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Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Despite hailing from Berkeley in California, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, or at least singer/multi-instrumentalist John Fogerty, lived and breathed a Southern fantasy of “backwood bayous”, “Cajun queens” and “hoodoos” (eh?!). This was swamp R&B of the rootsiest pedigree, utilising a simple but stunningly effective hybrid of raw rock’n’roll, country and blues. JOHN FOGERTY’s voice was an instrument in its own right, a life-affirming bellow that equalled MARVIN GAYE and OTIS REDDING for soulfulness and, if his early classics failed to send a shiver up your spine, it’d be an idea to check your pulse. The man was also blessed with the ability to write insanely catchy songs which were nevertheless steeped in Southern authenticity.

Formed in El Cerrito, California, in 1967, the CCR alumni (John, his equally dextrous older brother Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford) could be traced several years back when the four cut their teeth in late 50s schoolboy combo, TOMMY FOGERTY & THE BLUE VELVETS. Derivative of the eras R&B affiliations, two singles, `Come On Baby’ and `Have You Ever Been Lonely’, appeared on the local Orchestra imprint (a third was shelved), before trends and the British Invasion, led to a name change to The GOLLIWOGS. Several flop 45s, for both Fantasy – where Tom worked as a clerk – and Scorpio Records, tested the murky waters between 1964 and 1967, and although a solid reputation was built from the garage/psych market, records such as Tom’s vocal `Don’t Tell Me No Lies’ to John’s `Brown-Eyed Girl’ and `Porterville’, failed to register chart-wise.

Following Doug and John’s compulsory spell in the forces (no hippy draft-dodging for these guys!), the group became CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, issuing their debut single proper (after a straight re-release of `Porterville’), an inspired cover of DALE HAWKINS’ `Suzie Q’, in the summer of ‘68. A near Top 10 hit split over two sides, the full 8-minute take “swamped” a good part of their eponymous blue-collar blues set, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL (1968) {*7}. John Fogerty’s self-penned cues `The Working Man’, the aforementioned `Porterville’ and The DOORS-like `Gloomy’, matched the rustic swagger of other covers from WILSON PICKETT’s `Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)’ to SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS’ `I Put A Spell On You’; the latter a minor hit.

No other rock group, historically and otherwise (and that includes The BEATLES and The ROLLING STONES), has ever in one year (in this case, 1969) produced three multi-platinum-selling LPs; and from these sets, a raft of Top 3 hits. The first of these, BAYOU COUNTRY {*8}, had all the southern-fried ingredients and potency to carry John’s mythical riverboat tales of a backwoods country-boy in the city: gold disc `Proud Mary’ (“Rollin’ down the river”) was one such classic, its B-side and album opener, `Born On The Bayou’, another. But for the good-time antics of the LITTLE RICHARD hit `Good Golly Miss Molly’, Louisiana comes alive via California on earthy swamp-rockers, `Bootleg’, `Graveyard Train’ and `Keep On Chooglin’’; the latter combining 16+ minutes of primeval sludge.

Abandoning the jam-like edge of their previous ventures, and keeping musical boundaries within reach of their flowering fanbase, quick-fire follow-up GREEN RIVER {*9} spawned perhaps their best known track, the apocalyptic swamp-pop of `Bad Moon Rising’, as well as the poignant country dead-end soul of `Lodi’, the ballad `Wrote A Song For Everyone’ and the blistering title track. The token cover of Nappy Brown’s `The Night Time Is The Right Time’, was a fitting and menacing finale to a great chart-topping set, a dark set that smouldered with `Commotion’, `Tombstone Shadow’ and `Sinister Purpose’.

Befitting the close of a great year (and, indeed, a great decade), WILLY AND THE POOR BOYS {*9}, still remains the definitive CCR album. From the passionate protest/politicism of `Fortunate Son’ (its Top 3 flipside, `Down On The Corner’), to the desolate strangeness of `Effigy’ (John’s eerie 6-minute jewel), the album ran the gamut of the band’s influences. Transporting folk-blues from time and memorial, in pieces `The Midnight Special’ and LEABELLY’s `Cotton Fields’ (soon to be a pop hit for The BEACH BOYS), to their rightful position within swamp-fuelled country-rock, John F matched “old-timey” tunes with his own post-jugband/rockabilly blues: `Poorboy Shuffle’, `It Came Out Of The Sky’ and `Don’t Look Now’.

There was no stopping the prolific J Fogerty at this point and, a mere seven months later, the quartet released COSMO’S FACTORY (1970) {*10}. Coming within a whisker of its predecessor, the No.1 album generated further Top 5 hits (six in total), the double-A-sided `Travelin’ Man’ and `Who’ll Stop The Rain’, and the similarly-formatted `Up Around The Bend’ (b/w `Run Through The Jungle’) and `Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ (b/w `Long As I Can See The Light’); if one counts a post-split hit “cut” of their 11-minute Strong-Whitfield classic, `I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, that would bring the total to seven! With only para-rockabilly opener `Ramble Tamble’ – clocking in at 7 minutes – stemming from JF’s pen, CCR’s nostalgic bent came courtesy of Sun sources: `Ooby Dooby’ (a hit for ROY ORBISON) and `My Baby Left Me’ (authored by ARTHUR “BIG BOY” CRUDUP), that left only BO DIDDLEY’s `Before You Accuse Me’ adding to this glorious work.
While PENDULUM (also 1970) {*7} was slated as a disappointment (only in respects to what had gone before), it nevertheless held nuggets like the gorgeous `Have You Ever Seen The Rain?’ and its rousing Top 10 flip, `Hey Tonight’. Perturbed as merely being a bubblegum pop-rock act by axe-wielding critics, there was a serious approach to John’s textural twists; bookend 6-minute episodes `Pagan Baby’ and `Rude Awakening No.2’, showcasing a side teetering on the precipice of prog-folk.

By this point, however, internal disputes were rife, resulting in the departure of the somewhat overlooked sibling, TOM FOGERTY, who left for a breakaway solo career; only his eponymous debut set in 1972 sold in decent quantities; after an undistinguished and patchy career spanning just under two decades and several albums, he was to die of tuberculosis on September 6, 1990.

Pared down to a trio, the cooperative CCR cut a final studio album, MARDI GRAS (1972) {*4}, a record that saw teamwork within the ranks; the oft-forgotten Cook and Clifford imparting a handful of their own country-fried tunes (plus a version the RICKY NELSON hit `Hello Mary Lou’), which fell short of Fogerty’s CCR parting shots, `Sweet Hitch-Hiker’ and `Someday Never Comes’. Despite a plethora of compilations and posthumous live sets (including 1973’s disappointing double LIVE IN EUROPE {*5} – recorded from September ’71 – and 1980’s improvement, THE CONCERT/LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, 1970 {*8}), CCR never succumbed to re-forming. The closest they ever got was when Cook and Clifford (plus vocalist John Tristano and CARS guitarist Elliot Easton) emerged in the mid-90s as the much-maligned CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVISITED: if one wanted to lend an ear to CCR classics without its author, then good luck to listeners of the double live-in-concert piece, RECOLLECTION (1998) {*4}.

Of course, the mighty JOHN FOGERTY had already carved out his country-rock career when he formed the one-man-bluegrassband, The BLUE RIDGE RANGERS, in ‘73. A subsequent fruitful solo career beckoned, albeit sporadic and diverse. But as always, the man at the centre of heartland rock, gave 100% to everything he did. A true troubadour, and still working in the business; the collaborative and aptly-titled “Wrote A Song For Everyone” hit the shops in 2013.

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