As much as we wax nostalgic about all the great music that came out of the sixties, precious little of it is remembered by the twenty-first century public. Sure, the Beatles stood the test of time, and the Rolling Stones continue to limp their way into immortality, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if you mention the Yardbirds, the Dave Clark Five, or even the Kinks to the average person under forty, you’ll get a blank-eyed response. American bands fared no better. Does anybody today remember Country Joe and the Fish or Quicksilver Messenger Service or Jay and the Americans? — no, people remember catchy tunes they heard on their tinny transistor radios. We remember the Doors because of “Break On Through” and “LA Woman.” We remember Creedence Clearwater Revival because of a remarkable string of hit singles.
Of course, I’m oversimplifying here, and I certainly don’t want to discount the contributions of artists like the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane of the Velvet Underground. The vast majority of people may know “Sweet Jane” or “Truckin’” or “Somebody to Love”, but they’ll be hard-pressed to name the artist, much less tell you anything about them. Nor are they overly interested in doing so. It’s the songs that matter, man.
And that’s why Creedence Clearwater Revival, or Creedence, or CCR, or whatever your pet name might be for them, are still a mainstay of American rock and roll after all these years. They hit on a common chord in the American psyche, some sort of racial history rooted in the blues, the swamp, the bayou, that mythical arena of arenas where everybody shares some common ground, regardless of from where they hail. The members of Creedence were from the San Francisco Bay area, not the bayou swamps they made the personification of America. They nonetheless tapped into a spirit that was uniquely American — the same restless force that birthed the blues, country and western and even rock and roll. What they pulled out of that was a distillation of where American rock began, and a portent of where it was going.
Forty years after the debut of CCR’s debut, Fantasy Records (now under the auspices of Concord Music Group) has released the six albums that comprised their career as a quartet. In essence, it’s a complete Creedence Clearwater Revival collection. Granted, there was one more album, Mardi Gras, but it hardly represents the canon of the band — the band was splintered by infighting, and Tom Fogerty had left the band, reducing them to a trio that was bored with each other. And it showed in that final effort — it was a critical and popular flop, and it was the end of CCR. All good things come to an end.