White Room - Cream
The lyrics of "White Room", like most good poetry, have a blind spot, a moment where you know exactly what the poet means, but you can't quite put your finger on it: light and imagery tell the truth. For "White Room", his original lyric for Jack Bruce's tune having been rejected, Pete Brown "expressed a quintessence" of 18 lines of existential angst boiled down from an eight page poem he'd written some time before, a story of suburban loneliness and faded hope.
Verse one: a liaison, a night together, hope in the mind of the singer of something beautiful and lasting, light perhaps in his white room.
Verse two: as she catches the train, reality kicks in, "no strings" she says, maybe in future, maybe not.
Verse three: weeks, maybe months later they meet at a party, she's kind, he still has the scar although he tells us he's over it, the words, and Clapton's scathing guitar closer, betray his bitterness and desolation. He's left alone in his room.
"In the white room with black curtains near the station Black roof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes Dawn light smiles on you leaving, my contentment
I'll wait in this place where the sun never shines Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves
You said no strings could secure you at the station Platform ticket, restless diesels, goodbye windows I walked into such a sad time at the station As I walked out, felt my own need just beginning
I'll wait in the queue when the trains come back Lie with you where the shadows run from themselves
At the party she was kindness in the hard crowd Consolation for the old wound now forgotten Yellow tigers crouched in jungles in her dark eyes She's just dressing, goodbye windows, tired starlings
I'll sleep in this place with the lonely crowd Lie in the dark where the shadows run from themselves."
Jack Bruce's restrained vocal in the verses perfectly complements the studied aloofness of Brown's words, the more vulnerable yet controlled treble of the choruscular couplets hinting at his true hurt and despair.
It's no wonder that Jack Bruce continued to employ Pete Brown as his lyricist after the break-up of Cream in 1968. They worked together on all but the second of Bruce's 14 solo albums from "Songs from a Taylor" of 1969 to his last album "Silver Rails" released 6 months before his Bruce's death in 2014.