My Playlist: Creedence Clearwater Revival

The first Creedence Clearwater Revival song I heard was Have You Ever Seen The Rain. This must have been in Germany around 1974. My six-year older sister, who at the time was in her early teens, had the single. The B-side was Hey Tonight. I liked these two tunes from the very beginning. I also recall listening to Proud Mary and Bad Moon Rising on the radio. I dig this band to this day, and they’ve been on my mind for the past few weeks, since I learned about the Blues & Bayous Tour ZZ Top and John Fogerty will do together later this year.

The story of Creedence Clearwater Revival or CCR started about 10 years before they would become one America’s most successful rock bands. Their first incarnation was a trio called The Blue Velvets, formed in 1958 by Fogerty (guitar), Doug Clifford (drums) and Stu Cook (piano), who all were students at Portola Junior High School in the San Francisco suburb of El Cerrito. In the beginning, they mostly played instrumental music. Their first studio recording experience occurred in 1959, when they backed up African American singer James Powell on a single. Later that year, John’s older brother Tom Fogerty, who himself had been an aspiring music artist, joined the band as their lead vocalist, and they became Tommy Fogerty and The Blue Velvets. At the time, John was not singing yet.

Tommy Fogerty And The Blue Velvets

The band started to record some demos written by the two Fogerty brothers. A small Bay Area record company, Orchestra, decided to release a few of their songs, but they didn’t fare well. In 1964, the band signed with Fantasy Records, an independent San Francisco jazz label. Prompted by the record company, they changed their name to The Golliwogs. Fantasy released a few of their songs, but except for Brown Eyed Girl (unrelated to the Van Morrison tune), the music didn’t make any commercial impact. Eventually, most of the band’s members took on new roles: John became the lead vocalist, his brother changed to rhythm guitar, and Cook switched from piano to the bass.

In 1966, Fogerty and Clifford were drafted into the military and joined the Army Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve, respectively. During their six months of active duty, the band was put on the back burner. In 1967, the financially struggling Fantasy was purchased by Saul Zaentz, a salesman for the company, who had organized a group of other investors. Zaentz liked The Golliwogs but told them they needed to change their name. And so they did, to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Creedence Clearwater Revival First Album

The band name had three different origins. Creedence was derived from Credence Newball, a friend of Tom’s. Clearwater was inspired by a beer TV commercial that used the words “clear water.” And Revival reflected the four members’ renewed commitment to the band. They didn’t waste any time to act on it and went to the studio to record their eponymous debut album. Even before it appeared at the end of May 1968, CCR’s cover of the Dale Hawkins tune Susie Q, which they had cut a few months earlier, already received radio play and a good deal of attention. It appeared separately as a single and became their first hit, peaking at no. 11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – the only CCR top 40 track not written by John Fogerty.

Following their breakthrough, CCR started touring heavily and shortly thereafter began working on their sophomore album Bayou Country, which was released in early January 1969. The band continued an intense touring schedule, which notably included the Atlanta Pop Festival (July 1969) and Woodstock (August 1969). Even though CCR was a headliner at Woodstock, none of their songs were included in the documentary and the accompanying soundtrack. John felt their performance had not been up to standard. Apparently, they had ended up playing at 3:00 am in the morning after the Grateful Dead, when only few people had been awake. It would take until 1994 when four of the tunes from that night were included in a commemorative box set titled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music.

Ten days prior to Woodstock, CCR’s third studio record Green River was released. Four more albums followed: Willy And The Poor Boys (November 1969), Cosmo’s Factory (July 1970), Pendulum (November 1970) and Mardi Gras (April 1972). By the time this last record appeared, serious tensions over CCR’s artistic and business direction had emerged between John Fogerty and Cook and Clifford. In late 1970, Tom Fogerty already had left the band, which since had been a trio. In mid-October 1972, CCR broke up officially. Time to get to some music!

Susie Q, CCR’s breakthrough song from their first studio album, was recorded in January 1968 and appeared in June that year. Originally, the tune was released by Dale Hawkins in May 1957. It was co-written by him and Robert Chaisson, a member of his band. Due to CCR’s extended version, the single was split in parts one and two, which appeared on the A and B-sides, respectively.

