googled06bb313055e587a.html Rock N Roll Rehab for the Control Of Rock and Roll Starring Greg Piper and The Tooners: Standing At The Crossroads

Standing At The Crossroads

What is it about the old blues song Crossroads, written by Robert Johnson in 1936? Actually, Robert Johnson wrote Cross Roads Blues which was later recorded by Cream as Crossroads. At that point it became the consummate guitar player's song.

Some of the lyrics are:

Standin' at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

These lines recall a time when if you were hitchhiking at a main intersection of your town, the cross roads, the people driving by were bound to recognize you as the population of the town just wasn't that big. Maybe the hitcher's problem was that he was recognized, that's why everybody passed him by.

A few years ago I went up to San Jose to hear my friend Paul Keller's band Hush play at the Strawberry Festival. They performed on an outdoor stage with other bands. I saw the band that came on right before them and they played Crossroads in a style similar to the Cream version but more as a basic Blues song. Then Hush played it in their set exactly like Cream, including Clapton's iconic solo. The band that followed them also played it in a Reggae style. Three bands, all playing Crossroads. Why?

It's really a very basic Blues tune that has been done a million times, three times by three different bands in the time I spent watching. What is the appeal? My friend, singer-songwriter Jerry Strull, even does a Bluesy version in his solo acoustic set. I don't get it. Sure, it helped launch a whole Blues style of music but it's just the first in a long history of cliche blues tunes. I could see a rock band like Hush doing it as a cover of the Cream song if they could do it exactly like the Cream version, which they do, but otherwise, it's just not that interesting.

Crossroads has apparently become the Louie Louie of Hard Rock songs. I don't know why.

2 comments:

  1. I tried to comment re: your Crossroads conundrum on Rock & Roll Rehab. When I clicked on comments, it just became unresponsive.

    I would have commented: My friend Nat Dove would have told you that Crossroads is just white people's idea of what a classic blues song is by a man whose reputation was manufactured by white people, John Hammond in particular. Apparently Hammond had booked Johnson to perform in New York as part of a blues summit. It was not then general knowledge that Robert Johnson had been murdered years earlier. To save embarrassment and ward off angry demands for ticket refunds, Hammond put a chair on stage and put a guitar on the chair with a sign reading something like" Robert Johnson: greatest blues player of them all." The audience grew teary-eyed and all warm and fuzzy for Robert Johnson.

    Nat played piano for Big Mama Thornton for many years and is a West Coast Blues Hall of Fame inductee. He has a blues festival named for him in Texas. He is also a very funny man. But if you think you don't get Crossroads, you should talk to him. He really doesn't get it. I'll try to remember how he put it: "People say it's a blues song, David. It's not a blues song. It's a rock song. And Robert Johnson just wasn't that good. There were many blues players back then as good if not better. But nobody remembers them. You see, it's a rock song because everybody imitates Eric Clapton's version of it. Clapton is a fine guitar player. He went to the source and made something of it. That's cool. But everyone else is just doing bad imitations of other bad imitations. David, I just don't get it." So you're in good company.

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  2. You comment is posted now Dave. Thanks.

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