Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thirty Days of Politics # 6 Creedence Clearwater Revival

'Five year plans and new deals. Wrapped in golden chains...'

And in further tribute to Orange Juice here's Creedence, who Edwyn loved, though he would never have done anything as vulgar as writing a political song himself. John Fogerty did, on more than one occasion, and more than that penned several of the most powerful mythic political declarations in Rock and Roll history. Here's something I wrote a while back on here:

John Fogerty was much more on the money politically than pretty much everyone around him on the music scene on the cusp of the Seventies. While others rattled sabres and talked of impending revolution he understood to a greater degree exactly what the counterculture were up against. A corrupt and bitterly aggressive administration and behind them a systematically  organised and effective secret service and an unassailably formidable military machine. Events proved him right. Nixon swept the 1972 election. The right kicked back.The Vietnam war raged on.

Woodstock proved a false dawn. The Hippie elite retreated behind gates in the Los Angeles mountainside following the Manson Murders and Altamont. None of the early, great Psychedelic Bands from LA and San Francisco remained a commercial  force as the Sixties turned into the Seventies. Hendrix, Morrison, Gram Parsons and Janis Joplin died. Crosby, Stills & Nash's success heralded an age of introspective and largely self-satisfied singer songwriters. The energy of the counterculture shifted from music to film with the advent of the New Hollywood and the emergence of Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Friedkin, Rafelson and Bogdanovich. Creedence meanwhile rode high in the charts for the next couple of years until band politics and Fogerty's dictatorial grip and the discontent it bred finally pulled them too apart.

Who'll Stop the Rain is to some degree a wake, though a transcendent and melodic one. Fogerty better than anyone else at the time understood the power of weather as the most appropriate metaphor to describe politics and change.Dave Marsh in his book on the 1001 best singles ever made The Heart of Rock & Soul posted this song as the best thing Creedence ever released and he may have a point. Where Fogerty is actually directing his gaze within the song though remains vague.

'The mourning in John Fogerty's voice and the elegant guitar figure on which it rides make it seem he's expressing some specific, tangible grief or grievance. But what's it about? Woodstock, where it poured as Creedence played? Vietnam, with America mired in mud?The clues in other Creedence songs lead to a different conclusion: Fogerty is rock and roll's version of an Old Testament prophet, preaching pessimism rather than damnation. "Long as I remember," he begins, with an intonation that implies he forgets nothing, clear back to the beginning. Alternately furious and heartsick, he spins a tale that includes political events, rock concerts seen from both sides of the stage, and private attempts to make sense of his life and the world.With his band, particularly drummer Doug Clifford, working at peak efficiency, Fogerty magisterially draws upon a broad knowledge of American music: The lyrics, the beat, the guitar line, the melody allude to folk songs, country tunes, old R&B hits, Stones-style rock and roll. Yet what draws you back is the grain of his voice, the things it contains and expresses but cannot speak. And this voice is as far from the assurance of Elvis or Aretha as you can get. Fogerty seems confident of only two things: his doubts and his powerlessness. Hooking his audience as firmly as he's hooked himself, Fogerty makes his worries ours. The final chords ring out anthemically without resolving anything at all.The idea that rock and roll is lighthearted good time music stops here, at the gateway to its heart of darkness.'
Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul

No comments:

Post a Comment