Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 23:56:25 EST
Subject: Song of the day LXVII
Okay, let's see, 701, 702, 703, 704, 705, wait a minute, we're missing someone...oh, there she is, yes, another AOL user lagging behind. What's up with you people? Can't you get a real internet provider? Sheesh! Whilst I have you all here you might as well stay awhile. So pull up your favourite chair and get comfy. And for those of you taking the train, hopefully this will be as enjoyable as the last time. Rather appropriate really, trains that is, 'cause we're going back to a time when people used trains as the major source of transportation. We are going to go back and revisit the birthplace of the blues, down a winding road that will lead us right from where we came. Hope you enjoy the ride.
The scene is a desolate and dusty road, hidden under a dark moon. There is a tavern right over there, and as you look closer you see a figure with a guitar, playing and singing to a small crowd of people. You begin to walk toward the man and for the first time you notice a chill in the air. Funny you hadn't noticed that before. As you get closer you hear him finishing up a song called "Hellhound On My Trail." He's talking now, softly, too softly in fact, so you inch closer...closer...a little closer still... there you go. Just a mere few feet seperate you from the man and you can hear his words. He doesn't look up. Not once. But he knows you're here. He just smiled, as if he's been expecting you. His eyes fixed on his guitar, a drop of sweat drips from his brow, (How, in this cool air, can he sweat?) you wonder, but soon the thought is gone and all attention is on the man with the guitar as he speaks.
"This is a song I jus' recorded, and um, I think theys gonna be releasin' it someday soon. It's a song about my girl, 'course I got several ya know, heehee, but this one be 'bout my special girl, an' I call her my rider. This song, um, clocks in around 2:47, at least it did when I recorded it, heehee, but since then I been working on a new arrangement, so it might be more like five minutes, 'cause I'm throwing in bits of other songs I wrote and some blues songs by other peoples too, and it's called "Travelin' Riverside Blues."
He begins playing the riff and you stand in awe. The man's fingers fly around the neck effortlessly. This old, ragged looking guitar sounds like a symphony in his hands. That pocketknife he's using to play the slide parts, how does he DO that? Without noticing, almost subconsciously, you move closer still.
"Asked sweet mama, let me be your kid... She said, you might get hurt if you don't keep it hid... Well, I know my baby if I see her in the dark... I said I know my rider if I see her in the dark... I'm going to Rosedale take my rider by my side Still barrelhouse, if it's on the riverside, yeah I know my baby Lord, I said, is really sloppy drunk... I know my mama Lord, a brownskin but she ain't no plum... See my baby, tell her tell her hurry on home Had no lovin' since my baby been gone... See my baby, tell her hurry on home I ain't had Lord my right mind... since my rider been gone..."
The man sings with a passion unlike anything you have ever heard. His fingers make the guitar sing and cry. The small crowd of people stand with eyes locked on the musician, mouth's slightly open, as if in a trance. The effect is both mesmerizing and chilling. And then you notice, for the first time, there are no men around. There are only women. You look around and notice a group of men, standing about 25 feet away, with their backs turned to the musician, waiting for the 10:44 train, and you wonder what is going on. Why won't they come and enjoy this music?
Just then you look back and notice the guitar player staring right at you. Eyes black as coal. You feel as if you could drown in those eyes. That feeling of the cool night wind chills your spine and you stand helpless, unable to unlock your eyes from his.
"She's a kindherated woman, she studies evil all the time... Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg... Squeeze it so hard I, fall right out of bed... Squeeze my lemon... till the juice runs down my leg..."
After he sings this he once again looks up, staring hard and cold into your soul. You feel paralyzed by fear, yet excited with joy, so many emotions running through your veins. You feel a bit light-headed, perhaps you will faint. You can't take this anymore, it's just too much. The music driving... hard... into your brain, the bass notes pulsating against your chest. Now you are the one sweating. When you feel as if your knees will buckle at any given second he stops. The wind is the only sound you hear. The ladies stand around the musician and a few shout their praises. "Amen brother!" "Talk to me Robert!" "I'll squeeze your lemon honey, you come on home with Stella and I'll squeeze that damn thing real good!"
You feel yourself backing away slowly now. Almost as if you are floating. Safely away from the musician you sit down. Your heart begins to slow down to its normal pace as a young lady approaches and asks if you need a cold glass of water. You reply that that would be fine. Once she delivers the water you drink it down in one huge gulp, quickly you ask for another. One of the men walk toward you and asks what you were doing watching the devil play his guitar. You reply you were just watching a man outside a tavern, not any sort of devil.
