (the double album was never released in Australia).


Cream's third album was planned to be a double album on which Atco Records' producer Felix Pappalardi and the group would include several live performances.[9]


The group and Pappalardi had, in July and August 1967, recorded studio material at IBC Studios in London, and at Atlantic Studios in New York City during September and October of the same year.[1] Additional studio material was recorded at Atlantic Studios in January and February 1968, during a break from the band's heavy tour schedule.[1][9] The following month,[1] Pappalardi ordered for a mobile recording studio in Los Angeles to be shipped to the Fillmore auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.[9] Six shows were recorded in San Francisco by Pappalardi and recording engineer Bill Halverson,[1] and extra performances not included on Wheels of Fire ended up on Live Cream, and Live Cream Volume II.[9]

Production and artwork[edit]

The recording engineers on disc one were Tom Dowd and Adrian Barber, the songs on disc two were recorded by Bill Halverson and the performances on the second disc were mixed by Adrian Barber. The artwork for the album was by Martin Sharp[1] who had also done the artwork for Disraeli Gears. The photography was by Jim Marshall.[1]


The band's drummer Ginger Baker co-wrote three songs for the album with pianist Mike Taylor. Bassist Jack Bruce co-wrote four songs with poet Pete Brown. Guitarist Eric Clapton contributed to the album by choosing two cover songs.

For the second disc Felix Pappalardi chose "Traintime" because it featured Jack Bruce performing a harmonica solo, and "Toad" because it features Ginger Baker's drumming while "Spoonful" and "Crossroads" were used to showcase Eric Clapton's guitar-playing.[9]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one: In the Studio[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "White Room 3" (Jack Bruce, Pete Brown) 4:58
2. "Sitting on Top of the World" (Walter Vinson, Lonnie Chatmon; arr. Chester Burnett) 4:58
3. "Passing the Time 1 3" (Ginger Baker, Mike Taylor) 4:37
4. "As You Said" (Bruce, Brown) 4:20
Side 2
No. Title Length
1. "Pressed Rat and Warthog" (Baker, Taylor) 3:13
2. "Politician 3" (Bruce, Brown) 4:12
3. "Those Were the Days 3" (Baker, Taylor) 2:53
4. "Born Under a Bad Sign 3" (Booker T. Jones, William Bell) 3:09
5. "Deserted Cities of the Heart 2 3" (Bruce, Brown) 3:38

Disc two: Live at the Fillmore[edit]

Side three
No. Title Recording date Length
1. "Crossroads" (Robert Johnson, arr. Clapton) 10 March 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco, CA. (1st show) 4:13
2. "Spoonful" (Willie Dixon) 10 March 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco, CA. (1st show) 16:43
Side 4
No. Title Recording date Length
1. "Traintime 4" (Bruce) 8 March 1968 at Winterland, San Francisco, CA. (1st show) 7:01
2. "Toad" (Baker) 7 March 1968 at The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA. (2nd show) 16:15

Performers on disc one are "the Cream quartet" consisting of Clapton, Baker, and Bruce together with Felix Pappalardi, who plays many different instruments and is also credited with production.

^Note 1: Some pressings of this album contain an alternative version of "Passing the Time". This "long version" is extended by 67 seconds, but also differs from the "extended version" included on Those Were the Days, which is longer by a further 80 seconds.

^Note 2: Original US pressings of Wheels of Fire incorrectly listed the running time of "Deserted Cities of the Heart" at 4:36.

^Note 3: Side 1 tracks 1 and 3 and Side 2 tracks 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the studio album were processed with the Haeco-CSG system. Also processed was "Anyone For Tennis", which was recorded at the same sessions and appears on some versions of the album. Haeco-CSG was intended to make stereo recordings that were fully compatible with mono playback equipment. The unfortunate side effect is that it "blurs" the stereo imaging of musical parts mixed to the phantom centre channel. Using modern digital audio processing software it is possible to reverse the Haeco-CSG effect and restore the original intended sound quality.

During the 10 March first set, "Spoonful" preceded "Crossroads", and though it seems as though "Traintime" aurally precedes "Toad", "Traintime" was recorded a day later, and expertly edited to seamlessly blend into the introduction to "Toad".

While the disc is labelled Live at the Fillmore, only "Toad" was recorded at The Fillmore. The other tracks were recorded live at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.[10]

^Note 4: Original album pressings list "John Group" as the author of "Traintime". The "John Group" appellation dates back to Jack Bruce's tenure with the Graham Bond Organisation (with whom Bruce originally recorded the song in 1965), and was used by that band to ensure that members other than Bond received songwriting royalties.[11] The song is based on a vintage blues by Peter Chatman.


Per liner notes[1]



Chart (1968) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[12] 1
Canada (RPM Top 50)[13] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[14] 16
UK (The Official Charts Company)[15]
  • Double album
UK (The Official Charts Company)[16]
  • Single Album
US Billboard 200[17] 1
US Billboard R&B Albums Chart.[18] 11


Year Single Position
Billboard Hot 100[19] UK Top 40[20]
1968 "White Room" #6 #28
1969 "Crossroads" #28 -


By the RIAA[21]

Organization Level Date
RIAA Gold 22 July 1968


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wheels of Fire (Billboard 6 July 1968). Cream. United States: Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1968. 
  2. ^ [1], GINGER BAKER DISCOGRAPHY - LP's: Part 2
  3. ^ [2], Cream (2) – Wheels Of Fire
  4. ^ a b Strong, Charles (2002) [Originally published in 1994]. The Great Rock Discography (Sixth ed.). United Kingdom: Canongate Books. p. 323. ISBN 1-84195-312-1. 
  5. ^ Wenner, Jann (20 July 1968). "Cream Wheels Of Fire". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Wheels of Fire". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Cream – the Band". BBC. 20 September 2000. 
  8. ^ Wheels of Fire, Rolling Stone.
  9. ^ a b c d e Schumacher, Michael (1995). "Chapter 4: Power Trio (1966–68)". Crossroads: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton (1st ed.). New York City, New York: Hyperion. pp. 96–100, 102. ISBN 0-7868-6074-X. 
  10. ^ The Very Best of Cream (liner notes).
  11. ^ Liner notes to the CD version of the Graham Bond Organisation's The Sound of '65/There's a Bond Between Us, BGO Records, catalog no. BGOCD500, released in the UK 1999.
  12. ^ Kent, David. Australian Chart Book 1940–1969. ISBN 0-646-44439-5. 
  13. ^ "RPM – Item Display: Top Albums/CDs – Volume 10, No. 7, October 14, 1968" (.Php). Library and Archives Canada. 31 March 2004. 
  14. ^ "Cream – Wheels of Fire (album)" (ASP). VG-lista (in Norwegian). Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  15. ^ "Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive: 14th September 1968". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive: 24th August 1968". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 6 December 2010. 
  17. ^ "Top LP's". Billboard: 57. 10 August 1968. 
  18. ^ "Cream – Billboard Albums". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Cream > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles" at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  20. ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles & Album Charts". everyHit.com. 16 March 2000. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "American album certifications – Cream – Wheels of Fire". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 28 September 2011.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Beat of the Brass
by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Billboard 200 number-one album
10 August – 6 September 1968
Succeeded by
Waiting for the Sun by The Doors
Preceded by
The Graduate (soundtrack)
by Various artists
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
7–20 December 1968
Succeeded by
The Beatles (The White Album)
by The Beatles