After more than three decades and a lot of seriously toxic water over the bridge, the great, ageless roots-rocker John Fogerty — singer, songwriter, lead guitarist and producer of Creedence Clearwater Revival — has returned to Fantasy Records. Yes, you read that correctly, and hell is still pretty toasty as far as I know.
Fogerty’s infamous relationship with the label, now part of the Concord Music Group, and in particular former owner Saul Zaentz, caused years of bitter disputes and lawsuits, making this one of the most unlikely and startling reunions in music industry history.
Creedence recorded exclusively for the Berkeley-based Fantasy, which was primarily a jazz label, and for a brief but very intense period from 1969 through 1971, Fogerty’s outfit was the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in America, generating nine Top 10 singles in a row (“Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising/Lodi,” “Green River,” “Down On the Corner/Fortunate Son,” “Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Sweet Hitchhiker”), five multi-platinum albums (Bayou Country, Green River, Willy and the Poorboys, Cosmo’s Factory, Pendulum), and some of the most timeless American music of the past 50 years.
And “timeless” is more than a cliche in this case: although recorded in the late ’60s and early ’70s with a lyrical undercurrent reflecting the social turmoil of the time with the Vietnam War at its core, Creedence’s music has a first generation rock ‘n’ roll feel that derives from the original sound and excitement generated when R&B and country were first rammed together in the ’50s.
While Creedence’s music, lyrics and image speak of the Deep South of the mighty mythic Mississippi, Louisiana swamps, and voodoo magic, singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer John Fogerty, his brother rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty (who died of respiratory failure in 1990), bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford, were actually from the blue collar East Bay town of El Cerrito, CA, and began playing together in junior high school in 1959.
They first recorded as the Blue Velvets, then as the Golliwogs without much success. Sometimes the band had to play live without microphones, which helped Fogerty develop his blistering blues shout (Howlin’ Wolf) and rock ‘n’ roll scream (Little Richard).
Fogerty started writing songs in earnest while in the Army in the mid-’60s. When the band reunited in ’67 after Fogerty’s release, they were a seasoned, rock-solid unit that was confident enough to avoid trends and aim for the essence of rock ‘n’ roll. Their first hit was a swampy version of Dale Hawkins’s “Susie Q” in ’68, and the extended album version became a staple of the new free-form FM radio format. They were a 10-year overnight success.
Cosmo’s Factory, the band’s fifth album, is their greatest and one of the finest rock ‘n’ roll albums ever. Chock full of hits: “Travelin’ Band,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Long As I Can See the Light”; their astonishing 11-minute version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the great “Ramble Tamble” and no holes, this is fundamental American art.
Their blazing run was cut short in ’71 when Tom Fogerty, tired of taking a back seat to his younger brother, left the band for a notably unsuccessful solo career. For their final album together in ’72, Mardi Gras, Fogerty agreed to share singing and songwriting duties with Cook and Clifford, a move that painfully revealed why Fogerty had been leading the band in the first place.
Then came a satisfying but uneven solo career that continues to this day.
Fantasy will celebrate the return of Fogerty with the November 1 release of The Long Road Home – The Ultimate John Fogerty/Creedence Collection, a remarkable musical journey from Creedence through a solo career that seems more promising now than ever (including the title track of his latest, the vibrant Déjà Vu All Over Again, as well as solo favorites “Centerfield,” “Almost Saturday Night,” “The Old Man Down the Road” and “Rockin’ All Over the World”).
Also on the disc are four new tracks recorded live by Fogerty during his 2005 tour of the United States: “Hey Tonight,” “Bootleg,” “Keep on Chooglin’,” and a blistering rendition of “Fortunate Son.”
The Concord Music Group, Fantasy and Fogerty are working on several new releases, including a live DVD to be taped September 15 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, for an early 2006 release. Other projects are in the early stages of development.
“I’m very happy to be back in touch with a part of myself,” says Fogerty of the return home to Fantasy. “It’s surreal. For 35 years, I never thought I’d be reunited with the music I wrote during the Creedence Clearwater Revival years. I’m happy to say that the new Fantasy is very enthusiastic about my body of work. They are honoring my songs … and, they are honoring me.”
Concord Music Group co-owner, legendary television and movie producer Norman Lear, is equally enthusiastic about the signing: “It’s a happy coincidence that when we bought the Fantasy catalog we were also able to sign one of the most relevant and talented singer/songwriters of our generation. We’re all enormous fans of his music..”
In fact, Fogerty and his wife Julie made contact with senior executives at Concord when the company was still in negotiations to purchase Fantasy. “We heard rumors over the years that Fantasy was on the market, but nothing materialized,” Fogerty says. “About a year ago we heard the same rumor again, so Julie and I met with Norman and other people at Concord just to get acquainted. At our first meeting, they expressed great respect and appreciation. When they finally acquired Fantasy, we figured the time was right to see if we could work together.”
Fogerty is also enthusiastic about The Long Road Home. “I’ve always wanted to create a greatest hits collection that represented my entire career, but it was always painfully impossible to do so,” he says. “Now I can combine the Creedence songs … with my solo material. It’s great that I can finally document the various changes I’ve gone through musically over the years.”
The Long Road Home Track Listing:
1. Born On The Bayou
2. Bad Moon Rising
4. Who’ll Stop The Rain
5. Rambunctious Boy
6. Fortunate Son
7. Lookin’ Out My Back Door
8. Up Around The Bend
9. Almost Saturday Night (live)
10. Down On The Corner
11. Bootleg (live)
12. Have You Ever Seen The Rain?
13. Sweet Hitch-Hiker
14. Hey Tonight (live)
15. The Old Man Down The Road
16. Rockin’ All Over The World (live)
18. Keep On Chooglin’ (live)
19. Green River
20. Déjà Vu (All Over Again)
21. Run Through The Jungle
22. Hot Rod Heart
23. Travelin’ Band
24. Proud Mary
25. Fortunate Son (live)