"Tales of Brave Ulysses" is a song performed by the 1960s group Cream. The lyrics were written by artist Martin Sharp, and the music was composed by Eric Clapton. Arranged by Robert Stigwood, the song is featured on Cream's album Disraeli Gears. Sharp had written the words on the back of a beer mat, which he gave to Clapton after a chance meeting. These lyrics were put to a melody inspired by Judy Collins' version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" and chords inspired by The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City". The music originated from bassist Jack Bruce's ability to match his vocals to the meter of the song to a riff, adding it with his vocals to what had previously been a poem but was then expanded by Clapton into a song. The song is credited on the single to P. Brown, J. Bruce, and E. Clapton. The day before writing the song, Clapton discovered the wah-wah pedal, which augmented the song.
The lyrics are inspired by Homer'sOdyssey, an account of the adventures undertaken by Ulysses. This can be seen in the song's reference to "how his naked ears were tortured by the sirens sweetly singing," an event from Homer's epic poem. When interviewed on the episode of the VH1 show, Classic Albums, which featured Disraeli Gears, lyricist Sharp explained that he had recently returned from Ibiza, which was the source of many of the images in the song (e.g. "tiny purple fishes run laughing through your fingers") and the general feeling of having left an idyll to return to "the hard lands of the winter"; Clapton stated in the same show that he had been independently writing a tune based on The Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City", and when Sharp gave him the words (on the back of a bar napkin) they fit the tune.
The song is featured twice on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The first of these episodes is the sixth episode of season 3: Band Candy, the second of these is episode 17 of season 5: Forever. In both instances it is played by the character Giles.
The song is featured on the HBO series Entourage. On the season 5 episode "Tree Trippers" on the end credits.
The song was covered by pioneer doom metal band Trouble (and released as the b-side of the '84 12" Assassin), by the grunge band Screaming Trees on the 1990 compilation album Taste Test#1, and by psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection with Minnie Riperton on vocals, as found on their 1969 album Songs and on the 2005 compilation Psychedelic Jazz and Funky Grooves. It was also covered by the New Wave band Algebra Suicide.
An extended arrangement of the song was recorded in 2007 by American artist Cary Grace, and was released as the B-side of the single "Pandora".
The song is featured on the soundtrack of the documentary "Tom Dowd and the Language of Music" about the legendary Atlantic Records recording engineer.
The arrangement of this song is used for Hap Palmer's song: "When Things Don't Go Your Way" for his "Turn on the Music" album and video.