White Room

Album: Wheels Of Fire (1968)
Charted: 28 6
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  • Lyrics
  • This song is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce, the lead vocalist on the track. Brown also wrote the words for "Sunshine Of Your Love," "I Feel Free" and "SWLABR."
  • The music was written first. Pete Brown's first attempt at a lyric was something about a "doomed hippie girl" - the song was called "Cinderella's Last Goodnight." Jack Bruce wasn't buying it, so he scrapped that idea and pulled up an eight-page poem he had written earlier, which he reworked into "White Room."

    In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he told the story: "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."
  • Jack Bruce wrote the music. He was inspired by a cycling tour that he took in France.
  • The "white room" was a literal place: a room in an apartment where Pete Brown was living. It was not, as some suspected, an institution.
  • Upon its release, Wheels Of Fire was given a terrible review by Rolling Stone magazine. They claim that "White Room" has "The exact same lines for guitar, bass and drums" as "Tales Of Brave Ulysses." If you listen to both songs, they are somewhat similar, but nowhere near the level they claim. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Geoff - Lake Arrowhead, CA
  • Eric Clapton used a wah-wah pedal on his guitar. He got the idea from Jimi Hendrix.

    Clapton's solo earned the #2 spot on Guitar World's greatest wah solos of all time in 2015. The #1 spot? Hendrix' "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."
  • Why are the starlings tired? Because the pollution in London was killing them. Pete Brown also told us: "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."
  • More lyric interpretation courtesy of Pete Brown:

    "Goodbye Windows" - "Just people waving goodbye from train windows."

    "Black-roof Country" - "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."
  • On their last tour before the band broke up, Cream opened most of their shows with this song. When Cream did a reunion tour in 2005, they played it near the end of the sets.
  • Clapton refused to play this after leaving Cream until 1985, when Paul Shaffer urged him to play it while he was sitting in with the band on Late Night With David Letterman. That same year, Clapton played it at Live Aid.
  • This was released as a single after Cream had broken up. It did better in the US than in England, since Cream had caught on in the States.
  • In 2000, Apple Computer used this in commercials for their white iMacs. While the song does have the word "white" in the title, the subject matter is not good for selling computers.
  • Jack Bruce recorded a new, Latin-influenced version on his 2001 album Shadows In The Air. Clapton played on this as well as his new recording of "Sunshine Of Your Love."
  • Clapton performed this in 1999 for the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park. Clapton and Crow were an item for a time in the '90s.
  • Pete Brown: "It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Damien - Sydney, Australia
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Comments: 69

