All my life I have loved CCR. I can’t remember first hearing them, nor making a decision to listen to them more – it was just music that filled my brain and my soul from when I first heard it. To begin with it was some version of the greatest hits – a tape in my dad’s car. And then from there I checked out the albums – all of them worth hearing, most of them worth having.
And I kept up with John Fogerty’s solo career – which isn’t too hard to do.
I love CCR so much that I have twice been and seen the band Creedence Clearwater Revisited – which was the group’s original rhythm section with ringers out the front. Admittedly this was “work”, I was there as a reviewer. But I walked away smiling both times. Happy at the sounds they had made.
Seeing Fogerty though? That was something I was really looking forward to…
Didn’t think that would happen.
And then it did.
And when it did I was a nonchalant reviewer; I’d been in the game about five years – in terms of gig reviewing. I was expert at knowing when they’d start and end, at timing when to leave and get a quick taxi home so I could write my review in 5-10 minutes…
The problem with that is that sometimes you could get complacent. The gigs started to blur into one, you were there to do a job. It’s a weird job. Putting gigs down on the permanent public record. Helping to chart a history of local events and international visitors. And making a critical statement about acts – not just doing advertising. As Pauline Kael was famously quoted, “The critic is the only independent source of information – the rest is advertising”.
I was living in Thorndon when John Fogerty and band played a gig in Wellington in late 2005. It was about a 15-minute walk downhill from my house to the venue. I left, quite late, I had my comped tickets in my hand. I couldn’t find a person to go with (unbelievable). I was more than happy to go alone. I strolled down listening to something on my iPod. Probably an album I was about to be reviewing – wouldn’t have needed any Fogerty/CCR refreshing…
I get there. Walk in. I am there for about 30 seconds, maybe a full 60 seconds and the lights go down and the concert starts. I’ve missed the opening act, which means my timing is sublime. Superb.
I am already congratulating myself for timing it just right when John and band kick off with the apt road song, Traveling Band. No track from the new album. Just Creedence. And then more Creedence after that.
Green River and Who’ll Stop The Rain are songs two and three – my god.
It isn’t even that long before Lookin’ Out My Back Door and – fuck me! – Born On The Bayou. These are songs anyone else could wish to write; could bed and hope and borrow and steal to come close to making one of them. But with a flick of the wrist, John Fogerty, in supremely good growly-voice is hurtling out all of those and his great versions of songs he made better (Midnight Special, I Heard It Through The Grapevine).
Right as the band starts for the night I spot Kenny Aronoff. Master drummer. He’s there at the back powering the group. He’s held that spot for John Mellencamp, Melissa Etheridge, Meat Loaf, Joe Cocker and many more. He’s on records by Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan and Jon Bon Jovi. He’s the sort of get-it-done drummer I always love – even if I don’t always love the people he’s playing for. But Kenny and Fogerty, that’s a dream pairing.
Also in the band is Billy Burnette, son of Dorsey, nephew of Johnny – they’re early rock’n’roll legends. Billy was even a member of Fleetwood Mac, from the band’s most forgettable era (1987-1995). But I remembered! It was a thrill to see him, to pick him before he was introduced. And of course to hear him play.
What a band that night.
But they all blurred in behind big John.
Fogerty is a world-beater as he tears through song after song – 80% of the set was from his prolific, heroic CCR heavy-lifting. The gospel majesty of Long As I Can See The Light, the swamp-rock of Bootleg, the chooglin’ of, er, Keep On Chooglin. Also Hey Tonight, Down On The Corner and Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
Gem after shining gem.
When he did dip into his solo bag of tricks it was for Centerfield and a little song he wrote called Rockin’ All Over The World, you may remember it as the reason Status Quo got out of bed for 40 odd years. Also, The Old Man Down The Road which is as good as nearly anything (seriously!) from his old band’s heyday.
As if all of that wasn’t enough he closed his set with Fortunate Son which has soundtracked roughly 3,000 Vietnam-era documentaries and films and it still doesn’t sound boring or dated. It’s still a visceral charge.
And to encore, what else could he possibly have up his sleeve after all that? Well just a couple of spare ditties he wrote, one called Bad Moon Rising, another titled Proud Mary.
Fogerty didn’t play his CCR songs for a while, there were court cases, there’s been a lot of baggage – but in the early 00s he came to terms with it all and decided to keep on rockin’ all over the world; to bring the choogle.
I was grinning like an idiot as two hours whirled by, my childhood swept up in it. Those songs. Man. Those fucking songs.
I ran out of the venue and hailed a cab to get me home. I had four minutes to write 400 words. What a rush! I loved those days.
What a gig. I think about how lucky I was to see John Fogerty whenever I take a trip down the CCR road.
This started as a series on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook Page