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The lyrics were written by Pete Brown, a beat poet who was friends with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. He also wrote lyrics for "I Feel Free" and "White Room
." Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce wrote the music.
Jack Bruce's bass line carries the song. He got the idea for it after going to a Jimi Hendrix concert. When Kees van Wee interviewed Bruce in 2003 for the Dutch magazine Heaven, Kees asked him which of his many songs epitomizes Jack Bruce the most. At first he was in doubt whether he should answer "Pieces Of Mind" or "Keep On Wondering," but then he changed his mind and opted for "Sunshine Of Your Love." Because, Said Bruce, "It's based on a bass riff. And when you enter a music shop this is the song that kids always play to try out a guitar." (thanks to Kees for this info)
Pete Brown wrote the opening line after being up all night working with Bruce and watching the sun come up. That's were he got, "It's getting near dawn, when lights close their tired eyes."
Tom Dowd, who worked with most of the artists for Atlantic Records at the time, engineered the Disreali Gears album. Dowd was renowned for his technical genius, but also for his ability to relate to musicians and put them at ease. When Cream recorded this song, it wasn't working. In the documentary Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music, he explained: "There just wasn't this common ground that they had on so many of the other songs. I said, 'Have you ever seen an American Western where the Indian beat - the downbeat - is the beat? Why don't you play that one. Ginger went inside and they started to run the song again. When they started playing that way, all of the parts came together and they were elated."
According to Rolling Stone
magazine's Top 500 songs issue, Jack Bruce knew the song would do well: "Both Booker T. Jones and Otis Redding heard it at Atlantic Studios and told me it was going to be a smash," he recalled.
One man who was not impressed was Ahmet Ertegun, who was head of the group's label. When Bruce revealed the song at the sessions, Ertegun declared it "psychedelic hogwash." Ertegun constantly tried to promote Eric Clapton as the band's leader, and also didn't believe the bassist should be a lead singer. He only relented and agreed to champion this song after Booker T. Jones came by and expressed his approval.
This is one of Eric Clapton's favorites from this days with Cream; he played it at most of his solo shows throughout his career. When Cream played some reunion concerts in 2005, they played the song as their encore.
Jimi Hendrix covered this at some of his concerts. He did not know that he inspired the bass line. He did an impromptu performance in the middle of his appearance on the Lulu show (where he was supposed to play "Hey Joe
") on BBC TV in England in 1968. This version appears on the Experience Hendrix 2CD/3LP "The BBC Sessions" towards the end of Disc 2/Side 6 on the LP. An instrumental version appears on the 2010 Valleys of Neptune
album, which was recorded by Hendrix at London's Olympic Studios on February 16, 1969. Hendrix engineer and producer Eddie Kramer recalled to Toronto's The Globe and Mail
: "Jimi loved Cream, he loved Eric Clapton. It was a fabulous song, he loved to play it, and he would just rip into it whenever the mood hit him." (thanks, Jippers - Gosford, Australia)
This was Cream's biggest hit. It was their first to do better in the US than in England, as they started to catch on in America. In the US, this first charted in February, 1968 at #36. In August, after the album came out, it re-entered the chart and went to #5.
Clapton's guitar solo is based on the '50s song "Blue Moon
Excepting "Strange Brew
," the Disraeli Gears
album was recorded in just three days, as the band had to return to England because their work visas were expiring. Engineer Tom Dowd recalls the sessions coming to an abrupt end when a limo driver showed up to take the musicians to the airport. Dowd was tasked with mixing the album in their absence.
Cream played this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1993 when they reunited for their induction. To that point, the only other time the band got back together was at Eric Clapton's wedding in 1979.
Jack Bruce released a new version on his 2001 album Shadows In The Air. Clapton played on it along with Latin percussionists from New York City, which gave it a Salsa sound.
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