[–] cynicaloldfart 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago  (edited ago)

This was originally recorded by the blues musician Robert Johnson in the 1930s as "Cross Road Blues". According to legend, Johnson went to the crossroads and made a deal with the devil, giving up his soul in exchange for the ability to play the blues. The story originates from an interview with the blues singer Son House, who explained how Johnson went from being a terrible guitar player to a very good one in a very short period of time. Over the years, the story grew into the tale of Johnson selling his soul to the devil. Johnson fueled the legend on his track "Me And The Devil Blues," where he sings about his meeting with Satan himself. In that song, Johnson explains that as part of his deal with the devil, the prince of darkness would harvest all of Robert's "Childrens" at the age of 27, which is exactly how old Robert was when he died in 1938. A spooky correlation is the number of music stars who have died at age 27. Some members of the "27 Club" include Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) and Kurt Cobain.

Creams' blues rock interpretation inspired many cover versions and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the magazine's list of the "Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" in recognition of Clapton's guitar work. In Clapton: The Autobiography, Eric talks about Robert Johnson's fingerpicking style that had him "simultaneously playing a disjointed bass line on the low strings, rhythm on the middle strings, and lead on the treble strings while singing at the same time." Johnson's sound was very hard to re-create, and it often sounded like more than one guitarist was playing.

"Crossroads" was recorded at Winterland on March 10, 1968, a Sunday, during the first of the two Cream shows that night. "Crossroads" immediately followed "Spoonful" in the performance, whereas on the album, "Crossroads" comes right before "Spoonful." Clapton previously recorded "Ramblin' on My Mind" with Mayall and "From Four Until Late" with Cream using arrangements that followed Johnson's original songs more closely. However, he envisioned "Crossroads" as a rock song: "It became, then, a question of finding something that had a riff, a form that could be interpreted, simply, in a band format. In 'Crossroads' there was a very definite riff. He [Johnson] was playing it full-chorded with the slide as well. I just took it on a single string or two strings and embellished it. Out of all of the songs it was the easiest for me to see as a rock and roll vehicle."

Cream's version is a compilation of parts of two Johnson songs: "Crossroads Blues" and "Traveling Riverside Blues (Also recorded by Led Zeppelin ) ." Clapton also simplifies and standardizes Johnson's vocal lines. In addition to Johnson's opening and closing lyrics, he twice adds the same section from "Traveling Riverside Blues":

"I'm going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side (2×)
You can still barrel house baby, on the riverside"

Live at Winterland 1968