  • Andre from Montreal, Quebec, CanadaIt's a lot of versions of White Room.... For me the best one is Wheels Of Fire 1968. The lead guitar start at : Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves (lead guitar) and goes on until the end....I wish someone can explain why they changed it?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 4th 1968, Cream performed in concert at the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence, RI; it would be their last appearance in the U.S.A.
    At the time "White Room" was in its first of three weeks at #6 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, it was also its peak position on the chart...
    {See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 19th 1968, Cream was in concert for the second of two nights at The Forum in Inglewood, California...
    They opened the concert with "White Room"; at the time the song was at #22 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, fifteen days later on November 3rd, 1968 it would peak at #6 {for 3 weeks}...
    Between January 1968 and April 1969 the British super trio had five records make the Top 100 chart; their biggest hit was "Sunshine of Your Love", it reached #5 {for 1 week} on August 25th, 1968 and stayed on the chart for exactly a half-year {26 weeks}...
    Sadly, Eric Patrick Clapton will celebrate his 70th birthday come next March 30th {2015}; the reason I state 'Sadly', is because this January 15th {2015} I will turn 70 years old {I hope he is handling 'getting old' better than I am!!!}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 29th 1968, "White Room" by Cream entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #58; and on November 3rd, 1968 it peaked at #6 {for 3 weeks} and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    On January 4th, 1969 it reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the Australian Kent Music Report chart {the song it replaced at #1 was "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, which had held the top spot for 13 weeks}...
    Was track one of side one from the British trio's double album, 'Wheels of Fire', and on August 4th, 1968 the album peaked at #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart {it also reached #1 in Canada and Australia}...
    One other track from the album also made the Top 100 chart, "Crossroads"; it peaked at #28.
  • Anthony from Sapulpa, OkLiving in a home that loved music but was full of great hardship and pain, I heard the pain of loss and the hope of finding freedom from a dark situation. Though I was young in years, 11, I understood that there are times in life when you seek refugee wherever you could find it. It might be temporary, but it was a relief for the moment. Now, some 42 years later, I know that I was in deep depression then and it has been a long road to the sunshine.
  • Michael from San Diego, CaI was wondering if ''goodbye windows'' had anything to do with the Flying Scotsman famous railroad train being decommissioned? The Flying Scotsman was retired in 1963 so the concept would've been stale old news by the time the song was released on vinyl.
  • Andy from Las Vegas, NvI completely agree with Jim below. Although Clapton is the one most remembered from this group, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were easily as important to their success. Bruce is a great bass player and twice the singer Clapton is, and Baker is a one of a kind jazz drummer who takes this song up several notches with his work. Clapton is brought up to a higher level by quality of his fellow musicians. Like the old saying goes, "What do coffee and Eric Clapton have in common? They both suck without Cream."
  • Steve from Whittier, CaPS I meant CLapton's lyrics. Clampett was a typo coming from a Bob Clampett fan. Sorry.
  • Steve from Whittier, CaThis came out at the same time [October 1968] in US as did "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, and I used to compare the chordsd and guitar solors in the two songs and the "drug lyrics" and the songs remarkably sounded similar [and the single Mono versions also around the same length.] And Clampet's lyrics are excellent and no, he is NOT overrated. PS I've heard of the SHERYL [note spelling! note SPELLING!] Crow-Eric Clapton team up too.
  • Rick from Bridgeport, CtIn my opinion, Claptons finest solo
  • Jim from Providence, RiClapton was 1/3 of Cream. How about Jack Bruce, who wrote the music, or Ginger Baker, who did an outstanding job on the Tom Toms?
  • Bruce from Amsterdam, NetherlandsCan anybody shed any light on what all is going on in the 5/4 'hook' part? Besides the drums and bass doing the rhythm, I hear guitar doing a very high D down to C (feedback) and another guitar about an octave lower following a descending line (D, C, A, G); there are at least three voices singing harmony and maybe a unison with the descending line. Anything else? A theremin maybe? Does anybody have a source on production data for this bit?
  • Andy from Las Vegas, NvI always felt this song was more about smack than about acid. Instead of a description of an acid trip, it seems to me to be more of an allegory about love/hate relationship the singer has with heroin, the euphoric highs and the bottomless lows. Think about all of the street names for heroin that involve the word "white."
  • Sean Doone from Belfast, IrelandI Thought This Song Was About Drugs And About Rehab As In The White Rooms Being The Rehab Building
  • Dara from Barnesville, OhI read somewhere this was about JFK's funeral
  • Billy from West Unity, OhHey Glen from fredrickburg...Just one question....What about Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page? All three of them played in the Yardbirds. And you don't think their style influenced rock at all.Be careful as to who you might think of as a guitar God. By Claptons own addimission he credits Muddy Waters for a great deal of his blusey style. Do your homework son......
  • Manuela from Eisenhüttenstadt, GermanyThat song reminds me of Robert Johnson's love in vain (the picture of the goodbye-windows at the railway station) and a man (who suffers from black-and-white thinking) who met a girl at a party and he thinks she is the one who can heal his (mental) wounds
  • Gatocat from Dallas, TxThere was never such a thing as a bad acid trip. There were only people who couldn't handle their acid. If your personality is all screwed up and you're buried under a steaming mound of denial--if you have low self-esteem but you're trying to pretend you don't--acid strips all that away. Staring down the naked truth about yourself is a bit too much for some. But it was never the acid's fault.
  • Rick from Plainwell,mich, MiClapton overrated?,dont think I have ever heard that before. I guess by your standards Miles Davis sucks,John Bonham was a "fair" drummer,Larry Graham was an average bass player,and Duanne Allman had "potential"
  • Mel!ssa from Pittsburgh, Pa"Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes"
    yeah... it's about acid. lol
  • Nick from Amityville, NyI agree with all above however i've been trying to play it on my guitar, and sing it, and got very familiar with the lyrics. I think theres another story along with the white room/acid part which describes one relationship ending and another starting. These lyrics will haunt you once you get them.
  • Jr from Aquebogue,I am sooooo tired of reading about clapton. If it weren't for bruce + brown there would be few cream songs. Jack Bruce WAS cream. Clapton is overrated.
  • Jordan from Brooklyn, NyWhite Room is my favorite Cream song!!! Simply genius!!!
  • Canyouflybobby from Melbourne, AustraliaClassic song !!
    However everyone is talking about Clapton.
    Jack Bruce wrote the music, so he should get the praise.

