15 June 2008

"Love in Vain": Before Mr. Johnson Wrote This -- There was Nothin' ...

Robert Johnson's Love in Vain performed by the best Stones lineup ever

After Robert Johnson wrote this song in 1937, there was rock n' roll.

Keef handles the arpeggios; Mick Taylor handles the Olympian duties on slide guitar, masterfully. Gram Parsons, working with Keef at the time, was a big influence on the final arrangement performed here.

"Welcome to the very first blues/rock song. Glad to see you! Settle back, can I get you a drink?" (-- Me)

Epigram: My editor, quite correctly, points out that a bold statement such as "first blues/rock song", from 1937 no less, deserves more discussion. When she's right, she's right.

The key dilemma here that lead me astray is that the story behind that "bold statement" is a legend. I am saved, however, because rock 'n' roll is, in essence, all legend.

Anyway: In the Mississippi Delta country, Mr. Johnson was just an average player, not even a match for his collaborator Sun House. Then, one moonless night, Mr. Johnson went down to a rural crossroads. At that crossroads, there he saw an apparition -- turned out to be The Devil.

Robert and Mr. D. got to talkin' -- a bargain was struck. Johnson got the original rock licks from The Devil, gladly trading his mortal soul for such a treasure. That legend continues to grow today, over three quarters of a century later.


owen said...

"The blue light was my blues..and the red light was my mind.."

I knew when I heard those words that
RJ had some mean demons (hellhounds, no doubt) runnin' him down..

Paco Malo said...


That line is definitely one of the things that set Mr. Johnson above the rest. Thanks for getting it. It's lonely out here.

owen said...

yeh... Hey you notice that Lester in the video ??? I know he had a 59 burst with a Bigsby.., but I wonder where that one came from..it's a plaintop clearly..

I always thought Carl Perkins was the
Rock and Roll king..but RJ will do in a pinch !

Paco Malo said...

You spotting the Lester is why you are da Man.

My theory is this -- two main roots one unexplainable offshoot

Root one - Mr. Johnson

Root two -- Woody Guthrie

Mystical -- the way Chuck Berry can play a guitar in a completely unique style, all his own, that is a graft of slick Guthrie attitude and polished Johnson-esque riffs

owen said...

I wonder if history will really credit the roots...

In today's terms..I'd say Jimmy Page will get the credit for 'rock and roll', since the four original Zep albums contain a cross section of
most of the current rock offshoots..

Blues Rock
etc.. ETc...

whiteray said...

The "factual" truth is doubtless more prosaic and less mysterious: lots of hard work (under the eye of a player named Ike Zinneman, from one account; Ike was never recorded, and it's interesting to wonder what he sounded like). But after seventy years, the legend is now fact, and somewhere near Rosedale, Mississippi, the deal went down. Nice post, as are all of them here.

Paco Malo said...

For those of you who have not visited WhiteRay at "Echoes in the Wind" (see my short blogroll in the left column), he is the best blog rock music authority I have found out there in the Blog-o-sphere.

Thanks for stopping by and clearing up the factual truth here. Whiteray: Between Ike Zinneman and Bobby Zimmerman, that about covers the landscape?