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S.W.L.A.B.R. by Cream
Album: Disraeli GearsReleased: 1967
The title stands for "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow." Like the songs' lyrics, it is not supposed to make much sense.
The words were written by Pete Brown, a poet who was friends with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce before they formed Cream. Early on, most of Cream's songs (including this one) were sung by Bruce. Brown was able to put words to the instrumental Cream tracks that Bruce was comfortable singing, making him a welcome addition to their songwriting process.
Cream used Felix Pappalardi as the album's producer. Pappalardi was also a musician, and later formed the band Mountain. He encouraged them to experiment in the studio, which led to unusual songs like this one. It was done on a tight schedule, however, as the band had just three days to record Disraeli Gears
(except for "Strange Brew
," which they put to tape a month earlier) before shipping back to England. The sessions took place at Atlantic Studios in New York City, and were engineered by Tom Dowd, who took care of the mixing after musicians were called away. When Eric Clapton formed Derek and the Dominos a few years later, Dowd produced their classic Layla
Eric Clapton's guitar part was heavily processed. He ran it through a fuzz-box and used a wah-wah pedal.
Eric Clapton got the idea for the album title after a roadie told him about the derailleur gears on his bicycle. Derailleur, pronounced "Di-rail-yer," are the kind of gears commonly found on 10-speed bikes. The roadie (Mick Turner) pronounced it "Disraeli," which led to the title.
This was one of two Cream songs (the other being "N.S.U.") that consisted of only initials. Many DJs attempted to give the song title to listeners by reading it as if it were a real word, instead of reading each individual letter (i.e. "swuh-lah-bur," instead of "S.W.L.A.B.R."). (thanks, James - Tracy, CA)