At my "live" experience at the Electric Factory. I noticed that Clapton began the opening sequence of notes (which comprise a simple A major chord) in the 5th position and to my surprise, fingered the chordal notes instead of picking them. He then launched into his patented power chords (major chords with root on fifth string) with his characteristic second (Bird) finger arched high in the air, which he does to this day. I am assuming he is doing the same on the opening rhythm track of the studio version of NSU, it certainly sounds like it.
After the first verse,Clapton bolts in with his overdub, harshly picking away with carefully timed strokes on the same chord sequence which partially overlays his rhythm track. Both the live recorded versions and the Factory version featured the same very powerful power chords blasting out of his Marshall Stacks to more than compensate for the missing rhythm track.
On the studio version, the second verse ends with Bruce and Bakers Bass drum, alone, measuring the thumping beat for 5 or so measures. Than Eric's rhythm guitar obliges with the start up chord and back into the verse until Eric slices in during a key change, with a hard edged solo that begins with FEED BACK!
On this solo, Clapton has his Les Paul really cranked up on the treble setting tone switch. After the feed back, he begins with very heavily picked notes featuring strong, straight vibratos and his 'Rolling and Tumbling' whip on the third (G) string sound before settling into minor modal riffs in the root position, still crunching his pick for an extremely percussive effect. Three quarters into the solo, he jacks up a gorgeous stretch vibrato on the second string, instead of first for an easier attack on the stretch vibrato. Then, shortly before the end, Eric hits an uncharacteristic double note, meaning, as he bends the string up, his pick catches the sonic addition of the other string caught in the bend, in this case the G or third string. However, this is something he would do PURPOSELY when he got down and dirty with the Dominoes.
In summation, Claptons studio NSU solo is average by his Cream standards, but retains a few exciting moments that qualify it as a classic.
© Jeffrey Aarons, 1999