Come On in My Kitchen
||This article possibly contains original research. (October 2012)|
|"Come On in My Kitchen"|
|Song by Robert Johnson|
|A-side||Come On in My Kitchen|
|Recorded||San Antonio, Texas. November 23, 1936|
"Come On in My Kitchen" is a blues song by Robert Johnson. Johnson recorded the song on November 23, 1936 at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas - his first recording session. The melody is based on the song cycle by the string band the Mississippi Sheiks, "Sitting on Top of the World" (1930)/Things About Coming My Way (1931)/I'll Be Gone, Long Gone (1932)/Hitting The Numbers (1934). Johnson's arrangement on slide guitar (in open tuning, commonly thought to be open G) is based on Tampa Red's recording of the same tune with the title "Things 'Bout Coming My Way". Tampa Red had recorded an instrumental version in 1936, and the song had been recorded earlier by him in 1931, and by Kokomo Arnold in 1935 (Tampa Red may in fact have been the first to use the melody with his song song "You Got To Reap What You Sow" (1929) based on Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell's version).
Johnson's recording was released on the Vocalion label (no. 03563) as a "race record" - cheap records for the black consumer market. The song was among those compiled on the King of the Delta Blues Singers LP in the 1960s. (A slower alternate take was also later found and released on CD collections; this version also has ten extra lines of lyrics.)
There have been many cover versions of the song recorded, but unlike some of Johnson's other songs - such as "Dust My Broom" and "Sweet Home Chicago" - the song never entered the standard repertoire of black blues singers after his death. This is perhaps because the song did not fit the common 12 bar blues structure of most popular blues, and also possibly because it was not a big seller when originally released on 78. But upon its re-release in the 1960s it became a favorite cover for white (and often British) blues and rock musicians who were influenced by the Johnson LP collection – notably Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Patti Smith and Rory Block; ex-Beatle George Harrison performed a version at The Concert for Bangladesh. On the Crosby, Stills & Nash album Crosby, Stills & Nash, the title riff can be heard faintly in the background just before the song "49 Bye-Byes". Delaney and Bonnie recorded an acoustic live version of it (feat. Duane Allman on slide guitar) in 1971. In more recent years black blues players including Keb' Mo' and Chris Thomas King have performed and recorded versions. Crooked Still, an alternative bluegrass band recorded it in 2006 for their album Shaken By a Low Sound.
The song features several usages of slang that have inspired scholarly analysis.
Oh-ah, she's gone
I know she won't come back
I've taken the last nickel
out of her nation sack
A nation sack is an occult "hoodoo" object.[Hyatt, op. cit.] Robert Johnson would have likely learned of the nation sack during his youth, much of which was spent in the Memphis area. In his later years he made his home base (between his frequent road trips) in nearby Helena, Arkansas, a town that was a center for blues musicians.
When Johnson has "taken the last nickel out of her nation sack" he has "violated two (or even three) taboos ... he touched her nation sack, he stole her money...". He has broken the power of the love spell. Further, the folklorist H.M. Hyatt documents that in one nation sack spell "(nine silver dimes in a nation sack with lodestone for protection and trade) -- the money itself was part of the magical charm, which he thereby destroyed."
So Johnson's trespass into the nation sack, whose magical power was believed to bind him to his woman friend, has ironically broken the spell and sent away the woman he is yearning for.
In another verse Johnson also expresses appreciation for the troubles women can face—among others, in terms of loss of reputation. He tells how a woman "in trouble" is outcast and deserted, friendless. It seems he is offering shelter and comfort from these hardships.
You better come on
in my kitchen
baby, it's goin' to be rainin'
Winter time's comin'
hit's gon' be slow
You can't make the winter, babe
that's dry long so
"Dry long so" is slang for dullness or fate. Johnson is telling the woman to just accept winter will be too hard to get through alone, so she'd be wiser to see it through in the warmth of his kitchen.
The difficulties of love are referred to throughout the story: infidelity, loss and betrayal. Overall the lyrics conjure up a vision of painful conflict in a relationship. The woman has gone off with another man; but maybe things didn't work out and Johnson is saying "don't spend the winter alone, come back with me." Or perhaps this is wishful pleading on Johnson's part. Another interpretation is that he has lost one woman, and now he is offering love and shelter to another woman who has got "in trouble" and is an outcast, possibly pregnant. As in many of Johnson's songs, the lyrics tend to evoke an intense emotional experience rather than simply convey precise facts. The explicit relations of the song's characters are never quite defined, nor is it explained how the situation came to be. Typical of the Delta blues in particular, it is the intense immediacy of feeling that is primarily expressed by the singer/narrator.
- Patti Smith's b-side (CD2)
- Words and music by Robert Johnson, © (1978) 1990, 1991 Lehsem II, LLC/Claud L. Johnson, Administered by Music & Media International, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
- Harry Middleton Hyatt, Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork, 5v., 4766pp., (1935-1939). "Spell #13008". Contained in this work are interviews with hoodoo practitioners illustrating the use and meaning of the nation sack.