Seduction and Sincerity in

"Come On In My Kitchen"

by: Nikki Barnett

Robert Johnson's practice of recording two takes of his songs seems to reflect a change in attitude and/or temperament with regards to his feelings associated with the original version. This seems particularly true of Come on in My Kitchen. Johnson not only changed various musical elements of the song, but he made major lyrical changes as well. The subtle change of pronouns, the rearranging of verses, as well as the complete omission of verses, changes the implied meaning of the song from one of a possible seduction to one that seems to be a sincere representation of his feelings.

In the first take of Come on in My Kitchen, Johnson begins by telling how he stole his woman from his best friend, only to have her stolen from him. This immediately sets a disparaging, whiny tone to the song. Seems to be about how now he has no one to care for him (i.e. give him lovin'). The song's intention is to find someone to take the place of the woman who has gone. In the second take, however, Johnson waits several stanzas before divulging how he happened upon his woman. Instead, he begins with "When a woman gets in trouble everybody throws her down." It seems to be more important to him that the listener know that she is gone and that he is actually worried about what might happen to her.

The line "I've taken the last nickel out of her nation sack," has been omitted from take 2 of Come on in my Kitchen. It's omission serves to support the sincerity of the second take. The line seems to imply not that he has emptied her sack of nickels, but that he has gotten the last nickel from her that he ever will because she is gone and won't give him any more money -- that she will no longer care for him. In the second take, Johnson sings instead, of going to the mountain to look for her. He doesn't want just anyone to care for him, he wants her. When he sees that she is with another man, he sings, Lonesome blues got me." He apparently has feelings for her.

In the first take, Johnson sings the refrain, "You better come on in my kitchen." The use of the word "you" implies that he is speaking to someone. This is not the woman who has left him because he know[s] she won't come back." He is attempting to seduce a new woman to come into his kitchen, to care for him. But in the second take to Come on in My Kitchen, Johnson seems to be singing in vain about the woman who has left him. Here, he changes the wording from "you better" to "she better." This change in turn, changes the entire context of the song. In the first version, Johnson wants this new woman to take pity on him, sympathize with his plight, come on in to the kitchen, fix him some food, maybe give him some lovin'. He uses the woman in trouble line to coax her into believing that no one will help her should she get in trouble and therefore she is better off with Johnson.

Johnson's intention seems clear at the end of each version. Take 1 ends with Johnson still giving reasons why she (the new woman he is trying to coax into his kitchen) should come in. He mentions the harsh winter as a reason for seeking solace with Johnson. However, in take 2, Johnson ends speaking of his deceased mother and absent father in He to having someone to love him. By ending the song this way, he lends credibility to his plea for her to come back to him, not because of sex or support, but because of love.

The two versions of the song seem to be in incorrect order. Take 1 seems to have been the actual sincere feelings Johnson had after his woman left him. While take 2 is the less sincere story used as a pick-up line to get a woman well after the original scar has healed.