Have you ever seen the rain? John Fogerty wrote in cryptic but visionary language. He told stories of average people, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, or running from bombs in the jungle. Very wise at an early age.
Creedence Clearwater Revival were together since high school around 1960, but only recorded from 1968-1972 before breaking up. Seven albums was extraordinary for such a small time-frame.
Fogerty wrote in blue jean and youthful earth tones of the late 1960s optimism tempered with challenges of growing up angry in America. They were all from California but they wrote songs anchored in the middle of America, from the honking horns of the urban city to the croaking frogs of the bayou.
There was an unguided energy in Fogerty’s music, bouncing off of energy societal signpost in America. CCR emerged during the dark days of the 60s, Vietnam and civil rights, distrust and a new decade. This country was at a crossroad and CCR was parked with the engine revving, waiting for a go sign.
Here’s my mixtape of 13 CCR songs:
“Susie Q” Some R&B grafted onto a rock beat, these guys would groove like Motown pros. Not only could churn out three minute rockers but they could grind out some heavy soul flavored funk. The rhythm section always set the course.
“I Put a Spell on You” The song is launched with a heavy guitar chord pattern that drives it along with a steady beat. One of many covers of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song of voodoo and love. “I put a spell on you, because you’re mine.” This song can go from the choppy rhythm to some mean lead guitar, snarling with bad love.
“Proud Mary” A rocking groove courtesy of Fogerty’s guitar that chimes along, with the boys on the chorus, “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.” This turned into a rock and rock anthem. Not a complicate song, just guitar chords that punch the song along. A hit for Ike and Tina Turner.
Workin’ for the man ev’ry night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleepin’
Worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Pumped a lot of pane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
‘Til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen
“Bad Moon Rising” Another rollicking guitar riff, Fogerty put a rhythm into his chord progressions to give his songs a beat and direction. “There’s a bathroom on the right” is what a lot of people heard, which aren’t the actual lyrics. “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today
It’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers over flowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin
“Down On the Corner” A snappy guitar groove, Willie and poor boys were playing. Young people gathering on the corner or in the street. A slice of life, somewhere, not worrying about war or protests, just living. Another infectious groove, impossible to resist.
Over by the courthouse they’re starting to unwind
Four kids on the corner trying to bring you up
Willy picks a tune out and he blows it on the harp
Out in the street
Willy and the Poor Boys are playin’
Bring a nickel, tap your feet
Blinky thumps the gut bass and solos for a while
Poor Boy twangs the rhythm out on his kalamazoo
And Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo
“Fortunate Son” The bass beats out the pattern, then the guitar comes in with chords, usually the other way around. An upbeat, powerful song for the average kid, without a silver spoon, but that’s okay.
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the chief”
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes
“Born on the Bayou” A great guitar riff that just keeps plugging along. There’s nothing fancy in the arrangement, just some good riffing rock and roll. Fogerty’s gruff voice shouts the song along. You almost believe these guys were from Louisiana instead of California.
“Who’ll Stop the Rain” Another CCR anthem, with ringing Byrds guitars, instantly hummable, killer chorus. Any film of Vietnam usually had this song. Fogerty could put any progression of chords together and you fell in love with how sound and singable it was.
The rain’s been comin’ down
Clouds of mystery pourin’
Confusion on the ground
Tryin’ to find the sun
And I wonder, still I wonder
Who’ll stop the rain
“Up Around the Bend” One of their few songs with a mean sounding lead guitar, the lead is very distinctive, but mostly this is a rolling rocker with riffing guitars. Lasting less than three minutes, this is a comet streaking across the sky.
“Run Through the Jungle” Punchy, echo-drenched rock that puts you right into the Southeast Asian jungle. Complete with bluesy harp.
Lord it was so true
The devil’s on the loose
Better run through the jungle
Better run through the jungle
Whoa don’t look back to see
Calling to my name
Satan cries “take aim”
“Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” A skiffle-type beat with dobro that gets you tapping the foot. These California boys knew how to mix country, blues and other roots styles with rock and roll. Two minutes and twenty-five seconds of Americana.
“Have You Ever Seen the Rain” One of CCR’s very best, a Dylanesque-type song. A great arrangement, with piano and organ to help fill out the sound. A gentle run of descending notes make this a memorable song.
Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know it’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know shinin’ down like water
“Long as I Can See the Light” A very slow groove with lots of vibrato. A soulful vocal by Fogerty, almost a gospel song. It has horns and electric piano.
‘Cause I feel I’ve gotta move
Though I’m goin’, goin’
I’ll be comin’ home soon
Long as I can see the light
‘Cause I’m bound to drift awhile
Though I’m gone, gone
You don’t have to worry
Long as I can see the light
‘Cause this feeling won’t leave alone
But I won’t, won’t
Be losin’ my way
Long as I can see the light
If you want to dig deeper, there are other familiar songs, like “Lodi”, and some longer tracks, instrumentally intense songs. They do a killer version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”
What you notice about Fogerty is he goes for a spunky progression of chord, churning them out on his guitar that creates both the melody and beat. He can build solos into many directions from these chords, but CCR is a power chord band without power, just the groove. These guys grew up on old time rock and roll, soul music, country (mostly Bakersfield), swampy blues and even a little rockabilly thrown in. You’ll never mistake Fogerty for Cliff Richard a vocalist, his growl has a deep bottom and he isn’t afraid to use it. He’s a blues and R&B singer in rock and roll blue jeans. Fogerty didn’t go the direction of Jimi Hendrix or Pete Townshend or Neil Young, his did not sound thick and distorted, more like the Beatles 1965 (it could have been the Rickenbacker he played).
After CCR’s breakup in the early 1970s, you didn’t hear much from them. For years. Fogerty refused to play his own songs, in protest to his record company who owned the songs. Fogerty was engaged in a long-term dispute with Saul Zaentz, owner of Fantasy Records, who wasn’t paying Fogerty any royalties and selling his songs for film and commercials. There were other legal issues with former band members, the result being that while he refused to play his old songs, his former band-mates were, in their group. At their Rock and Rock Hall of Fame Induction, Fogerty refused to play with his band-mates. Fogerty had even been at odds with his brother, who had been in CCR, but left before their last album. They tried but failed to settle their issues before Tom Fogerty’s death in 1990.
Fogerty did begin playing his old songs, and after Fantasy Records changed hands, a deal was reached to begin paying Fogerty royalties. Fogerty even signed with Fantasy to release one of his new projects.
According to his website: “Fogerty has been honored as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, 100 Greatest Songwriters, and 100 Greatest Singers by Rolling Stone. Earning induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Baseball Hall of Fame, he is also a New York Times best-selling author for his memoir, Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music.”