"Ah, but that's where you are wrong my friend. That's how he gets you, see. He's tricky, that devil. You have been warned." With that he walks away and disappears into the crowd. About fifteen minutes pass and you rise to start back to retire for the evening at your hotel. The conductor yells out that boarding is in 10 minutes. Then, what's that, where is he going? The musician is walking over to a road, with his guitar still in his hand, but why? Why is he going over there. There are no people over there. Who will hear him playing over there in the shadows? You decide to investigate and begin, at a safe distance, to follow.
As he stands in the crossroads he begins playing and singing. You look around, certain he must be waiting for someone, but who? There is no one around. Not a single soul. Wait just a minute. What the hell is that????? You take refuge behind a large oak tree. You see a large, dark figure, engulfed in a black cape, who has just appeared from out of nowhere, walking toward the musician. You want to yell for the musician to run, get out of there, but fear has placed it's tight grip around your throat and you can't begin to utter a single sound. You stand and watch...and listen...
"Hello my friend, you rang?"
The musician stops playing and turns to face the figure standing behind him.
"No, no my friend," the shadowy figure says forcefully, "remember my request?"
"Yes, sorry." He turns back and is facing away from the tall, dark presence.
"The reason I wanted to talk is, you know, this "deal" we made is workin' out great. I can play things nobody else can even come close to, I gots me lots of nice lady friends, but I was wonderin', how am I gonna be remembered? Am I gonna be remembered? I wanna live forever, so to speak. I jus', ya know, was wonderin'"
"My friend, fear not, you and I made a deal, and I never go back on my word. Here, take this, and give it to that young little white girl standing over by the train." The dark figure has placed something in the musicians hands. The musician looks down, and sees a record. The label reads:
ROBERT JOHNSON Traveling Riverside Blues (live) 5:09
"How did you do this? I jus' played that song moments ago. MOMENTS AGO! This
The dark shadow lets out a mighty roar and leans in close to whisper in his ear.
"My friend, with me, all things are...possible. YOU, of all people, should know this. Yes?"
"Fine, then, carry on. The little girl is here with her family, her folks will ask the conductor a few questions in exactly one minute and 23 seconds, when they do, approach her and give her this record. She will someday pass it on, and you my friend, my dear, dear friend, will be remembered...FOREVER!!! Hurry now, my friend, your time... is short."
With that the shadow was gone. You watch as the musician walks back toward
the train. You can't believe what you have just seen and heard, but you decide
that you have to help the little girl. This man, this demon man, cannot be allowed
to get near her. The little girl, so cute, is holding her mother's hand. But,
just as the shadow had predicted, she turns the hand loose and walks over to
the conductor with her husband. The musician approaches the little girl, and
you are just inches away as he leans down and says:
"Hello little girl, would you like a present?"
In an English accent she replies, "Oh yes, but mummy wouldn't approve of me taking gifts from strangers."
"Well then, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Robert. There, we aren't strangers anymore. Here, I have a record for you. Isn't it nice?"
"Oh I do thank you so, I shall treasure it always. Robert, you say? Well I must say, I do fancy that name, I shall remember it always. Perhaps someday I shall have a boy and I will call him Robert too. It's a good, proper, English name, it is."
"Fine, just take very good care of that record. It's my life in them there grooves. Goodbye for now."
"Good day to you Mr. Robert."
You watch and make certain the musician is out of ear shot and you start to approach the little girl, but she too has turned and is now walking the opposite direction. If you could just get past these...people...yes... excuse me...oh... little girl...
As her mother returns she sees the gift and asks her daughter, "What is that love?" "Just a record mummy, but I musn't be careless with it, it's going to be very valuable someday." "Well then, pack it away and let's go, the train departs in two minutes flat."
Standing there, you feel defeated. The chill is worse now and as the conductor yells out "All aboard! Final call, all aboard!", you look up and see the little girl directly in front of you, staring at you through the window by her seat. You begin to wave frantically, trying desperately for her to understand you, but she smiles and waves back. The train begins moving, and you back away, a feeling of complete helplessness has overtaken you. Despair, fear, anger, and the question of what will happen. What, in the name of God, has taken place here tonight?
As the train departs the station you find yourself alone, standing in the loading area, the chill of the night air nips at the back of your neck. The girl is on the train, the musician has disappeared, the men are gone, the women are gone. You are alone now. You turn to walk back to the hotel and you see him, the dark, shadowy figure, and he's walking right at you...