Proud Mary from Bayou Country was the first of five no. 2 hits CCR scored on the Billboard Hot 100. Apparently, the band holds the record for achieving the most no. 2 singles without ever getting a no. 1 on that chart. Like pretty much all songs on the first four albums, the tune was written by John Fogerty. Various other artists have covered Proud Mary, most notably Ike & Tina Turner.

Green River is the title track of CCR’s third studio album from August 1969. The Fogerty tune is one of the no. 2 songs.

Down On The Corner is the opener of Willy And The Poor Boys, CCR’s fourth studio record and the third album the band released in 1969. The tune was also released as a single and became another hit for the band, climbing to no. 3. on the Billboard Hot 100.

Fortunate Son, another track from Willy And The Poor Boys, was the B-side of the Down On The Corner single.

Cosmo’s Factory, CCR’s fifth studio record from July 1970, became the band’s most successful album, topping the Billboard 200 and the LP charts in the UK, Canada and Australia, among others. Here’s a clip of Up Around The Bend.

Another tune from Cosmo’s Factory I like in particular is Who’ll Stop The Rain.

The aforementioned Have You Ever Seen The Rain? is from the band’s sixth studio album Pendulum, the final record with Tom Fogerty. If I could only choose one CCR song, it would probably be this one. I totally dig the Hammond in that tune!

Here is Hey Tonight, another outstanding song.

I’d like to conclude this playlist with Someday Never Comes from CCR’s final album Mardi Gras. Unlike the band’s previous records, songwriting and production were shared among Fogerty and Cook and Clifford, something Fogerty had fiercely opposed in the past. While Fogerty’s previous leadership may have been dictatorial, the record’s mixed to poor reviews indicate that a democratic approach wasn’t working well for CCR. Perhaps tellingly, Someday Never Comes and the other Fogerty tracks on the album are the best.

Despite CCR’s relatively short four-year career, they sold 30 million albums and singles in the U.S. alone. The band is ranked at no. 82 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists from December 2010. In 1993, CCR were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, Fogerty refused to perform with Cook and Clifford during the induction ceremony. His brother Tom had passed away in 1990.

Sources: Wikipedia, Creedence Online, Rolling Stone YouTube

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15 thoughts on “My Playlist: Creedence Clearwater Revival”

  1. Eigentlich müsste der Titel von “Have you ever seen the rain” etwas länger sein, um seinen wahren Sinn zu enthüllen, denn dann geht es weiter mit “comin’ down on a sunny day?”. John Fogerty sagte, dass diese Zeilen auf den Gemütszustand der Gruppe 1970 gemünzt waren. CCR hatten einen Riesenerfolg. Man war berühmt, war superreich, und dennoch fühlte sich jedes der vier Bandmitglieder unglücklich und deprimiert.

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    1. Wie ich gelesen habe, waren zum Zeitpunkt des Pendulum-Albums die Spannungen innerhalb der Band bereits enorm hoch. Vermutlich konnte CCRs enormer Erfolg nur bedingt dafuer kompensieren.

      John Fogerty fuehrte die Band auf diktatorische Weise und insistierte auf die Umsetzung seiner artistischen Vision. Es ist sicherlich bezeichned, dass sein Bruder Tom nach der Veroeffentlichung des Albums das Handtuch hinschmiss und die Band verliess.

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      1. So isches! CCR trennten sich ein Jahr nach der Veröffentlichung des Albums “Pendulum”, auf dem auch “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” zu hören war.

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  2. Great selections. Fortunate Son- was written supposedly with Nixon’s son-in-law- and Ike’s grandson David Eisenhower [Camp David} in mind. Note- LBJ’s two son-in-law’s served in Vietnam, Nixon’s did not.}… I was reading the other day where critic Jon Landau-at the time said that the album should have been called “Fogerty’s Revenge”– Forgerty himself has called the album horse manure.

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    1. Thanks, that’s interesting!

