In comments yesterday, I said I'd never quite understood how Clapton got Cream's Crossroads out of what he heard on Robert Johnson's Crossroads. I put it down to genius – Clapton, after all, was God.
I went looking for a vid this morning. When I found one, I found I did know how he did it. The version of Cream's Crossroads which comes up first on YouTube is not the vinyl version - it's a 1968 live performance that's very unusual. It's an intermediate version between RJ's and vinyl EC's riff. For the first 20 or so seconds, Clapton leaves in the underlying boogie structure that bridges the gap between the two versions. It's like he's left the scaffolding in place. I couldn't see how he thought of that riff, but with the structure holding it up, I can! I checked about thirty other performances, and he doesn't do it this way any other time!
The Missing Link Crossroads
Here's the vinyl version (no video)
And of course Mr. Johnson's version.
Off on a tangent: Paul Bunyan had a Blue Ox called Babe that was forty-two axe handles and a plug of tobacco across the forehead. I can say that and not be lying and yet not think it's actually true. When a YouTube commenter says Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, are they living in Mythspace, like me recounting Paul Bunyan, or do they really believe it?
I may not want to know the answer to that.