Creedence Clearwater Revival : Bad Moon Rising

‘Creedence were never the hippest Band in the world – but they were the best!’ (Bruce Springsteen).

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‘I know that buried deep inside me are all these little bits and pieces of Americana. It’s deep in my heart, deep in my soul.’ (John Fogerty)

 

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Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.

A water drop hollows a stone – not by force but by falling often.

Or, if you want to really master a craft you need to put in the hours.

Consider The Beatles in Hamburg forgoing sleep and comfort to play set after set until they were a band that had deep trust in each other and their abilitiy to hold and move an audience.

Consider, today, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In 1969/1970/1971 there was no doubt who the top singles Band in the World were; how’s this for a sequence of classics:

Proud Mary/Born on the Bayou,

Bad Moon Rising/Lodi,

Green River/Commotion,

Down on the Corner/Fortunate Son,

It Came Out of the Sky/Cottonfields,

Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain?,

Run Through the Jungle/Up Around the Bend,

Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See the Light,

Have You Ever Seen the Rain/Hey Tonight.

Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!

Boy Howdy!

That’s a streak of inspiration and connection with your audience on a par with Chuck Berry or Lennon & McCartney at their peak.

Their omnipresence on the radio and on the charts was the result of years and years of unheralded toil.

Their emergence on the national and world stage only came after a full decade of slogging up and down the Pacific Coast, round the punishing circuit of military bases, small town clubs and dingy dance halls following their formation by Tom Fogerty in 1959 as The Blue Velvets.

Thousand of miles and thousands of hours binding Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and John Fogerty together into a potent Rock ‘n’ Roll force.

Stu Cook and Doug Clifford forging a Zen rhythm section with Tom Fogerty.

Sometime, Somewhere along those endless highways, John Fogerty, the 14 year old kid who joined his big brother’s band transmogrified into a world class singer, songwriter and guitarist with a sound and vision of his own that resonated deeply with the society he lived in and zeroed into the heart of the Zeitgeist.

This was a young man who had been electrified by the visceral power of the 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll Masters and who wouldn’t settle for any music that couldn’t match that power – live up to that challenge.

He worked out a recipe for making sure fire great Rock ‘n’ Roll records and then with the fullest measure of inspiration and perspiration set about matching his idols.

First : You just gotta have a great title.

Think, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, ‘Great Balls of Fire!’.

So, he carried a notebook and every time a title popped up in his head that sounded like the title of a classic song, he carefully wrote it down and set his mind to writing the rest of the song.

Titles in John’s Notebook – ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Born on the Bayou’, ‘Up Around the Bend’, ‘Green River’ and, yes, oh Yes – ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

Second : The Song has to connect with the real lives of your audience.

Think, ‘Schooldays’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, ‘Dead End Street’.

It should seem so true that once you heard it the first time you could sing it to yourself or a friend (you’d want to share it with a friend) even if the record wasn’t playing in the background.

So, John Fogerty songs are true and resonate whether you’re looking up at the stars in California, Calcutta, Carlisle or Khe Sanh.

Everyone has times when they wonder, for themselves and those around them, Who will stop the Rain?

Everyone has times when they hope, sometimes against hope, that they will be able to hold on and come through as long as they can see at least a glimmer of the light.

Everyone knows one of those Fortunate Sons who is protected by wealth and influence from the grim realities the rest of us have to endure.

Everyone, for humans are a Lunar People hungry for auguries, has at some time looked up into the night sky and said to themselves and to those around them, with dread :

I see a bad moon a-rising … I see trouble on the way … Don’t go ’round tonight
It’s bound to take your life … There’s a bad moon on the rise

 

Third : You just Gotta have a great Guitar lick.

Think, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Hello Mary Lou’, ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Gloria’.

So, John Fogerty spent hours and hours with his, ‘Black Beauty’ Les Paul custom searching for that Lick, That Lick, the one that would come roaring out of the radio or Jukebox speakers and turn every head, set every toe tapping, get every heart leaping.

And, time after time, time after time, John Fogerty found that magic Lick – the one you can’t argue about, can’t deny.

The Lick that thrills the first time and still thrills the thousandth time.

Nunc, if you get a great title that resonates with the real lives of your audience and you craft a great Guitar Lick and have a Band who will support you through every bar as you sing that Song with irresistible power you are going to make a great Rock ‘n’ Roll Record.

And,if you are John Fogerty with Creedence Clearwater Revival you will make a  Record in, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ that enters the very DNA of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

 

John Fogerty, Johnny Winter & James Burton hit that Riff! : Susie Q!

From the time fire first flickered in Mankind’s camp and imagination we have always been engaged in Quest.

And, engaged every bit as much, in stories about Quest.

The quest for food and warmth.

The quest for Love.

The quest for Knowledge.

The quest for Meaning.

The quest for Oblivion.

