Monday, January 21, 2008

Creedence Clearwater Revival -- "Green River" (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival had me as far back as "Bad Moon Rising," which come to think of it, was only about nine months before "Green River" was released. I do not know how this band did it, but between 1968 and 1970, they cranked out five albums (with a couple more to come). Could you imagine anybody doing even two albums in one year today?

I'm not going to rehash the CCR phenomenon but really just to step back and analyze it. Four guys from San Francisco forging a "swamp rock" sound and mythology based on Southern blues, gospel and country music. No Southern roots at all. It's as if they had it in their souls, transported from another time. Even the lyrics were firmly based in the storytelling of folk songs one would not associate with northern California. Whatever gripped their souls to a sound like this was truly otherworldly.

The other part of the equation is that they were able to make millions of people around the globe believe it and fall in love with this music. Look at the video below from a 1970 London concert -- screaming and yelling at four regular guys dressed like they were ordinary flannel-shirted Joes from middle America who just got up that morning to play in a rock band. If you wanted jaw-dropping guitar solos, this was not the place. Everything was done so simply, full of down home feeling, that waiting for John Fogerty to shred was pointless.

Special mention must be made for that awesome Rickenbacker guitar Fogerty is playing in this video. Fogerty got full of himself later on, dismissing the roles of the other musicians, but I think he was dead wrong. The classic sound of CCR is a band effort. It was Doug Clifford on drums, Stu Cook on bass, and Tom Fogerty on rhythm guitar, and thank God the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame saw it that way too.

When I was a rock journalist for a spell in the mid-80's, I spent an evening hanging out with George Thorogood, discussing amongst other things this very band and he told me: "These guys had a sound that will never die."

"Green River" is definitely in my top three Creedence songs for almost cornball reasons: that E7 guitar riff that starts the song off and continues after every verse line, the blending of the C and A major chords throughout, the imagery of a "green river" to a kid growing up in a Queens suburb, and Fogerty's imagination of a comforting place where "if you get lost, come on home to Green River." You didn't need anything more to love a song like this.

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