    P.S I think Clapton used the Wah-Wah sound first
  • Patient X from Columbia, ScOkay. I had always thought this song had to do with drugs but after reading the description I see I was wrong. (I see someone else also had the drug idea as well)
  • Cliff from Sydney, AustraliaHendrix..played sunshine of your love live between 1968-1969 at every show.... - glenn, notts, England Not true...Hendrix only covered it once that we have any recordings of....- Chris, Somewhere, TN
    I have several bootlegs of Jimi playing it live, he might not have played it every night but he did play it quite a few times.

    Tales of Brave Ulysses was the first song to be recorded with a wah pedal.
  • Cliff from Sydney, AustraliaPete Brown "I like to think that people can still relate to those songs. I've come a long way since then, and I write in different ways. But "White Room" is a state of mind, as well as a description of a particular place and time".
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaPatrick, why would you say "stop listening to the stuff from the 90's and now"? Eric Clapton has done a fantastic album with B.B. King and one with J.J. Cale in recent times called 'The Road To Escondido'. In my eyes, he's still brilliant, you cant expect a 60year old to be dropping acid to try and condure up some phsycadellic songs that belong in the 60's, it's 2008!
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaEric Clapton and Cheryl Crow were never an "item", where in the hell did they get that idea???
  • Ben from Nottingham, United Kingdom"there is still a lot of controversy over who used the wah wah first as hendrix and clapton were freinds and tales of brave ulysses and voodoo child came out around the same time.
    - Chris, Somewhere, TN"

    hendrix used it on in axis: bold as love for - up from the skies, and he used it on burning of the midnight lamp which he recorded july time 1967 after he saw frank zappa using one.
  • Chris from Somewhere, TnGreat song! amazingly superior guitar. even if it is similar to hendrix clapton could play more variety because he was amazing with the blues.
    - corey, henersonville, NC
    I love clapton, but Hendrix could out blues him any day of the week. Listen to songs like red house, killing floor from the monterey pop festival, any live version of hey joe, voodoo child (not necessarily blues, but blues scale based), and there is still a lot of controversy over who used the wah wah first as hendrix and clapton were freinds and tales of brave ulysses and voodoo child came out around the same time.
  • Chris from Somewhere, TnHendrix must have had great respect for clapton and cream, as he played sunshine of your love live between 1968-1969 at every show, he replaced the vocals with guitar solo, i need to see or hear that.
    - glenn, notts, England

    Not true...Hendrix only covered it once that we have any recordings of....
  • Patrick from Portland, MeI love Cream and Clapton. Eric Clapton and his groups lay out the grunds for rock, metal, and everything after that! Except after the seventis, stop listening to things from the 90s and now. Oh well. hooray 4 Clapton!
  • Wayne from Edgewater, MdA great example of pure poetry. Not one line rhymes but still a beautiful song.
  • Tom from Dozier, AlIn the 1988 film, "1969", a few minutes of White Room was used and it was from a version of the song that I had never heard before. (UK version, maybe??) I've looked everywhere for that version, but have had no luck.
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlThis song was supposed to be my theme song in college hahahahahaha Great Song ! Clapton is the man
  • Glen from Fredericksburg, VaAnybody who says Clapton is overrated doesn't deserve to be listened to. He is arguably the most influential player to ever pick up a guitar. His work has stood the test of time. He set groundwork for the rock guitar as used in some of the best music of the 20th century. He is a god.
  • Cody from Oklahoma City, OkI was wondering, does the term "tired starlings" have anything to do with The Yardbirds that Clapton was a former member of? I've only heard the song a million and a half times, but still love it and today was the first time that that ever came to mind. Thanks in advance if you know anything about those lines...
  • Ken from Taegu, Korea - Southsome people say Clapton is overrated...I like for them to listen to this song and see if this will change their opinion.
  • Glenn from Notts, EnglandHendrix must have had great respect for clapton and cream, as he played sunshine of your love live between 1968-1969 at every show, he replaced the vocals with guitar solo, i need to see or hear that.
  • Glenn from Notts, EnglandThe song is a great song, but what do you expect from Cream. The song is about an acid trip yes and a white room they were in, but it goes deeper. The trip pete brown went on took him out of the room, and he was in a train station. anyone whos been on acid will tell you it can get really real.
  • Corey from Henersonville, NcGreat song! amazingly superior guitar. even if it is similar to hendrix clapton could play more variety because he was amazing with the blues.
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaI love the line "where the shadows run from themselves" and I think on of the greatest lines in any song just because of the words- "Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes" I just get some totally insane imagery from that, taking it literally, I mean.
  • Mr. Pitters from Funky Town, CaI LOVE this song. The guitar is great. The acid trip thing is interesting. The lyrics really fit too..the important person leaving...shadows..."As I walked out felt my own need just beginning" maybe like once he said he would never do them again, he needed them more...i dunno. Awesome song though.
  • Bob from New York, NyIn the chorus, I cant tell if that's a flanger or a chorus or just really fast wah-wah-ing on guitar but it sounds great.
  • Sled from St. Louis, NeThe lyrics suggest a long-ago romantic romp, poignant in retrospect, now being resurrected in another woman. Yet, that woman, too, leaves "just dressing goodbye windows" as the one did years earlier, prior to the memories dying out ("At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd/Consolation from the old wound now forgotten"). Permanence and stability are fleeting - even "shadows run from themselves".
    Consider it.
    Consider it.
  • Ben from Nyc, MsBeautiful Guitar
  • Jimmy from Philadelphia, PaPete Brown Once Said in an interview that this was written about a bad acid trip as mentioned before . BUT ALSO he said this room was where he did all of his drugs so the lyrics come from past experiences too.
  • Nicola from Sydney, AustraliaHmm although I absolutely love cream and eric clappton.. he did so many covers. and alot of his songs are REALLY inspired by jimi hendrix. at one stage in his career he even had an afro like jimi. also he used wah wah pedals and the same guitar techniques as clappton..
    cocaine-jimi hendrix
    classical gas-mason williams
    theres more songs that hes re-done too
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhThis song features the Wah-Wah pedal. Coincidently, Clapton friend George Harrison later wrote a song about the Wah-Wah pedal.
  • Ben from Chinatown, Hong Kongamen zack, and tucker speaks true words man... Cream is called by many as the best power trio of rock ever. which totally makes sense cause they're badass!
  • James from Des Moines, Iait was written by pete brown after having an acid trip in a white room with black curtains
  • Ross from Independence, MoThis song is #367 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Zack from Hinesburg, Vtamazing lyrics. We are truly blessed that Clapton Bruce and Ginger got together. In my opinion the most talented band ever.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScMatthew1 There's going to be a dvd release of the cream shows in London. i can't remember when though. sometime later this year though. i think September, but don't count me on it. I'm not sure.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanI saw him play it in Japan in 2004. He rocked.