      I’ve seen the term “Fogerty’s Revenge” in connection with the Mardi Gras album, the last and only CCR record where writing and production responsibilities were shared among the then three remaining members (Fogerty, Cook and Clifford).

      Cook and Clifford had pushed for more artistic input. Fogerty who had a strong vision initially rejected the idea but eventually relented. In fact, he completely reversed him himself and “took revenge,” suddenly insisting on a “democratic” approach for that album.

      I think it’s safe to assume Fogerty was well aware that this new approach would likely impact the record’s outcome. And he was right.

      In my opinion, the tunes he wrote for “Mardi Gras” are far better than the songs the two other guys contributed, as are his vocals.

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      1. He knew they couldn’t carry their weight and how it would all turn out. Interesting how Fogerty in those few years was a songwriting machine and since the end of CCR his out put has been relatively little in 45 years.

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      2. True. And I have to say except for the “Centerfield” album, which I have on vinyl and generally like, I’m not familiar with his solo work – actually sounds like a good listening project to me!:-) Any solo album you could recommend?

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      3. The 1975 album John Fogerty – is very good- but I don’t know if it is even available. I happened to buy it on vinyl years ago- I don’t think it has been released on CD or even in ITUNES. Blue Moon Swamp- 1997 is very good… the follow up to Centerfield–Eye Of The Zombie was disappointing. He did an album with other artists- doing old CCR songs- Wrote A Song For Everyone- in 2013- it is pretty good but it just covers old material in a different way.

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  3. One of the great “singles” bands ever, extremely consistent quality; John Fogerty was a songwriting machine. I have a “Nuggets” collection with the Golliwogs’ song “Fight Fire,” and it’s very good.

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    1. Thanks, just found and listened to “Black Fire” – cool tune that sounds a bit like Them, except for the vocals. I also think this song is better than “Brown Eyed Girl”, which according to my research for the post was the only single by The Golliwogs that got a bit of traction, selling some 10,000 copies – of course, a very moderate performance by CCR standards!😀

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      1. (Actually, “Fight Fire” is the title)… I haven’t heard the Golliwogs’ “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Same title, but different song than Van Morrison’s hit. You’re right, 10,000 copies would be below standard for Creedence!

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  4. Good write-up, great band. Clearly, Fogerty was the songwriting (and singing) engine. Alas, there’s a lot of bitterness in the CCR story. The band had tremendous problems with Zaentz who basically ripped them off. Fogerty wrote a song called “Zanz Kant Danz” (“Zanz can’t dance but he’ll steal your money”), lawsuits flew back and forth and Fogerty either couldn’t or wouldn’t perform his own songs for some time. Worse yet, the brothers never really reconciled and people had to beg John to visit his brother’s bedside when he was dying. And yeah, Fogerty eventually said, Ok you guys write something. And they just were not at his level. As to that ZZ Top/Fogerty show, boy I’d love to see that but alas they’re not headed this way.

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    1. Thanks! Based on what I read, sadly, you’re right about the fighting, lawsuits and bitterness. I deliberately didn’t want to get into that.

      It seems to me that John Fogerty had very strong opinions about CCR’s artistic direction. Apart from any ego that might have been at play, I guess he was concerned not to mess up, once they had hit success. After all, it had taken them 10 years to get to that point.

      Plus, John undoubtedly is a great songwriter. As CCR’s final album “Mardi Gras” showed, the same simply could not be said for Stu Cook and Doug Clifford – both in terms of the writing and their vocals!

      As for the Fogerty/ZZ Top show, it’s definitely on my radar screen. Sadly, Aretha Franklin has fallen ill and cannot perform for the next two months, per her doctor’s orders. This means the upcoming show for which I had tickets has been cancelled. The show would have coincided with her 76th birthday. I would have loved to see her!

      Now I will probably redeploy the money for Fogerty and ZZ Top.

      BTW, Aretha still has a scheduled June 2 gig in Boston (Boch Center Wang Theatre)…

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      1. I probably won’t see her for two reasons: One is, like you, I spend too much money on shows. Two is because as much as I like her, I’ve never really felt compelled to see her live.

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