The Guitar Solos

by Jeffrey Aarons

Sleepy Time Time

This is one of my favorite slow blues studio cuts by Cream. In fact, "Sleepy Time Time" represents one of the few, traditional 1,4, 5 chord slow blues formats cut in the studio (others are "Sitting on Top..", "Lawdy Mama" etc...) not counting a variation of this format which is featured in Born Under A Bad Sign.

"Sleepy Time" is in the key of C and begins with only the bass and drums on the six intro notes, then Erics rhythm track guitar comes in at the same time his overdub starts. Eric's picking the intro notes on the 5th and 4th strings at the 8th position with Baker and Bruce behind him. Than Eric comes in with his over dub guitar and plays the tunes main theme: which is comprised of a slight third finger bend of the second string on the 10th fret (B flat), than lets down to the regular A note (same fret) then picks the G note on the 8th Fret (first finger) than over to the 3rd string (third finger) 10th fret for the F note than the last two which are E flat and E using first and second fingers on same string. From that point on, Clapton weaves and sings a gorgeous assortment of answering riffs which show off to perfection the synergetic effect of the patented Clapton Les Paul/Marshall symbiosis: displaying incredibly rich, thick, resonating tone and a sweet sonic ambiance that permeates his entire performance.

Eric utilizes beautiful straight and stretch vibratos throughout the tune which reveals a new level of control that surpasses his Bluesbreaker period. After the fourth verse of the repeat (before second refrain), Clapton jolts the listener with a viciously picked C note the second string, 13th fret, descending with a straight vibrato on the B flat note then slides down on third string from G 12th fret to the F note, on 10th fret, before returning to the remaining riffs.

Before the solo break, Clapton prepares you for his solo with a sharply picked sequence of three notes then a brilliantly executed stretch vibrato (reaching the C note) on the second string, 11th fret, followed by a descending sequence which features another Clapton trademark, the snap & bend or what is now a variation of the hammer off. Clapton would grab a note (in this case the E flat note, third string, 8thfret) with his first finger than hammer on his third finger, without picking (two frets up same string), then SNAP off with the same third finger back to his first finger. BUT in his case he added an innovation (based on the old bluesplayers but with more finesse) which consisted of bending up slightly with the first finger, reaching a half step up in tone (E flat to E), creating another patented Clapton sound.

He then begins the historic solo that features Claptons incredible control, finesse and architectural mastery. Without once resorting to a fast riff, he guides you through a gut wrenching, yet sweet, melodic, solo with a range that begins in the 8th position, moves to the 16th position with his 2nd and third fingers spreading up to the 18th fret. Here he hits a suspended high bent note that soars sweetly in the air (C note) on the first string 18th fret, with nine pick strokes. From there he continues to artistically vocalize with his Les Paul before descending back to the 8th position quickly stroking a short but savage three note sequence then brilliantly executing another honey laced, flowing close with all of his wonderful picking nuances created from unbelievable control of picking pressure.

The closing riff at the end of the tune, is a simple Clapton minor modal phrase that ends with a firmly picked C Seventh chord inversion. It is interesting to compare the studio Sleepy Time with the Live Sleepy Time where Clapton flashes a flowing fast riff during an early climactical phase of the solo. He also plays with more power at the end of the live version with some strong straight vibratos and some jaw lifting bends all in the 8th position.

Jeffrey Aarons, 1999