Revisiting the Curt, Cosmic Populism of Creedence Clearwater Revival


Behold! Fantasy has unveiled 40th-anniversary editions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s first six LPs, packed onto individual CDs with remastered, pungent-for-digital sound and three to five bonus tracks apiece, generally well-chosen. (Bayou Country needed them most.) Green River sports two officially “unfinished” but sturdy and intriguing instrumentals. Two “jams” (concise run-throughs) with members of Booker T. and the MGs are spread elsewhere: “Born on the Bayou” (appended to Cosmo’s Factory) is rough, but deft organ accents highlight the pre-reggae profile of the skiffling “Down on the Corner” (on Willy and the Poor Boys.) You don’t have to be a jamster to strut with a very live version of long, tall “Suzie Q” (tacked to CCR’s self-titled debut), who always was an exceedingly well-preserved rockabilly queen; as presented here (they were opening for Jethro Tull!), she serves herself well by shaking off Creedence mastermind John C. Fogerty’s cute little reefer-madness production touches.

On that debut, the gimmicks flaunted by the original “Suzie Q” prophesy the way Fogerty’s mystical guitar arpeggiation (and penetrating wail) raise the freaked-out protagonist of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You” from the cartoon tomb of ancient novelty hits, providing him a new degree of eerie, still crazy-horny dignity, psychedelically enough, although nobody ever rescued one-hit-wonder Jay himself. (Fogerty probably empathized with singer and song both, having already spent a decade in a pack of striving studio and club rats—CCR had only recently changed their name from the Golliwogs.) “Porterville,” another Creedence track and Golliwogs-era Fogerty original, dignifies another long-time loser locked in a legacy of shadowy offenses to which he’s possibly contributed, although he claims he’s also tried to pay off family debts. Our antihero rattles through the verses but flips “I don’t care” as a chorus, and tosses chirpy, brittle guitar notes into the grinding jaws of his history-minded neighbors, as played by bass, drums, and two guitars.

Far down the line from “Porterville” (success-wise, at least), Fogerty—now weightily and worthily tagged as a cosmically cotton-pickin’ Spokesman for Today’s Troubled Youth—gets off the social-commentary bus at the conclusion of CCR’s death-of-’60s-innocence concept album Willy and the Poor Boys. Now he’s merely listing (as opposed to describing) moments, fixating on small elements of statically, endlessly replayed footage. You see, last night, some of the People, some people, burned something or other in “Effigy.” Fogerty sings: “Last night I saw the fire spreading to the palace door/Silent majority wasn’t keeping quiet anymore”; eventually, his curtness, sadness, timeliness, and everything else are drawn into the charring downstroke of a penultimate guitar note, just before a breath rises and falls with the title word/chorus one more time.

So what can a Poor Boy do but try to fry endings to their core, get right back on the bus, and go flying through the electric skies of Cosmo’s Factory before reaching Pendulum‘s stimulating therapy session? Here, he greets intractable differences and other old acquaintances, dances some, then leaves us with a mellow keyboard bouquet that flips into a circus blast: “Rude Awakening #2” indeed. Y’all remember to keep count now, y’hear?