“‘She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow’. SWLABR was about somebody who’s comparing the woman he’s been involved with with the Mona Lisa, but then he’s going around defacing her picture. It’s actually quite perverted. The rainbow has a beard is basically defacing due to being dumped. It’s revenge. The blues is just a war between the sexes and that song is just an episode in that war.”Pete Brown (1076)
[Are the “bearded rainbows” in fact flowers? – Ed] No, “SWLABR (She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow),” the rainbow was this kind of very radiant sexuality. It was a psychedelic time, not that I ever did big psychedelics – I did some small ones – and I was using color images a lot at that point. But unfortunately, because we were in the blues tradition, it’s a bit misogynistic, that song I’m afraid. I don’t do those anymore, but it was a bit misogynistic. It’s about someone whose girlfriend has given him the elbow and he’s going around defacing pictures of her. It’s not very nice really.  But, the blues, as you know, is the war between men and women to some extent, and we were certainly part of it.”Pete Brown (1139)

Dance The Night Away

“That was the time that I chose to stop drinking and taking drugs and I was in a very, very strange state. A state of semi-reality for a bit, and the things that kept me anchored in some form of reality were dancing and sex. ‘Dance The Night Away’ was really related to that. I would do mad, psychedelic dancing down at psychedelic clubs and feel my body working – so I wasn’t floating away and disappearing which I’d previously felt might be the case.”Pete Brown (1076)

We’re Going Wrong

“I had a fight with my wife when I lived in Bracknell Gardens in Hampstead and I came out of the flat and I walked down the road and it just came into my head. Just what you think when you’ve had a fight with your wife.”Jack Bruce (1076)

Tales Of Brave Ulysses

“I’d been to the Balearic Islands, Ibiza, Formentera, and someone there told me that’s where the sirens sang to Ulysses. The experiences of being on those islands, then coming back to London and missing the summer, the summer of Sydney, the summer of Ibiza and Formentera and I just started to write those words down, really to the melody of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, the Judy Collins version.”Martin Sharp (1076)

Take It Back

“I wanted it to be a very definite anti-Vietnam war song. I had words I’d written myself about a guy getting a draft card and wanting to get rid of it.”Jack Bruce (1076)

White Room

“[What are the “goodbye windows” in “White Room”? – Ed] Just people waving goodbye from train windows. [And then “black-roof country,” what is that? – Ed] That was the kind of area that I lived in. There were still steam trains at one point around that area, so the roofs were black. It was black and sooty. It’s got that kind of a feel to it. [That song, I guess you started with eight pages’ worth of poetry and condensed it into a lyric. – Ed] I did. That was because Cream were on the road all the time, so there was hardly any time to write. So, we looked at every kind of idea that was possible and it so happened that I had been trained at one point, very unsuccessfully, as a journalist, because I was thrown out of school and because it was free to go to journalism college in those days, so I went for a few months. And one of the things I did learn was how to precis things, so I had eight pages of this poem and I suddenly thought, “Well, we need something.” Jack had already written some of the music and we tried a different kind of lyric with it, and then I suddenly thought, “What about this idea, this ‘white room’ idea?” It was an eight-page poem and I cut it down to a page and it worked. [What was the original eight-page poem about? – Ed] It was a meandering thing about a relationship that I was in and how I was at the time. It was a kind of watershed period really. It was a time before I stopped being a relative barman and became a songwriter, because I was a professional poet, you know. I was doing poetry readings and making a living from that. It wasn’t a very good living, and then I got asked to work by Ginger and Jack with them and then started to make a kind of living. And there was this kind of transitional period where I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It’s a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. That song’s like a kind of weird little movie: it changes perspectives all the time. That’s why it’s probably lasted – it’s got a kind of mystery to it. [You describe the white room as the place where you had this almost epiphany – Ed]. Yes. That’s right, very much so. [Was it in an apartment, or are we talking about a mental hospital here? – Ed] No, it was a room in an apartment. I shared the apartment with people, but this was my room, the actual white room. [Were the “tired starlings” literal? – Ed] Yeah, the starlings in London. Of course, they are now completely gone, but in those days they were already getting tired from the pollution and everything. The “tired starlings” is also a little bit of a metaphor for the feminine in a way, as well. It was women having to put up with rather a lot – too much pressure on them at the time.”Pete Brown (1139)
“Jack had more or less the music for White Room and we tried a few different ideas of lyrics and none of them worked. Then I thought about this poem that I had, and it was an 8 page poem. I thought okay well if I cut that down to one page it might be the right thing for it. I didn’t live anywhere for a while before I started, while I was beginning to write songs. I was semi-homeless. Anyway, I finally found a white room in a flat, and so I was in the white room, I had nothing, there’s nothing in there except the bed and a chair and that’s where I stopped, I got straight, I stopped drinking and taking drugs and everything. I got straight and began to be a songwriter rather than just an itinerant poet. The song is about that turning point.”Pete Brown (1314)