The quest for Freedom.

The quest for the North West Passage. The quest for the South Pole.

The quest to put a man on The Moon. A man on The Moon.

And, ever since the sound of the Electric Guitar thrillingly sliced through the air and ether the quest for The Riff!

The Riff that has other Guitar Players saying, ‘Damn, how come I didn’t get that one first?’

The Riff that snaps the neck back hard when it cuts through the fug of tobacco smoke and fog of alcohol as it roars out of the Jukebox speakers.

Now, as we know, where The Riff comes from is A Mystery.

Famously Keith Richard came up with, ‘Satisfaction’ in his sleep!

No one knows for certain how to hit that seam of guitar gold. Yet, we can all tell, as we shiver in recognition, when a true seam has been opened up.

And, there can be no doubt that in 1956 in the studios of KWRH Radio in Shreveport Louisiana a very rich seam was opened up!

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Dale Hawkins wrote a song, ‘Susie Q’ that featured A Riff, a Righteous Riff, conjured out of the Swampy Southern air by a teenage wonder, James Burton, one of the most imitated and significant guitarists in the entire history of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Look Out! Look Out!

Riff coming through!

Dale was a Louisiana native and a cousin of Ronnie Hawkins. Bitten early by Louisiana style Blues and the burgeoning sounds of Rockabilly and Rock ‘n’ Roll he found that he could sing this new music with conviction adding some local hot sauce in his vocal style and songwriting to the mix.

History will show (at least in the Authorised Immortal Jukebox Version) that his greatest contribution to Rock ‘n’ Roll was the opportunity he gave to guitarists James Burton and later Roy Buchanan (My Babe) to strut their very considerable stuff.

James Burton (pictured below during his stint with Ricky Nelson) is a pioneer of Rock ‘n’ Roll Guitar style.

All across the globe neophyte axemen have grown boney fingers as they played over and over the definitive solos he cut with Dale, Ricky, Elvis himself and Emmylou Harris in a storied career.

Yet, almost none have equalled the terse economy and authority of James himself.

In Susie Q his guitar begins by flashing like a switchblade in the Louisiana moonlight before calling up peals of menacing thunder.

You’re always primarily attending to his playing even while admiring the foreboding and threat provided by Dale’s vocal and the rhythm section.

All these forces combined make Susie Q a stone cold classic.

Once Susie Q was picked up by Checker Records in Chicago in 1957 it stormed up the charts and became ubiquitous on Jukeboxes.

It became one of those songs that continues to inspire bands and guitarists in particular for generations after generation.

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One of those it inspired, John Fogerty, was the lead guitarist, singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Susie Q was their first real hit record. They went on under John’s leadership to be arguably the greatest Singles Bands in the history of American Popular Music.

When John Fogerty plays guitar and sings he does it with raging commitment.

There’s a breathtaking boiling intensity to all his songs and in every note flowing from his Guitar.

He wasn’t born on the bayou and he didn’t live on Green River.

Riverboats didn’t pass his door.

John Fogerty from the moment he heard Stephen Foster songs as a child before being thunderstruck by the primal Rock ‘n’ Roll eruption in the mid 50s intuitively understood that there was a mythic power in this music.

And, in his soul and imagination, he lived within that mythology and knew, in the way a born artist does, that he could lock into that power and add treasures of his own to the mother lode.

Aided by brother Tom, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford he would indeed add volume after volume to the corpus of classic Americana.

No one in his generation had a better grasp of the visceral power of Rock ‘n’ Roll. And, as you listen to his take on Susie Q, it’s clear no one could match him for emulating that visceral power.

Our final date with Susie comes courtesy of Johnny Winter. Johnny with his trusty Gibson Firebird Guitars called up electric storms of sound every time he played.

Growing up in post war Beaumont Texas he immersed himself in The Blues while attending closely to the finger picking miracles of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.

Johnny loved nothing more than to find a song or a Riff that he could really stretch out on. And, when he found one like Susie Q barns all across America began to combust and light up the night sky!

I confidently predict that there will never be a time when a Guitarist with a mean glint in his eye won’t hit that Susie Q Riff and think .. Now you’ll be true! Now you’ll be Mine! Oh Susie Q!

Notes:

I never got to see James Burton play with Elvis. But, I did see Emmylou Harris’ London debut back in 1975 and I remember the special ovation James received when introduced by Emmylou.

It seemed as if several generations of Guitar afficianados had assembled to watch, admire and applaud the master to the rafters.

Dale Hawkins, who died in 2010 aged 73, is a more considerable figure than his Chart listings suggest.

His early work is captured on the Ace Records collection, ‘Dale Hawkins, Rock ‘n’ Roll Tornado’.

His gifts as a songwriter and singer are particularly well reflected in the Albums, ‘Memphis & Tyler, Texas’ and ‘Back Down to Louisiana’.