I love Creedence. Always have. John Fogerty’s brand of bluesy swamp rock is perfect party music for all ages; there is something infectious in those rock melodies and boogie rhythms. And, okay, if it’s not your party it’s certainly mine.
CCR is one of those bands that, for me, was just always around. We had dubbed tapes of whatever best-of was floating around at the time when I was growing up. (Nowadays you could have a burn, which would mean having CCR on CDR, maybe that’s cooler to say? Maybe not?) My parents bought a CCR best-of on CD very early on as they replaced their vinyl with compact discs. And then, when I was learning to play the drums, bashing along to old records, I briefly inherited some of my uncle’s records – a long-term loan of sorts. This opened up a new world, Abbey Road and Band On The Run were put on hold and I attempted tracks from Paranoid, Best Of Cream, Led Zeppelin III and Cosmo’s Factory. That last album was very much the revelation. I never really knew that CCR released records – they had so many hits I just figured they released a heap of singles and regularly had them re-anthologised.
My snare hit the two and four in time with Doug Clifford, my bass pedal dropped on the one and three. Here was a drummer as simplistic as Phil Rudd from AC/DC, similar to Ringo but with less of a wiggle in his stride. And he loved crashing down on the cymbal and snare at the same time. I was just learning to co-ordinate this. I loved going along for the ride on the 11-minute version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine, which took up over half of the second side of Cosmo’s Factory.
When I began driving, a few years on, a dubbed tape found its way to my car, with Cosmo’s Factory on one side and Pendulum on the other – it turned out that not only did CCR make records, they made really good ones. And then the reissued CDs were bargained off at $10 a pop and I snapped them up.
And I know this will sound disingenuous but as obvious as it is that songs like Bad Moon Rising and Proud Mary and those rain-question songs: Who’ll Stop The Rain? and Have You Ever Seen The Rain? are really big hits and really popular, they are not The BEST of Creedence Clearwater Revival. I would never begrudge them space on a compilation album but there are better songs. Born On The Bayou, Green River (which I love to think is where Mark Arm took his pre-Mudhoney band’s name from, even though I know that’s not actually true) and Run Through The Jungle are among the great CCR songs. Tracks that bash their way forward, trudging on in their own sure way, the band working as one, a simultaneously tight/sloppy unit, much like Crazy Horse at its best/worst.
John Fogerty’s fearsome growl, great guitar and top songwriting really are the sound of CCR. But I have to say that rhythm section is great. A few years ago I was asked to go see another CCR: Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Yip, one of those tacky tribute/cover acts that is comprised of some original members but isn’t really the real thing. This was the rhythm section – in a war with John for years – and featured a journeyman singer/guitarist doing an okay version of Fogerty. The real treat was that the other guitarist was Elliot Easton from The Cars. And this guy could really wail.
I figured this gig would be pretty lame right up until it started. And then it started – and it was fantastic. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford have a deep understanding of how to serve a song. And Easton and the journeyman (who from memory looked a bit like deceased comedian/musician Sam Kinison) delivered the songs as best they could. And it proved good enough. In fact I even went back and saw them a second time.
The real treat though was a few years on from that when John Fogerty visited. He had a stellar backing unit and he was and is the sound and soul of CCR. I have no real interest in Fogerty, Clifford and Cook making up and working together again. Because I have seen two versions of CCR and both did the business.
There’ll always be CCR compilations – there are so many around – and most do a good service to the many hits and a few of the great album tracks. But take the plunge through that immaculate, finite back-catalogue. The live albums are okay. But it’s the studio albums that matter most. Particularly the first six of the seven in total. Holy shit man, in 1969 they released three full length studio albums – Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and The Poor Boys. Two more (Cosmos’ and Pendulum) followed in 1970. They weren’t fucking around. They were fantastic. They still are.