Not too long ago, fellow blogger and undisputed King of all Tribute Bands Christian posted some of his favorite Creedence tunes. (Good band history too.) I figured I’d take a crack at this, not remembering his exact list and not wanting to look at it to influence me unduly.
Later I went back and looked and it’s probably a testament to the greatness of their tunes that our lists have exactly one song in common. (I did a post on “I Put a Spell on You” long ago otherwise it would most definitely be on here.)
Who doesn’t love at least one CCR song? If not two? A critical and commercial favorite since day one, they have no bigger fan than one Bruce J. Springsteen who recognizes great songwriting when he hears it. (I think songwriters appreciate other songwriters more than say, guitarists appreciate other guitarists.)
First up, “Fortunate Son” – From 1969’s Willy and the Poor Boys with its cover in front of a joint called the Duck Kee Market in Oakland, CA, not too far from Fantasy Records.* This was released at the height of the Vietnam War which tore this country apart even more than tRump is attempting to do.
According to John Fogerty, it “speaks more to the unfairness of class than war itself. It’s the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them. The thoughts behind this song – it was a lot of anger. So it was the Vietnam War going on… Now I was drafted and they’re making me fight, and no one has actually defined why.
So this was all boiling inside of me and I sat down on the edge of my bed and out came “It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son!” You know, it took about 20 minutes to write the song.”
And so a great political statement with a rockin’ beat. Unfortunately today it probably would be taken as anti-military but it is not. Basically it’s saying – in its own way – War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! (See what I did there?)
Speaking of straight up rock and roll, few bands did it better. Their 1970 album Cosmo’s Factory (named for their drummer’s reaction to their intense rehearsal schedule) is a great album which has not one bad tune.
Fogerty wrote the song “Travelin’ Band” about life on the road. Patterned perhaps a little too closely after “Good Golly Miss Molly” (plagiarism suit settled out of court) it’s a rave-up. If the punks had a problem with their forebears, I don’t see how when this no-nonsense rocker clocks in at a tidy 2:08.
John Fogerty: “I put “Born on the Bayou” in the swamp where, of course, I had never lived. (Fogerty is from California and is about as Southern as I am – ME). I was trying to be a pure writer, no guitar in hand, visualizing and looking at the bare walls of my apartment.
Chasing down a hoodoo. Hoodoo is a magical, mystical, spiritual, non-defined apparition, like a ghost or a shadow, not necessarily evil, but certainly other-worldly. I was getting some of that imagery from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.”
On the surface, the song “Lodi” concerns itself with a musician who sets out for fame and fortune only to find himself in the (real) small town of Lodi, California. Fogerty had (again) never been there but picked it because it had the “coolest-sounding name.” (There are, one supposes, worse places to be stuck as it is smack-dab in the middle of wine country.)
But the much-covered song’s lyrics are seen, I think, as one being stuck in their own personal Lodi, their own inescapable Twilight Zone. (Cue Rod Serling.)
I rode in on the Greyhound
I’ll be walkin’ out if I go
I was just passin’ through
Must be seven months or more
Ran out of time and money
Looks like they took my friends
Oh Lord, I’m stuck in Lodi again
I’ll take a side trip on this Revival to CCR’s final album, Mardi Gras. The other guys in the band – despite having no discernible songwriting talent – wanted their share of the goodies that came with that. So John decided to let them go ahead and do it. (Tom Fogerty had by then left the band in another of those “brothers should never play in a band together” stories. Tom died and they never reconciled.)
The first hit from the album is a great rocker called “Sweet Hitchhiker” and it doesn’t seem to have much more meaning than picking up a young lady (back when you could hitchhike safely) and making music at the Greasy King. (This was apparently a restaurant the band frequented. Sounds like a place you eat when you’re stoned.)
Lastly, from Cosmo’s Factory, CCR’s ode not to travel as such, but to coming home from the road. It’s called “Long As I Can See the Light.” and it’s a terrific, soulful tune. In case you’re wondering, that’s Fogerty on sax. Is there anything this guy can’t do?
*Fantasy and Fogerty have a long, long history of mutual antipathy and litigation. One of his cases with them – Fantasy’s contention that Fogerty plagiarized himself (!) – went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Fogerty won, forcing Fantasy to pay his attorney’s fees. (Which he had to then fight to get.) A silver lining is that Justice Rehnquist in his decision called them one of the greatest rock ‘n roll bands of all time. So, there’s that.