This song was inspired by trips Eric Clapton took to the Greek Islands. Ulysses, also known as Odysseus, is a character of Greek Mythology. A hero of the Trojan War, he was the subject of the novel The Odyssey, and the basis for the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Cream switched to a more psychedelic sound for their second album Disraeli Gears, which was helmed by producer Felix Pappalardi, who pushed them in this direction. Their first album, Fresh Cream, was produced by Robert Stigwood and was filled with Blues material.
"Tales Of Brave Ulysses" is one of the trippiest songs on the album, thanks in part to the wah-wah pedal Eric Clapton used on his guitar. According to Pappalardi, their first attempts to record the song fell flat. Taking a break, he and Clapton went to Manny's Music store, where they found some wah-wah pedals - Clapton only agreed to use them because he heard Jimi Hendrix was experimenting with one (he was - Hendrix used one on his song "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp"). This guitar effect became a distinguishing feature of the song.
An Australian painter named Martin Sharp helped Clapton write this. Sharp painted the album cover of Disraeli Gears.
Like most early Cream songs, this one has lead vocals by their bass player Jack Bruce.
Clapton was in his phase where he was experimenting with distortion devices on his guitar. He used a fuzz-box and wah-wah pedal on this, as well as some echo. This was Eric Clapton's first use of the wah-wah pedal. He used it again for background effects and an extended solo on "White Room."
Suggestion credit: James - Tracy, CA
Most of Disraeli Gears was recorded in just three days during the second week of May 1967 at Atlantic Studios in New York (the band had to return to England because their work visas were expiring). The album didn't come out until November, but "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" was used as the B-side of "Strange Brew," which was issued in June. "Ulysses" fit the soundtrack to the Summer of Love and became one of Cream's best-known songs. It got lots of airplay on Album Oriented Rock (AOL) radio stations, as well as on some of the more adventurous Classic Rock stations.
Saddlesocked from Sunnyvale, CaThis song makes me think back to hippie bedrooms of paisley pillows, incense and getting stoned on weed.
Eva from Castro Valley, CaOne show I heard this on was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Band Candy" from season 3 I think. Giles and Buffy's mom are listening to his album collection and he tells her to listen to a guitar solo and says he needs to get a band together.
Manuela from Eisenhüttenstadt, GermanyI think this song is about a man who regards himself as a kind of drifter (Ulysses drifted through the sea - he could not find his way home because Aphrodite had punished him this way) who fell in love with a girl looking like Aphrodite (look at Boticelli's Aphrodite with the shell)and he thinks that having sex with her would never get out of his head again (carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind)
George from Huntington, NyClapton said that the chords in this song were inspired from Loving Spoonful's "Summer in the City" (but the timing was adjusted). The members of Cream, and most other contemporaries, held Loving Spoonful in high regard.
Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaMartin Sharp was also a poet and he was writing the intro to Tales of Brave Ulysses on a napkin or on the back of a coater or something, and Calpton said he amediatley fell in love with the song. True story. Read it in the auto-bigraphy.
Mark from Seattle, WaA few comments: in an interview one of the band members said that the idea of a wah-wah pedal was Felix Papparidi's (sp?). He sent one of the band across the street from the studio to a music store to buy one. EC's MSG comment was wrong, as when I saw Cream at winterland on their '68 tour they opened with this song. EC didn't sing it because: 1) he didn't write it, and 2) in those days his voice was truely bad (listen to his parts on "Sunshine of your Love"). I also read a recent interview which said that EC likes to open shows with a wah-wah pedal number, but I don't remember the era it was commenting about.
J from Atl, GaThis is a really cool song, I especially love the lines: And when your fingers find her, she drowns you in her body,Carving deep blue ripples in the tissues of your mind.
Brian from Long Branch, NjI also loved the Greek mythology connection and wondered at some of the lyrics. A few facts to set the record straight: Martin Sharp (an artist)wrote the lyrics based on a vacation he took abroad to the greek isles. He gave the words to Clapton after a chance meeting between the two. Clapton used the chord changes to the Lovin' Spoonfull's "Summer In The City" as inspiration for the music. Jack Bruce came up with a way to sing it to Eric's music. Clapton and Sharp hit it off and Sharp ended up designing the album cover as well. Source: Desraeli Gears/Classic Albums DVD w/ interviews of Sharp/Clapton, etc. P.S. I always thought that the title "Desraeli" was some deep comment based on the British politician of the same name. According to the same source, the name actually comes from a friend of the band saying a bicycle was equipped with "desraeli gears" instead of derailier gears. It struck the band as funny and the name stuck.
Craig from Irvine, CaTales and White Room are definitely the same chord patterns. This was the first use of the Wah pedal, before Jimi H used his on Up from The Skies on Axis: Bold as Love. Martin Sharp, who also did the art work for Disraeli Gears, collaborated with Eric Clapton to write Tales. White Room, which is credited to jack Bruce/Peter Brown was an 8 page poem that Jack said was the only time he wrote the lyrics first and then edited down to the almost 5 minute White Room. Diraeli was also the LP that introduced the famous Clapton "Woman tone" sustain that was used on Sunshine, Strange Brew, We're Going Wrong, Outside Woman Blues and SWALBR.
