‘So much goin’ on, I just can’t hear, hear’: The best of CCR

During the age of Aquarius, a thick-faced young man with a bullfrog in his throat crawled from under a boulder covered with Spanish moss. When Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Suzie Q” appeared in 1968, it sounded like a belch from Appalachia. Fogerty and brother Tom traded riffs: one spindly and trebly, the other a burst of feedback. The only other contemporaneous band recording music so drenched in old, weird America yet staring at a someday that may never come was the Velvet Underground, and CCR sold more records. A lot more records. Between 1969 and 1970 CCR’s only rivals were The Beatles. They connected with audiences despite not writing many love songs. Their songs often clocked in at two minutes (“Fortunate Son” is 2:18!). The foxiest man to ever wear flannel, Fogerty was by all accounts the Obergruppenführer, writing and producing and playing inimitable guitar that more bands should emulate (Pavement we know, but if Spoon has any freshness left in 2016, credit Britt Daniel’s similar aesthetic; maybe Parquet Courts too).

The British have contributed some of the best writing about CCR. Mark Sinker on ILM a decade ago:

above all that they cared abt singles rather than LPs, and were definitely counter the big-art-statement faux adult sensibility of the times — the songs were tight and sort of just there, rather than constructed and worked over and part of some brave new post-beatles counterculture world

Marcello Carlin on Cosmo’s Factory, a #1 album in the UK and America:

And so the notion of Creedence, and the perhaps overlapping notion of the Grand Unifying Theory of American Music, since virtually all of it is present in one form or another through Cosmo’s Factory, has to be looked at with some awe. It is a matter of documented fact that one of Kurt Cobain’s earliest bands specialised in Creedence covers and many of the pioneers of grunge and Gen X indie, though only toddlers at the time of this record, would have picked up on these songs instantly, from Dinosaur Jr to the Lemonheads, these songs being simple to learn and easy to play…But look through Nevermind or Surfer Rosa and you may find that these groups are singing about the same things; differently expressed for a different time, perhaps, but the thread still runs. Certainly the organic nature of Creedence’s music has in itself proved hugely influential; their nearest 2010 equivalents are perhaps Spoon, whose apparent surface of hard-working, conservative rock belies an unusual emotional and aesthetic complexity, all the easier to miss because it is done with no showboating.

Fogerty’s characters spoke to working men, but the beauty of Creedence’s brief, refulgent fire is that they were everyone’s group; the truck drivers, the waitresses, the troops, the students – none could find anything in their music that didn’t communicate with them, or stir up something deep and important within them.

Over the years whenever I think I’ve had enough of CCRs hits I’ll play an album track like “Sinister Purpose” or hear “Green River” at a gas station and remember what I liked about them, how fresh these tunes sound, how searing the performances are.

Here are my favorites, my contributions to the ILM poll.

1. Commotion
2. It Came Out of the Sky
3. Wrote a Song For Everyone
4. Sinister Purpose
5. Lookin’ Out My Back Door
6. Walk on the Water
7. Green River
8. Don’t Look Now
9. Lodi
10. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
11. Born on the Bayou
12. Tombstone Shadow
13. Fortunate Son
14. Effigy
15. Long As I Can See the Light
16. Who’ll Stop the Rain
17. It’s Just a Thought
18. Down on the Corner
19. Sailor’s Lament
20. Someday Never Comes
21. Proud Mary
22. Run Through the Jungle
22. Bad Moon Rising
23. (Wish I Could) Hideaway
24. Suzie Q
25. Keep on Chooglin’

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One Response to ‘So much goin’ on, I just can’t hear, hear’: The best of CCR

  1. Jim S. says:

    I would add Travelin’ Band, I Put A Spell on You, Proud Mary, Night Time is the Right Time. I know a couple of those are covers but then, so is Grapevine. Forgot about It Came Out of the Sky. Great song. “Ronnie the popular said it was a Communist plot. “

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