And of course, Atlantic CEO Ahmet Ertegan hated both Jack Bruce (he didn't the bass player should be the lead singer of the band) and the song so it was almost left off the album. It was only included because they didn't have enough material in the end. Leave it to a record exec to want to nix what became their biggest hit!
"Sunshine of Your Love" is basically a 12 bar blues song, but it's quite unusual in that it's in 8/8 time rather than the usual 4/4. The distinctive bass riff is an 8 beat riff (in other words, it needs 8 beats to complete), and the song is built around it. As with most 12 bar blues songs, the first 8 bars (sometimes it's 10) make up the verse and the last 4 (or 2 in some songs) basically make up what amounts to a chorus, although we look at the full 12 bars as just a verse. The song form looks like this:
Intro (4 bars), Verse, Interlude (2 bars), Verse, Solo (over a Verse), Verse, 2 bar Chorus repeat, Outro
The song begins with the guitar and bass for the first two bars, then is joined by the drums for the next two. Unlike a common pop song, it doesn't feature a signature hook since the bass/guitar riff line is a hook in itself. The interlude is just 2 bars of the verse, and also does not feature a true hook or melody on top of the song's foundation elements. The end of the final verse features an additional two bars with the vocals of bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton answering each other.
According to Bruce, the signature bass riff was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. The lyrics were written by beat poet Pete Brown during an all night writing session. Said Bruce, "I picked up my double bass and played the riff. Pete looked out the window and the sun was coming up. He wrote 'It's getting near dawn, and lights close their tired eyes....'" Clapton later wrote the chorus ("I've been waiting so long, in the sunshine of your love").
Unlike most song lyrics, Brown was a real poet and you can tell, as the words have an elegance that's missing in the majority of hit songs that you'll hear today.
This is early rock at its finest in that the song is just the band with a single overdub, and that's the guitar solo. Everything else is the simple three piece power trio that Cream was. The only thing slightly unique is that they had two lead singers, with Bruce and Clapton alternating lines in the verse and singing harmony together in the chorus.
The arrangement elements look like this:
* The Foundation: drums
* The Rhythm: guitar and bass (they play the same riff)
* The Pad: none
* The Lead: vocals, guitar solo
* The Fills: none
This is one of those rare songs that only has 3 arrangement elements occurring at the same time throughout the song. The vast majority of songs may have 3 elements for a portion of the song, but eventually graduate to 4 or even 5. You'll almost never have more than 5 simultaneous elements since that just confuses the listener, and breaks a basic arrangement rule.
"Sunshine of Your Love" was recorded by the legendary Tom Dowd at Atlantic Studios in New York City. As with most songs of the era, it's clean, not very compressed, and not very loud, especially when compared with the songs of today. It also doesn't have much low end on the mix, since that wasn't much of a priority at the time. Engineering emphasis of the bass frequencies came about a decade later.
The stereo panning is typical 1967, with the drums on the right side and the rhythm guitar on the left. Take note of the long delayed reverb that's prominent on the vocals, and a little less so on the guitar. The drums, in turn, are pretty dry.
Jack Bruce's bass is pretty distorted and the amp is obviously miked. There was no such thing as "going direct" back in those days. In fact, direct boxes didn't even come on the scene for another 10 years or so. I must admit, I think that miking the amp is a better way of doing things as it gives the bass player's tone some character. Direct bass tends to all sound the same.
Bruce's vocal is also distorted, especially when he really opens up on the B section. It has just a touch of reverb, and you can hear the compressor grabbing a bit, but it's not a bad sound in general. Also listen to all the breath noise in the vocal. If the song was recorded today, that would probably be eliminated, but it does give the vocal a sense of realism and character.
Bruce's and Clapton's vocals are slightly split in the stereo field during the choruses
Of particular interest is the sound of the guitar solo, which Clapton called his "Women Tone," and came from his 1964 Gibson SG guitar played through a Marshall JTM 100 Model 1957 "Super Lead" amp head and matching 4x12 cabinet. Clapton has explained that the sound came as a result of the tone control of the guitar's neck pickup set to full "off" and the bass, middle and treble controls on the amp set to max.
Back in 1967 production consisted more of getting everyone to the studio on time, keeping everyone inspired and choosing the correct take, which is something that producer Felix Pappalardi did well in this case.
There is one production piece that was crucial to the song though, by way of engineer Dowd, who went on to a successful career as a producer as well. According to Dowd in his 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."
The drum part he's referring to is exceptionally unusual since it revolves around Ginger Baker's toms emphasizing beats 1 and 3 (on most songs it's 2 and 4). There's very little snare drum and the only time you hear cymbals is in choruses and the solo (although you hear them more as the song progresses). Very different for the time, and still very different today.
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