Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cream – "Sunshine of Your Love" (1968)

I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going

So far, no one has even hazarded a guess as to what the songs of “29 Songs in 29 Days” have in common.

Even if you don’t have a clue what this year’s “29 Songs in 29 Days” theme is, surely you can figure out where the singer of “Sunshine of Your Love” has been waiting so long to be going.

I’ve been a big fan of this song since it was orignally released in 1968.  But I have to admit I never really thought about the lyrics – which are ham-handed enough that they could pass for the lyrics to a Spinal Tap song.

For example, there are these lines:

I'll soon be with you, my love
To give you my dawn surprise

(Three guesses what that "dawn surprise" refers to.)

And then there are these lines:

I'll stay with you darling now
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up has a wonderfully wrongheaded annotation for those lines.  It interprets them as meaning that the singer will stay with the object of his affection “until his ‘seas dry up,’ possibly referring to andropause [emphasis added] and how he will reserve his sexual existence for only her.”

I seriously doubt that the singer is referring to andropause, which is also known as “male menopause.”  For one thing, there’s really no such thing as male menopause.

I think the lyrics are referring to what scientists call the “refractory period,” during which time the sexually-sated male is too pooped to pop.

“Sunshine of Your Love” has two very distinctive musical elements.

First, there’s Jack Bruce’s unforgettable opening guitar riff, which is repeated incessantly throughout the song and which sounds just as compelling today as it did when the record was new.  (Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone that Bruce came up with this riff after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert, but it doesn’t sound at all Hendrix-like to me.)

Second, there’s Ginger Baker’s drumming, which mostly eschews the snare and cymbals in favor of the tom-toms.  Baker’s drum part broke with tradition in one other way – instead of emphasizing the “off” beats (two and four), he accents the “on” beats (especially the first beat of each measure).  Baker sounds like a Native American drummer calling his tribe’s braves to do battle against John Wayne, Ward Bond, Victor McLaglen, Ben Johnson, and their fellow cavalrymen.

Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce
Eric Clapton’s solo is acknowledged to be the best example of his “woman tone,” a “smooth, dark, singing, sustaining sound” (to quote author Mitch Gallagher) that Clapton produced by playing his solid-body, humbucker-pickup-equipped Gibson SG Standard (Gibson’s best-selling guitar of all time) through a Marshall tube amplifier.

“Sunshine of Your Love” was Cream’s biggest hit single.  Cream didn’t stay together long, but they released some unforgettable songs.  “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” “Badge,” “SWLABR,” “I Feel Free,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses” – those are some truly great songs, boys and girls.

Here’s a live performance of “Sunshine of Your Love."  (Ginger Baker absolutely kills it.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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