A CRY FROM THE STREETS AS THE SIXTIES TURNED TO THE SEVENTIES
Throughout the remainder of 2009, Sunday Spin will regularly celebrate and explore some of the seminal albums released in 1969 as they reach their 40th anniversaries. We couldn't think of a better slab to start with…
Some folks are born wise, and John Fogerty is surely one of them. Two years on from the Summer of Love, Fogerty could see which way the wind was blowing, his young ears able to "hear the voice of rage and ruin." The Vietnam War shuddered a half a world away, entering U.S. living rooms every night on the news, while corporate culture had already absorbed the trappings of the '60s youth revolution, diluting a legitimate social movement into a series of largely empty, marketable symbols (""Is that a real poncho? I mean is that a Mexican poncho or is that a Sears poncho?"). Fogerty picked up on this sharp dip in general hope, addressing the nostalgia already settling into America's mindset – not just for some fictitious bygone time but for what had transpired only recently - a dynamic that persists in even more pronounced form today. The first words of Creedence Clearwater Revival's third album, Green River are, "Well, take me back down where cool water flows/ Let me remember things I love." From there he swiftly introduces us to the hangman's rope and announces, "You're gonna find the world is smould'rin'."
CCR's second album in a year that would ultimately see them release three classics is a sharp shock to the system. For all of its '50s inspired bounce, the waters in their river are cloudy and tangled with weeds and bodies. Like the bluesmen and folk heroes that fueled Fogerty's pen, his songs here invite mindless sing-alongs, seeming jubilant yet ever-touched by something far darker. The quintessential example in the Creedence catalog is "Bad Moon Rising, " which has been reduced to a backdrop for film and television, just another piece of the general cultural landscape, but is nothing less than a scathing gospel warning, barking, "Hope you got your things together/ Hope you are quite prepared to die/ Looks like we're in for nasty weather/ One eye is taken for an eye." Creedence isn't screwing around on this album, and as baldly enjoyable as the music is (and it is a freakin' ball that'll have you smacking the roof of your hoopdie like El Duderino) this is largely serious business, as heavy and truthful as Robert Johnson, Leadbelly or Bob Dylan.
It does not hurt that the band is ablaze on every cut. The myth goes that this is John's show and the rest are merely players, but no matter the brilliance of the playwright you're going to have an empty house if there's no one there to execute the script. Stu Cook (bass), Doug Clifford (drums) and John's brother Tom Fogerty (rhythm guitar) are jook joint mean and Hamburg underground tight, a party band extraordinaire with steam rising from their pores. John Fogerty's lead guitar and ruthless lead vocals are indeed the sharp point of their phalanx but the muscle behind it comes from Tom, Stu and Doug. The sad evidence of this is how none of them ever again achieved a fraction of the mojo harnessed during CCR's five-year existence. Green River presents the combo at their most cohesive, where each aspect feeds the others to create one of the most appealing, robust sounds in the history of rock. The conversation between instruments generates a density and immediacy that defies age – a model for anyone seeking a "timeless" quality to their music.
And oh what tunes! The proto-punk of "Commotion," the bent knee cry for connectivity in "Wrote A Song For Everyone," the gleeful foreboding of "Tombstone Shadow," the ennui and impotence of "Lodi," the urge for going inside "Cross-Tie Walker" and the shiver-inducing prognostication of "Bad Moon Rising" and "Sinister Purpose" - each number a lustily attacked marvel that culminates in a "Fuck it, let's party" vibe with a cover of jump blues standard "The Night Time Is The Right Time." Throwing jagged stones at "pharaohs" and the self-deluded, this song cycle is simultaneously delightful and harrowing. In sequencing, execution and insight, Green River is a tough one to beat in any era, even one as rich as the late 1960s.
1. Green River
3. Tombstone Shadow
4. Wrote a Song for Everyone
1. Bad Moon Rising
3. Cross-Tie Walker
4. Sinister Purpose
5. The Night Time Is the Right Time
Do yourself a favor and check out Letters to Fogerty by the wonderful John Moe. You can thank us later when you stop laughing.
This nasty lil' tune nicely captures the hurly-burly of modern life in under three minutes.
Death songs have a long, grand tradition and this is up there with the best of them.
During their 1999 tour this was a Pavement staple, just one example of this album's far reaching influence.
Here's John Fogerty getting "stuck" all by his lonesome.
A clearly stoned Mama Cass introduces "Clarence Clamwater." JamBase would like to dedicate this one to our pal Nathan Moore (he knows why...). Play it loud and long as we all try to find our way back to the river.
And lastly, the title tune.