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(September 18-26, 2010)

Maciej G. Szling

Kondracka Kopa 2005 m n.p.m

Pat Swovelin †

Crossroads of the World

Hollywood, California, USA

September 25, 2010, 1:04 pm (9-25-10, 20:04 UTC)

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© 2010 Pat Swovelin, All Rights Reserved.

When this event's theme was chosen I knew I had a lock on it because of this location. The only problem was figuring out a way to disapprove the submission of anyone else in town that shot it and not make it look like I ... ?? ... did I say that or just think it? Man, I sure wish there was a backspace key on this keyboard.

Nevertheless when I announced the event I said "There are serious bonus points for a panorama that has Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, Tommy Johnson and a chicken all on different corners from one another at the aforementioned crossroads."

Numbers 1, 2 and 4 are obvious and number 3 was for the character Tommy Johnson in the Coen Brothers' movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou? that's an obvious reference to Robert Johnson and the story of selling his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in exchange for being able to play the guitar like a master. To be able to add those elements I need images of each one. Well there are 2 known images of Robert Johnson and one works perfectly within this panorama and my concept so that's a no-brainer. Get it, work with it and add it to the panorama.

Onward to the next element, Eric Clapton. There are a bazillion image of Eric Clapton but no good single images of him when he was with Cream when they recorded Crossroads on March 10, 1968, during their performance at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. This is by far the best and best-known cover of Cross Road Blues and it brought Robert Johnson's name and work back into the mainstream. Crossroads is the 1st cut on Side 1 of Disc 2 of the Wheels of Fire 2-disc album. All 4 songs on that disc were recorded live and need to be played at 11 to be fully appreciated. Nevertheless I'm stuck for an image of Eric but you'll find 2 distinct references to him in the panorama (one coming 6 months prior to the concert and half a world away from San Francisco and it has a secondary reference within it).

Next I need an image of Tommy Johnson from the aforementioned film. Google to the rescue! Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. There are only a couple but none work and they're too tight. It looks like I'll have to do a screen grab from the DVD. Put it in the drive and scrub the film from one end to the other. Nothing is usable. He was never in a single, or group shot that I can pull him out of, that gives me what I need, much less anything I can even conceivably fiddle with to make it work. OK, fine. Back to Google but I keep running into images of another Tommy Johnson, a real one, a black Delta Blues musician from the early part of the 20th Century. Curious I check him out and am I glad I did. It turns out he was the one who said that he'd sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads and that story and others were later attributed to Robert Johnson by the recording company to sell Robert Johnson's music after he'd died at only 27-years-old in 1938 under mysterious circumstances. Other sources attribute it to Son House in an interview with Pete Welding in 1966. No musicologist or music historian has ever found s single instance of Robert Johnson saying he'd sold his soul to the the Devil but Tommy Johnson is recorded as having said it many times over the years. This legend wasn't attributed to Robert Johnson until the 1960s long after Tommy Johnson's death in 1956. Because dead men can't stick up for themselves the legend has stuck to Robert Johnson but it has been disputed by Tommy Johnson's family and friends ever since.

Tommy Johnson along with Son House and Charlie Patton (the Father of the Delta Blues) were the 3 most important bluesmen in Mississippi. They developed the Delta Blues sound long before Robert Johnson's recordings in 1936-37, a full 8 years after Tommy Johnson's recording sessions in 1928-29. Both Johnsons left behind similarly small discographies, Tommy recorded just 12 songs with 2 alternate takes for a total of 17 recordings and only 1 known photograph while Robert Johnson recorded 29 songs with 12 alternate takes for a total of 41 recordings and only 2 known photographs.

Now I know who's who and what I'm up against. Get the best version of the Tommy Johnson image and find a way to incorporate it into the panorama.

The final image I need is a chicken and because it must be crossing the road the obvious place to put it is in the nadir, so I need a shot of a chicken from above. No problem. If only...

Of the 29,700,000 "chicken" images Google found in 0.19 seconds how many of them are shot from above? None. What! Yer killin' me! Refine the search to "chicken from above" and I get a mere 9,560,000 images in 0.27 seconds. Of course I'm no closer to getting an image I can use than I was before I started. Well then how about "live chicken from above"? Hey, now we're talking. Only 6,360,000 image in a much longer 0.31 seconds. By now you can figure out where this is getting me ... so I gave up and changed the concept.

Through serendipity and persistence this relatively simple WWP event theme turned into a wonderful learning experience, a revelation and the discovery of new, to me, Delta Blues artists (I've had Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings since 1991). Robert Johnson did write Cross Road Blues that was covered by Eric Clapton and Cream with Crossroads but Tommy Johnson was the one who said he'd sold his soul to the Devil to be a guitar master and the chicken, well it's just there for the old joke.

If you're at all interested in great music or simply the blues and specifically the Delta Blues then I urge you to get the recordings of Charlie Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson. These are very powerful recordings of the men who influenced music from their time over 100 years ago to the present day and will continue to influence it on into the future.

And Wheels of Fire disc 2? It always needs to be played at 11. Of course that's right after you play Jimi Hendrix' cover of Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower because it was recorded on January 21, 1968, exactly 7 weeks before Crossroads.

Addendum: Crossroads of the World was built in 1936 and designed to look like an art deco ocean liner. It was originally America's first outdoor shopping mall but is currently private offices serving the entertainment industry with at least 1 art gallery in the surrounding buildings. The globe at the top of the structure rotates in the opposite direction that the Earth does but it allows you to read the text "CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD" as it rotates and that brings us right back to where we started ... at the crossroads.

USA-Canada / USA-California

Lat: 34° 5' 52.764" N
Long: 119° 21' 8.2" W

Elevation: 350 feet + 12' pano pole

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: High. Pinpoints the exact spot.

Canon EOS 450D (Digital Rebel XSi), Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye lens, Nodal Ninja R-1 panohead, custom-made pano pole, Yong Nuo YN-128 wireless remote control, ISO 100, f8, 1/320 second exposure, Adobe Bridge CS5, Adobe Camera Raw, Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, PTGui Pro 9.0beta4, Pano2VR 3.0beta, NBNC, PDL

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