John Fogerty is one of the best songwriters in the history of rock, he brought back the energy, simplicity, and straightforwardness of early rock & roll to a world that was beginning to stray from its origins due to the excesses of psychedelia. He was the frontman for Creedence Clearwater Revival for four of the most fertile years in the history of music, and delivered a collection of songs to match a chosen few. To pick just 10 songs among the variety and flowery bouquet of treasures is an arduous task and I want you to know it was really painful to have left out great songs such as Lodi, Long as I Can See the Light, Effigy, Up Around the Bend and Wrote a Song for Everyone, but we have to be happy with 10, and these are the ones we’ve selected:
Lookin' Out My Back Door
Nobody doubted that Fogerty and his band liked country music, so it came to no surprise that in 1970 they decided to pay tribute the ‘Bakersfield Sound’ , and one of the biggest figures in it, Buck Owens. Fogerty based the lyrics on a children’s book that made him think of his son, but, because of the times , many saw the lyrics as a kind of acid trip. The main instrument used is a Regal Dobro that the singer/guitarist had picked up some months before after recording the Johnny Cash show where he met the bluegrass legend Tut Taylor. Like everything Fogerty played, it was simple yet very effective. Curiously, this was the 5th and last time a CCR single landed at #2 on the U.S. charts (incredible, they would never achieve a #1).
Down on the Corner
The song that opened the outstanding Willy and the Poor Boys is one of the most memorable of his career. Built on a simple guitar riff, with a pinch of soul and funk, Fogerty’s raspy throat showed what an excellent singer he is. Onstage they played it during a jam with his idols Booker T and the MGs, with Fogerty and Steve Cropper exchanging licks.
CCR never delivered a bad record in their entire career, but my favourite is Cosmo’s Factory. A gem that opens with this song Ramble Tamble, a funky riff which brings the whole band together to make way for a rhythm that seems to have been taken from Sun studios in Memphis in 1955, then Fogerty’s amazing voice kicks in, and before 2 minutes the rhythm begins to fade and we get to an extensive bridge that is pure 70s rock; a jam that the Allman Brothers could have penned, the tempo and intensity then rise and as if by magic we’re back at the rockabilly bit (with some changes more suited for a ‘jam band’). Throughout this song Fogerty uses his ‘57 Les Paul Custom, and does it in the best possible way .
Born On The Bayou
Fogerty had used a Rickenbacker on CCR’s first record but for the second he was looking for a different sound. He wanted a guitar that could be tuned in D just like Leadbelly’s and other old bluemen. So he sought a guitar with a wide body like a Gibson ES-175, and give her a ton of tremolo, and thus, found other great riffs in his career, one which would define his sound and inject the swamp description to his music forever. It was Born on the Bayou that gave the title to their 2nd album Bayou Country, with which they would become glittering stars.
Green River was the 2nd record the three released in 1969 and the first of the trilogy of their masterpieces, together with Willy and the Poor Boys and Cosmo’s Factory. The title song is the perfect example of the band’s sound, a strong opening riff the song is built on, Fogerty’s voice drenched in ‘reverb’ in a song that will time-transport you in less than 3 minutes. This is Fogerty’s favourite number of his saying that with it finally got that “Sun Records touch”. Although rather than Scotty Moore, the guitarist he sounds most like is James Burton , whose riff in Suzy Q was a tremendous inspiration for his career, sharing with him his obsession for tone and rhythm in his guitar. Here he used a J-200 acoustic and his Rickenbacker 325 plugged into a 100 watt Kustom K200A amp.
Bad Moon Rising
John Fogerty was delighted with his ES-175, with which he cut Proud Mary, but just when they were about to record their third album it was stolen. Instead of getting another one, Fogerty saw a chance to get a Les Paul. So he went to the nearest music shop and bought a black Custom with which he would record Bad Moon Rising, another of the irresistible songs of his career, #1 in the U.K. and #2 in the U.S. . His guitar work reminds the early Elvis’ songs in their time at Sun
Who’ll Stop the Rain
CCR was one of the bands that took part in the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969. After their performance, in the middle of the downpour that turned it all into a quagmire, Fogerty wrote one of his best songs, Who’ll Stop the Rain?. A song that proves two things, that CCR was incredible in half tempo, like this number halfway between folk/rock and country that makes you understand that whoever wanted to see this band as the beginning of everything we call ‘roots rock’ or ‘Americana’, and secondly, John Fogerty was a great lyricist, able of painting to perfection the dichotomy the world was in during the late 60s, with two generations completely apart from one another.
Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
It’s clear that the rain inspired Fogerty, Have You Ever Seen the Rain? is the band’s last great classic, an enormous song where Fogerty speaks of the growing tension in the group that led to his big brother Tom quitting the band, and finally to the definite break up. The perfect song that expresses the epilogue to a great band.
Possibly the most famous song of their legacy, Fogerty’s ode to what must be the best known ship that sailed the rock seas of history. It had an immediate impact on Bob Dylan who called it the “best song of 1969” and Ike & Tina Turner cut a successful cover the following year. Released in January ‘69, it was the song CCR built a giant but brief career on. Possibly it is also the best remembered song in which a Gibson ES-175 is played, with a fine concise solo where Fogerty puts feeling ahead of speed.
Now if I have to pick my favourite CCR song, I’ll go with Fortunate Son, the furious scream by Fogerty and the boys against the Vietnam war and the suspicious ways of drafting that always let off the same ones, the sons of senators and millionaires. The message couldn’t have been clearer, the ruling and rich classes created wars and then sent the unfortunate ones to fight them in their place. So it’s no surprise that in a show in 1970 Fogerty dedicated the song to Julie Nixon, president Richard Nixon’s daughter, and to David Eisenhower, grandson of the ex- president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who got married in 1968. His legendary riff is played on his 2nd Les Paul Custom, and perfectly concludes our stroll through our favourite songs of one of the best bands in rock’s history.