    This was also covered by Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers. A more sinister version, but not up to Clapton's par.
  • Tucker from Chattanooga, VtOn this song, eric clapton may have used the wah, but he did not get the idea from jimi hendrix. Vox came out with the wah in...67 i think, and clapton pioneered its use in the song "tales of brave ullysses" and he in fact inspired hendrix with the use of the amazingly psycedelic distortion.
  • Allen from Some Place, AkThe first time I listened to this, I listened to it three times before changing the song. Great song!
  • Steve from Hamilton, CanadaI remember a radio interview with Pete Brown where he said that although he wrote the lyrics of "White Room", they were more of a reflection of Jack Bruce's life experience, while those of "Doing That Scrapyard Thing", another of their co-compositions, were more a reflection of his own.
  • Tim from Milestone, CanadaThis is my grad song, i love clapton and i love cream thank god for rock greats thing ever recorded
  • Matthew from Indy, InCREAM ROCKS!!! They are on tour this year..but on in the UK...bloody bastards...just kiddin
  • Blake from Kennesaw, GaWhite room refers to the platform at a train station, not a literal White Room. The song is about loss, and using images like "goodbye windows"
  • Dan from Lansing, IlThe music by Clapton and Cream are just genius, pure musical genius, unlike the crap you hear today in rap.
  • Brian from Grand Forks, NdErik is right... It was a bad acid trip in a White Room with Black Curtains AND someone very important to Pete Brown left him because they couldn't take his behavior anymore...
  • Erik from Oc, CaThe song is called white room because its where the songs co-writer Pete Brown had a bad acid trip (which are extremely scary) in a "white room with black curtains" and the trip scared him so much he said he would never do any drugs again.
  • Shana from Pembroke, CanadaI didnt really listening to lyrics. The only lyrics i heard were: "In a white room with black curtains" so i had no clue what the song was about, also i had no idea cream did this song..but its great!
  • Edward from Virginia Beach, Vathis is a great song. i felt it was about a great loss and finding something that was searched for. the use of colors makes the poignancy of this modern poem even more powerful.
  • John from Seattle, WaThis song was covered by Oscar winner JOEL GRAY, and is included on the first "Golden Throats" compilation of horrible recordings of hits done by actors/celebrities. Gray's version is sissified and weak. The guy never could really sing. To me, he sounded (and looked) like a junior high glee club director.
  • Chantal from Liverpool, CanadaThe lyrics are truly amaazing! I love it
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