Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunshine of Your Love and the Explicit Ambiguity of Rock and Roll

"But if I really say it, the radio won't play it
Unless I lay it between the lines."
Peter, Paul & Mary

It's been often noted how certain smells can vividly bring us back to moments in our past, and I think music often does the same. Yesterday "Sunshine of Your Love" by the 60's super group Cream did this for me.

I was in high school then. Transistor radios were the rage and we were all paying attention to the music our favorite disc jockeys were playing. All across the country kids learned to dance and many took up the guitar, drums or keyboards and sought out others with whom they could play, hoping one day to be performers. The Koons next door were a musical family, the father being a professional trumpet player and Scott Homan, a cousin about a mile away, was learning guitar and trying to form a group.

I don't even remember how often I practiced with them in hopes of being the singer in the band. Only problem was that I was too shy to be a front man. Little did I know that even Jim Morrison was once so shy he used to sing facing the band rather than face the crowd at the WhiskeyA Go-Go in L.A.

It was there in Scott Homan's basement that I first heard the incredible opening riffs of "Sunshine of Your Love," second cut on Cream's Disraeli Gears.

The sound felt unlike any other. First, the manner in which Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton rummaged the chord progressions to create a living, crawling backdrop for the vocals. And then that syncopated assault on the drums by Ginger Baker, almost like an unceasing series of hiccups, herky-jerky and almost seething. Atop this they laid down the lyrics.

The artwork on the cover was pure psychedelia and the lyrical contributions matched in poetic expressions unique even for this time of sensational explorations. Songs like "Strange Brew" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses," with its references to Homer and Greek mythology, showed an unusual sophistication. So, too, the ungirded rhythms and irresolution of "We're Going Wrong."

But Sunshine was the super hit from the album, the song that garnered radio air time. The chord progression at times corresponds with a chord structure you hear in The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night," my first 45 single as a kid. This was the same chord progression that got the Doors in trouble when they recorded "Hello, I Love You." There was nothing subtle about the sensuality in Morrison's voice, not the directness of "let me jump in your game."

The opening line of Sunshine is pure poetry. "It's getting near dawn, when lights close their tired eyes." But where the song is going, a song of longing and promise, is something that can't be laid out explicitly, not on pop radio.

I've been told that even the seemingly tame Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones was pulled form the radio after seven weeks as number one in New York because it was suddenly deemed too provocative. "I can't get no.... satisfaction."

The kids maybe didn't know what they were singing about, but their parents sure did. They were wary, but shouldn't have been surprised by the sexual revolution that emerged.

Sunshine of Your Love

It's getting near dawn,
When lights close their tired eyes
I'll soon be with you my love,
To give you my dawn surprise
I'll be with you darling soon,
I'll be with you when the stars start falling
I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
In the sunshine of your love

I'm with you my love,
The light's shining through on you
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two
I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up
I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
In the sunshine of your love

I'm with you my love,
The light's shining through on you.
Yes, I'm with you my love,
It's the morning and just we two.
I'll stay with you darling now,
I'll stay with you till my seas are dried up
I've been waiting so long
I've been waiting so long
To be where I'm going
In the sunshine of your love......

Exit with Ginger Baker creating the sound of a railroad rumbling away on down the line.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Go for it.

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