Barry from New York, NyCream played this at their Madison Square Garden leg of their reunion run. Clapton announced before playing it that this was the first time to be performed onstage. I hope he was just kidding because it was played many times in 1967 and is featured on the "Live Cream Vol 2" LP.
Mac from Evanston, IlOne of my favorite Cream songs; I like the comment about Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding," there is a similarity in the vocal pacing: dit-DAH-dit-DAH-dit-DAH-dit-DAH; relentless and urgent in both cases, though the themes are so different. "White Room" is essentially Cream cannabilizing its own earlier song, but I prefer "Tales". Patrick and Grey: are you guys OK? I believe in the freedom to explore your inner states as long as you harm nobody (the term "psychedelic," as you are probably aware, is from the Greek for "soul revealing") but I hope you guys are able to touch down and not get permanently lost out there, a la Syd Barrett...
Jim from Troy, NyThis song has almost the exact same chord pattern as the verses in White Room: Tales of Brave Ulysses- D, C, B, Bb White Room- D, C, G/B, Bb, C Take the chorus out of White Room and slow it down a little, it's practically the same song with different lyrics.
Shaft from Glenville, WvI have heard this song somewhere, if anyone could tell me what films/TV shows this has been played in so I'll know where I heard it, that'd be great.
Kika from Nyc, NyNo inbar. Women in ancient greece were completely neglected and used for the sole purpose of procreation. Whore houses in ancient greek were primarily filled with young men. They weren't so much brothels as they were old men taking young men under their wings to teach, and "love" I think this song is just about Odysseus, and an adventure, it's a good topic, why not? It's one of the best Cream songs in my opinion.
Christina from Arnold, MdI like songs about mythology, particularly Greek and Roman mythology. But what, pray tell, are the tiny purple fishes in the lyric? I don't remember any purple fishes in The Odyssey.
Inbar from Tel Aviv, United StatesI think this song is about how women can be beautiful and tempting, and how men can be overtaken and sweeped away by them. Not just in ancient Greece, but in general. the lyrics to this are so good.
Barry from New York, NyCream didn't play this at their 2005 reunion shows at Royal Albert Hall. I hope they do play it when they hit MSG at the end of October. I'll be at the final of these shows and I hope to hear it!!
James from Des Moines, Iaone of the few songs worth listening to over and over again, i can't get enough of it
Johnny from Scotch Plains, NjWhen I was a little kid, like 8, I would listen to this song endlessly in my parents room. They thought I was insane. Even today, at 32, it hyptonizes me.
Brett from Birmingham, Alwhy do patrick and grey think this a song that he came up with while on a drug trip? The sirens were real in greek/roman mythology. they were very pretty fishwomen who attracted men to their doom because the men would either steer their ships into the rocks surrounding the sirens or they would jump in the ocean and swim towards the sirens only to be drowned. and aphrodite in a crimson shell is how she appeared on earth since her mother was mother earth.
Boris from Fort Collins, CoIt's really fun to sing the lyrics to Tales of Brave Ulysses to the tune of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner"...
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scwhat a great song! I can almost imagine hearing the ocean in the background, along with the lyrics. Maybe that's because of the guitar solos.What can I say? The guys in cream are amazing!
Schmitty from Vienna, Vawilliam---- i think they trade off lines singing eric does the soft part and jack does the loud part....or the other way around cause i have the Crossroads box set and it says that they both sing on this track...hmmm...anyway this is one of the greatest wah-wah songs ever right up there with White Room and Voodoo Chile(Slight Return) this is also the song that got Jimi Hendrix exposed to wah-wah
William from Phoenix, AzI was aware the song was my eric clapton/martin sharp.....didn't know who martin was till a couple minutes ago. I wonder why jack bruce sang it. cause he was a more powerful singer? just a guess.
William from Phoenix, Azwhat a cool song. what a great album. what can one say? what a great band. amazing stuff.
Steve from Hamilton, CanadaMartin Sharp was EC's room-mate when they wrote this.
Bailey from San Francisco, CaI thought it was about the lure of life. How we feel called into living and taking action in the world. "Crimson", the color of luxury and decadence; "torturing our naked ears" tempting us in our naivety .
Grey from Knoxville, Tncorrection patrick...acid+acid+acid+acid+acid+acid+pot+pot+pot+ smack times 50 + white times 50 = classic rock...namely clapton..floyd..zeppelin..the dead
Don from Philadelphia, PaThis is an amazing song, Eric Clapton is just fantastic on this!
Patrick from Durham, NcAcid + Acid + Acid + LSD + SHROOMS + ACID + CANNABIS + HEROIN + TINY PURPLE FISHES = Tales of Brave Ulysses. ; )