Travelling Riverside Blues

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"Travelling Riverside Blues"
Song by Robert Johnson
from the album King of the Delta Blues Singers
Released 1961 (1961)
Recorded Dallas, Texas, June 20, 1937
Genre Blues
Length 2:47
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) Robert Johnson
Producer(s) Don Law

"Travelling Riverside Blues" is a blues song written by the bluesman Robert Johnson. He recorded it during his last recording session on June 20, 1937, in Dallas, Texas.

Robert Johnson original version[edit]

Johnson's song has a typical 12 bar blues structure (though as is common in downhome blues of this era, the length of each verse is in fact thirteen-and-a-half bars of 4/4), played on a single guitar tuned to open G, with a slide. It was first released on the 1961 compilation LP King of the Delta Blues Singers. A second alternate version was recorded the same day (and was considered lost) but was finally released officially on the 2011 album The Complete Recordings (The Centennial Collection).

Lyrics[edit]

The song is well known for the lyric "Now you can squeeze my lemon 'til the juice run down my leg," which was later used by Led Zeppelin in their song "The Lemon Song," from the album Led Zeppelin II. It is likely that Johnson had taken this himself from a song recorded earlier that same year (1937) called "She Squeezed My Lemon", by Roosevelt Sykes.[1]

Led Zeppelin version[edit]

"Travelling Riverside Blues"
Trbsingle.jpg
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin Boxed Set
Released October 8, 1990 (1990-10-08)
Format CD single
Recorded June 24, 1969
Studio Maida Vale Studio 4 (BBC)
Genre Blues rock
Length 5:11
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) John Walters
Led Zeppelin singles chronology
"Fool in the Rain"
(1979)
"Travelling Riverside Blues"
(1990)
"Baby Come On Home"
(1993)
Music video
"Travelling Riverside Blues" at ledzeppelin.com

English rock band Led Zeppelin's version of this song was produced by John Walters at the BBC studios in Aeolian Hall on June 24, 1969 during the band's UK Tour of Summer 1969. Jimmy Page dubbed extra guitar tracks onto the track (the main track being played on a 12-string electric guitar, possibly the same one used on the track "Thank You"), and it was broadcast four days later on John Peel's Top Gear show under the title "Travelling Riverside Blues '69",[2] and repeated on January 11, 1970. Page used an acoustic slide guitar for the entire song, while Bonham played triplets on the bass drum.[2]

It is quite different from the original, and it is more a tribute to Robert Johnson than a straight cover. The song showcases a riff by Page (also in open G tuning), and in the lyrics Robert Plant quotes many Robert Johnson songs, such as "She studies evil all the time", from "Kind Hearted Woman Blues", and "Why don't you come on in my kitchen", from "Come on in My Kitchen" (which is heard during the song's solo).

"Travelling Riverside Blues" can be found on disc one of the Led Zeppelin Boxed Set (1990), the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (1997), the expanded 1993 reissue of Coda from The Complete Studio Recordings and Led Zeppelin Definitive Collection (2008) box sets, and disc one of the two companion discs of the 2015 reissue of Coda.

It was interest from US radio interviewers and fans during Page's Outrider tour that originally led him to negotiate with BBC Enterprises for the song's release.[2] A promotional video clip was also released in 1990, with out-take footage from the band's 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same inter-spliced with other footage from the band's archive. The clip also features a railroad montage, and underwater shots of the Mississippi River. The song reached number seven on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks Top 50 chart in November 1990, culled from national album rock radio airplay reports.[2]

Other versions[edit]

A verse was incorporated into Cream's "Crossroads", their 1968 version of Johnson's "Cross Road Blues", uncredited.

Eric Clapton re-arranged Robert Johnson's "Cross Road Blues" during live performances with Derek & The Dominos to include the same "squeeze (my lemon) till the juice runs down my leg" lyrics. Most notably, the song was recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York City on October 23, 1970. Originally released on Clapton's 1988 Crossroads box set, the song was released again on the live Derek & The Dominos album Live at the Fillmore.

Eric Clapton covered this song, along with several other Robert Johnson classics, on his 2004 album, Me and Mr. Johnson.

Myles Kennedy has sung and played the song with his band Alter Bridge at live shows in 2007 and 2008. Alter Bridge's version of the song was included on the live Alter Bridge DVD Live from Amsterdam.

Dion DiMucci covered this song on his 2006 Grammy-nominated album Bronx in Blue.

Todd Rundgren included this song on his 2011 Todd Rundgren's Johnson tribute album to Robert Johnson.

Takoma Deathpunk band Zeke's "10 to the Riverside Blues", from their split with Peter Pan Speedrock, is a clear, if unconventional, homage to the Johnson recording.[citation needed]

Dave Hole covered this song on his 1990 album Short Fuse Blues.

John P. Hammond covered an acoustic version of this song in 1964 and with an electric band in 1967 on the albums, Country Blues and Mirrors respectively.[3]

Chart positions[edit]

Led Zeppelin single[edit]

Chart (1990) Peak position
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart[4] 7
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[5] 57

References[edit]

  1. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Triple J Music Specials - Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
  2. ^ a b c d Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  3. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Country Blues - John Hammond, Jr. - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. 
  4. ^ "Mainstream Rock Tracks - 1 November 1990". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  5. ^ "RPM Singles Chart - 1 December 1970". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2009-01-15.