This is based on a blues song Cream used to play called "Lawdy Mama." Felix Pappalardi, who produced the album, wrote new lyrics to the song with his wife, Gail Collins, and Eric Clapton worked out the arrangement and also sang lead. Pappalardi, Collins and Clapton are the credited writers on the song.
As for Pappalardi, he went on to form Mountain, a band he also produced. In 1983, he was shot and killed by Collins in a domestic dispute; Collins was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide.
When Cream performed the early version of this song as "Lawdy Mama," Clapton and bass player Jack Bruce would share lead vocals. The band recorded both "Lawdy Mama" and "Strange Brew" at Atlantic Studios in New York on April 3, 1967. The band had spent the previous week in the city, performing daily at the "Music In The Fifth Dimension" show at the RKO Theater. These shows were organized by the influential disc jockey Murray the K, and provided great exposure for Cream in America. Other acts on the bill for some of these shows: The Who, Wilson Pickett and the Lovin' Spoonful. Cream would complete the Disraeli Gears album when they returned to the United States the next month.
The lyrics refer to a female, which could mean drugs or be a more literal reference to a woman. Either way, she is "killing what's inside of you."
Cream had a very psychedelic sound, and this song was released in the Summer of Love, where it fit in quite well.
To craft "Strange Brew," producer Felix Pappalardi added Eric Clapton's vocal to a take of the band's recording of "Lawdy Mama," which appears as a bonus track on the 2004 re-release of Disraeli Gears, but didn't make the original album. Jack Bruce wasn't happy about this, especially since he wasn't able to re-record his bassline. To keep the tenuous peace in the band during Cream's reunion concerts in 2005, "Strange Brew" was omitted from their 19-song playlist, despite being one of their best known and loved songs.
Clapton got the idea for the album title after a roadie named Mick Turner 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 pronounced it "Disraeli," which led to the title.
On Eric Clapton's Crossroads boxed set, this is placed next to "Lawdy Mama," the Blues song it is based on.
There is a movie called Strange Brew, but it has nothing to with the song. Made in 1983, it stars Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Canadian brothers who love beer.
The album didn't appear until November 1967, but this song was issued as the first single in June of that year, reaching its UK peak of #17 on July 15. Disraeli Gears was Cream's second album; they would release two more before calling it quits.
Harry White from CaliforniaLike the Beatles, Cream may have been set up by a branch of British Intelligence under MI5 who had connections to US intelligence to spread British culture into America. The Beatles were used to feminize the boys and Cream may have been used to get the youth to use drugs. British intel, like the Beatles, could have written some of the songs. For instance Sgt. Pepper refers to one of MI5's agents named Pepper who headed the branch in the US that put British rock and roll groups into the US culture. Disraeli was probably also a clue that MI5 was giving us, which was a draconian PM of Britain. Gears would be mean the machinations of his policies put into the album.
Pix from Along The Atlantic, FlThis was always one of my favorite Cream songs. The 'derailleur-disraeli' confusion is fascinating, and begs the question, "Huh, they didn't know the difference, or someone just thought it was a cooler album title that way, or an it had a cool, interesting back story?" Also I looked up Gail Collins, and they're def not the same people. Gail Collins Pappalardi b. 2 feb 1914, d. 6 dec 2013; Gail Collins of the NYT b. 25 nov 1945. But back to the Disreali thing, I knew at the time it was a name in British political history, but wondered what it had to do with the album concept, thinking it must have been some British cultural reference that had meaning to the band, perhaps as irony, really having no idea at all and maybe feeling a little let down, and went back to grooving to that amazing music :p (so after all these years I feel vindicated lol, thank you)
Alan from Morris Plains, NjActually "Strange Brew" was "lifted" from the blues tune "Crosscut Saw" by Albert King.
Jason from Denver, CoDo any of yous guys think this song had anything to the Bob and Doug McKenzie movie? eh...The title I mean.
Tony Brown from Adelaide, AustraliaAaaaaah so that's how it goes :) I always thought the first line was "Girl what's inside of you"
Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaEric Clapton admitted in his auto-biography that he never actually liked this song. Funny guy
Allison from A Little Ol' Town In, MiJack's voice is ssoooooo high. But it sounds really good. I LOVE CREAM
Don from Indianapolis, InI first "heard" of this song about 25 years ago on a cable TV show called "Night Flight" that aired on USA Network. They would always sprinkle a generous dose of what were then "classic" artists in with the current batch of videos they happen to be showing. I was hooked on Cream and this song the first time I saw it. It's as funky a take on the Blues as you will ever hear, and shows how they took an American born and universal concept...and made it their own. One of Cream's best...EVER!
Mac from Evanston, IlRe: Pappalardi: he was essential in producing a lot of latter-day Cream (including much of the studio half of "Wheels" and the post-breakup-released "Goodbye"). He played mellotron on Clapton's "Badge" on "Goodbye," a song also featuring a guitarist billed as "Angelo Misterioso" ("mysterious angel") on the highly phase-shifter rhythm guitar part. Angelo Misterioso was of course Clapton's pal George Harrison, returning the favor for Clapton playing the lead guitar part on George's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Pappalardi was later the bassist in the short-lived band Mountain, which launched to stardom guitarist/singer/songwriter Leslie West (born Les Weinstein) and drummer Corky Laing, who later joined Jack Bruce in the short-lived West, Bruce, and Laing. It's true that Pappalardi was killed by gunshot in a domestic dispute with his wife in NYC. I do not think this Gail Collins is any relation to the Gail Collins who is the present-day editorial page editor of the NY Times. Can somebody please clarify this for me? Thanks.
Jim from Troy, NyCream did "Lawdy Mama" during their BBC Sessions. It sounds nothing like Strange Brew.
Disraeli was a Prime Minister from the 19th Century. I believe the bike story, that the title comes from a joke.
Martijn from Helmond, NetherlandsThe 'derailleur-disraeli' confusion is definitely true. I read in an interview it Clapton that was published around the time the album came out. (Yes, I'm that old.) The fact that Disraeli was also the name of a former British prime minister from the days of Queen Victoria is really irrelevant.
Floyd from Syracuse, NyIT IS POSSIBLE that the album title is supposed to remind one of the gear system on a 10 speed bike. For those who are really in the K N O W... DISRAELI was a big fish in British politics and CREAM was a British band. "Duhh" Orion, Memphis, NY
Janet from Perth, AustraliaOne of Cream's best songs.