I love Creedence Clearwater Revival. 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. Some dark, deep stuff in the lyrics too – a strange kind of voodoo.
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. 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.
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.
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.
And then a few years on I went and saw Creedence Revisited one more time. I’d seen Fogerty do his solo show in-between and that was killer-good, great band, all those songs – him leading the way. It was essentially a CCR best-of with one or two solo cuts thrown in.
The new version of CCR – just the rhythm section – is a total nostalgia act. Unashamedly. But you know what – much as I usually hate that kind of thing I’d go see them a third time.
Cook and Clifford have known each other for over 50 years, they’re old friends and in that way with the great/simple rhythm sections – think AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, it starts to feel pretty hard to know where the bass player ends and the drummer starts. These are guys that complete each other’s sentences, that whisper softly – together.
In just five years Fogerty wrote all those killer songs, the band stomped out a half dozen albums – and fuck the greatest hits comps, you should own all the albums. Sure, one or two of them are weaker through than others, but albums like Bayou Country, Cosmo’s Factory and Pendulum, they’re must-haves. Hell, they released three full studio albums in the one year – 1969, and all of them have big hits on them, all of them are worth hearing.
The magic to me in the CCR sound is in hearing the way Clifford hits down on the snare and cymbal at the same time – and not the way he does that, for it’s ultimately a very simple thing he’s doing. The skill is the timing of it – the placement. He does this to accent Fogerty’s guitar licks, his fills tumble around beneath the guitar and then the big cymbal crashes provide the exclamation marks.
And I listen to that stuff now – still so simple, but so perfectly done – and I have flashbacks to the hours I spent woodshedding, hitting around in the general direction of toms and a snare and cymbals, doing my best to ape that sound.
Alongside Ringo and Mick Fleetwood, Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was – in so many ways – one of the most influential players I ever heard.
Drummers You Just Can’t Beat started life as a series of posts on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page