A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What does the old Cream song title "SWLABR" mean?

May 26, 2000

Dear Straight Dope:

As a 17 year old in a 50 year old body (in other words, an aging Boomer), I have forgotten the meaning of the title of the Cream song "SWALABR." I know that it's an abbreviation for something very simple, but the brain cells that used to hold that information have disintegrated (must have been the '80s). Can you enlighten?

Those were the days, my friend, I thought they'd never end . . . sorry. Right era, wrong song.

I too lived through the fabulous 60's. It's been a lot of drugs, I mean, it's been a long time since those days and I had forgotten many things, including Cream (the youth of America cries, "Clapton was in a band?"), but thankfully there's a Cream Web ring and there I got the facts we desperately rack our boomer brains trying to recall. {Shocked to hear there's a Cream Web ring? Old hippies never die; they just groove together on Websites.)

Your first problem is that the title of the song wasn't "SWALABR," it was "SWLABR," from the album "Disraeli Gears." The album title, in case you're wondering, was another play on words--it was "inadvertently provided by roady Mick Turner who, during a discussion on pushbikes, said 'Disraeli Gears' instead of 'derailleur gears,'" it says here.

"SWLABR" means "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow." The following explanation is offered for this: "Think about looking up into the light with someone's head in the way--a rainbow effect but with a beard!"  Get it? I didn't either, but remember it was the 60s. Little Ed says that once while on acid he grooved for an entire afternoon on a phrase that seemed so fundamentally in tune with the buzz of the universe that he wrote it down for later reference. The phrase was "diesel electric." Had Little Ed been in a band the history of rock might have been completely different.

If you'd like to time trip for yourself, here's the link: http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/ webring?ring=cream;list

If you go, avoid the brown acid. All best.

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