Wheels of Fire

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Wheels of Fire
Studio album / Live album by Cream
Released July 1968 (1968-07)
Length 82:24
Producer Felix Pappalardi
Cream chronology
Disraeli Gears
Wheels of Fire
Singles from Wheels of Fire
  1. "White Room"
    Released: November 1968
  2. "Crossroads (Live)""
    Released: January 1969
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Rolling Stone (mixed)[2]
AllMusic 4/5 stars[3]

Wheels of Fire is the third album by the British rock band Cream. It was released in July 1968 as a two-disc vinyl LP, with one disc recorded in the studio and the other recorded live. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album.[4] In May 2012 it was ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[5]

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.[6] 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][6] 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.[6] 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.[6]

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.[6]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
In the Studio
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) 4:31
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
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 a longer version of "Passing the Time". The "long version" is extended by 73 seconds and was included on the gold CD issued by DCC Compact Classics. An "extended version" included on Those Were the Days is an additional 7 seconds longer.

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

^Note 3: Some songs on the studio album were processed with the Haeco-CSG system. Also processed was "Anyone for Tennis", which was released as a single. Haeco-CSG was intended to make stereo recordings that were compatible with mono playback, but has the unfortunate side effect of "bluring" the phantom center channel.

^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.[7] The song is based on a vintage blues by Peter Chatman.

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.[8]


Per liner notes[1]

Personnel for the studio recordings[edit]

"White Room"
"Sitting on Top of the World"
  • Eric Clapton – Gibson SG Standard "the Fool" for both backing tracks and lead guitar (riffs and solo)
  • Jack Bruce – bass, vocals
  • Ginger Baker – drums
"Passing the Time"
"As You Said"
  • Jack Bruce – acoustic guitar, vocals, cello
  • Ginger Baker – hi-hat
"Pressed Rat and Warthog"
  • Eric Clapton – guitars (Gibson SG standard Fool & GIbson Reverse Firebird) backing track, three lead guitars including overdubs
  • Jack Bruce – bass, vocals
  • Ginger Baker – drums
"Those Were the Days"
  • Eric Clapton – guitars, Gibson SG standard ("Fool") & GIbson backing track, lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Jack Bruce – bass, lead vocals
  • Ginger Baker – drums, marimba, tubular bells
  • Felix Pappalardi – Swiss hand bells
"Born Under a Bad Sign"
  • Jack Bruce – bass, vocals[9]
  • Eric Clapton – guitars (Gibson SG standard ("Fool") backing track and lead guitar
  • Ginger Baker – drums, tambourine
"Deserted Cities of the Heart"
  • Eric Clapton – guitars Gibson Reverse Firebird & Gibson SG standard ("Fool") backing track and lead guitar
  • Jack Bruce – bass, vocals, cello, acoustic guitar
  • Ginger Baker – drums, tambourine
  • Felix Pappalardi – viola [10]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Single releases[edit]

Year Title Chart position
1968-69 "White Room" 1 19 14 28 2 2 28 6
1969 "Crossroads" 28


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Wheels of Fire (Billboard 6 July 1968). Cream. United States: Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1968. 
  2. ^ Wenner, Jann (20 July 1968). "Cream Wheels Of Fire". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Wheels of Fire". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Cream – the Band". BBC. 20 September 2000. 
  5. ^ Wheels of Fire, Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ The Very Best of Cream (liner notes).
  9. ^ https://www.discogs.com/Cream-Wheels-Of-Fire/release/8416233
  10. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Cream-Wheels-Of-Fire/release/2906892
  11. ^ Kent, David. Australian Chart Book 1940–1969. ISBN 0-646-44439-5. 
  12. ^ "RPM – Item Display: Top Albums/CDs – Volume 10, No. 7, October 14, 1968" (.Php). Library and Archives Canada. 2004-03-31. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  13. ^ "Top Stranih [Top Foreign]" (in Croatian). Top Foreign Albums. Hrvatska diskografska udruga. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  14. ^ "Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > "Cream" > "Ok". InfoDisc.fr. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  15. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  16. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Cream – Wheels of Fire". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-07-15.
  17. ^ "Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive: 14th September 1968". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  18. ^ "Top LP's". Billboard Magazine: 57. 10 August 1968. 
  19. ^ "Wheels of Fire – Cream – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  20. ^ "Australian Fun Countdowns: Accreditation Awards". Warner Music Sales International. BMI Music International. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Made A Rock Culture". Billboard Magazine. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. November 16, 1968. Retrieved September 19, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Facebook Pictues for Cream – Band". Facebook. Retrieved 2015-07-15. It was the first platinum selling double album, and worthy of its inclusion in uDiscover's list of their favourite double albums. 
  23. ^ "Austrian Single Chart Positions" (in German). Das österreichische Hitparaden- und Musik-Portal. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  24. ^ "Belgian Single Chart Positions". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  25. ^ "German Single Chart Positions" (in German). Offizielle Deutsche Charts. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  26. ^ "Dutch Single Chart Positions". Dutch Charts. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  27. ^ "New Zealand Single Chart Positions". Flavour of New Zealand. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  28. ^ "British Single Chart Positions". Ultimate Music Database. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  29. ^ "American Single Chart Positions – Billboard Hot 100". Ultimate Music Database. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 

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