Episode 166: “Crossroads” by Cream
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Episode 166 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Crossroads", Cream, the myth of Robert Johnson, and whether white men can sing the blues. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-eight-minute bonus episode available, on “Tip-Toe Thru' the Tulips" by Tiny Tim. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Errata I talk about an interview with Clapton from 1967, I meant 1968. I mention a Graham Bond live recording from 1953, and of course meant 1963. I say Paul Jones was on vocals in the Powerhouse sessions. Steve Winwood was on vocals, and Jones was on harmonica. Resources As I say at the end, the main resource you need to get if you enjoyed this episode is Brother Robert by Annye Anderson, Robert Johnson's stepsister. There are three Mixcloud mixes this time. As there are so many songs by Cream, Robert Johnson, John Mayall, and Graham Bond excerpted, and Mixcloud won't allow more than four songs by the same artist in any mix, I've had to post the songs not in quite the same order in which they appear in the podcast. But the mixes are here -- one, two, three. This article on Mack McCormick gives a fuller explanation of the problems with his research and behaviour. The other books I used for the Robert Johnson sections were McCormick's Biography of a Phantom; Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow; Searching for Robert Johnson by Peter Guralnick; and Escaping the Delta by Elijah Wald. I can recommend all of these subject to the caveats at the end of the episode. The information on the history and prehistory of the Delta blues mostly comes from Before Elvis by Larry Birnbaum, with some coming from Charley Patton by John Fahey. The information on Cream comes mostly from Cream: How Eric Clapton Took the World by Storm by Dave Thompson. I also used Ginger Baker: Hellraiser by Ginger Baker and Ginette Baker, Mr Showbiz by Stephen Dando-Collins, Motherless Child by Paul Scott, and  Alexis Korner: The Biography by Harry Shapiro. The best collection of Cream's work is the four-CD set Those Were the Days, which contains every track the group ever released while they were together (though only the stereo mixes of the albums, and a couple of tracks are in slightly different edits from the originals). You can get Johnson's music on many budget compilation records, as it's in the public domain in the EU, but the double CD collection produced by Steve LaVere for Sony in 2011 is, despite the problems that come from it being associated with LaVere, far and away the best option -- the remasters have a clarity that's worlds ahead of even the 1990s CD version it replaced. And for a good single-CD introduction to the Delta blues musicians and songsters who were Johnson's peers and inspirations, Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson, compiled by Elijah Wald as a companion to his book on Johnson, can't be beaten, and contains many of the tracks excerpted in this episode. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before we start, a quick note that this episode contains discussion of racism, drug addiction, and early death. There's also a brief mention of death in childbirth and infant mortality. It's been a while since we looked at the British blues movement, and at the blues in general, so some of you may find some of what follows familiar, as we're going to look at some things we've talked about previously, but from a different angle. In 1968, the Bonzo Dog Band, a comedy musical band that have been described as the missing link between the Beatles and the Monty Python team, released a tra
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