For John Fogerty, it’s back around the bend
By David Malitz
Sunday, November 3, 2013
In the canon of American rock--and--roll, how many great bands were as efficient as Creedence Clearwater Revival? In its six years together, which bridged the ’60s and ’70s, the John Fogerty--led group released seven albums and was responsible for classic rock radio staples such as “Proud Mary, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Fortunate Son” along with great extended guitar workouts such as “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Ramble Tamble.” The latter, a seven--minute stomper, is the lead track off 1970’s “Cosmo’s Factory,” which Fogerty and his backing band will perform in full at DAR Constitution Hall on Friday, Nov. 8. (The set list will be filled with plenty more hits, too.) Fogerty talked about the album’s legacy more than 40 years after its release.
So you’re playing [“Cosmo’s Factory”] in its entirety but not in order, is that right?
We kind of decided to reimagine it for the setting of a live show. Things are just different in front of people. In the deference to the energy of a live show you sort of want to have things flow in the right way so it can be the best it can be live.
Seems like you’d need a few songs to work up to [“Ramble Tamble”].
I’m sure the band could do it. In the early versions of doing this show we did that. I had always placed it a little bit down on the list, maybe eighth or ninth or something. That’s what we’re doing now.
That song is obviously not the most popular Creedence song, but to me it’s one of the band’s signature songs. What do you think?
Isn’t that funny? As a kid, a young musician that was steering the ship with Creedence, I was way into guitar heroes and all that. I loved all the other guys that were my peers ---- Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton. All the rockers in all the bands. And there was quite a . . . we all noticed each other, put it that way. So the idea of a lot of guitar was fun to me. I just really wanted to have that aspect going in my band. And it is sort of humorous now. My wife helps me in a zillion ways, but one of the differences between boys and girls, well, number one, we like the Three Stooges. I heard Jay Leno say that once, and that seems probably right on. And I think guys tend to like guitar stuff more than girls. Girls are into things with heart and emotion and all that. And that’s great. So we’re at a constant sort of . . . she’s looking at my guitars and going, “Now you gotta trim that down a little bit.” I’m thinking of ways I can get one more solo in there. It’s still that way even now.
How did you decide to do the full--album tour? Was that an idea you were always into?
Well, it was actually an idea my wife said to me one day. . . . I went: “Gee, I don’t know, honey. Why would anybody want to do that?” But the more I thought about it, what it did was it kind of placed you in that era. And it made you remember a lot of stuff that was around the album. I’m a fan, I buy albums, too. I sure remember sitting with Elvis’s first album, I don’t know how many thousands of times. Or Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ first album. And you sit there and you’re listening. You’re just in that place because it was so magical. And somehow that stays in you. That little chapter gets tucked away in your brain even though you live another 40 years. But somehow going and doing that, listening to the whole record puts you right back in that place you were all those years ago when you did it that way. . . . It’s a pretty fascinating phenomenon really.
Where do you think “Cosmo’s” fits into the Creedence discography?
When I did “Cosmo’s Factory,” in my mind, it was sort of ---- at the time ---- a culmination. I was really kind of going to pack it full, thinking that I was then going to turn a corner and go off into a new place. Unfortunately, there was so much tension within the band that the new place wasn’t necessarily happy. (Laughs.) . . . When I look back now, I can sure see how pretty amazing “Cosmo’s Factory” is. There’s at least six charted singles on that album, and if you also want to include “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” that’s seven. I mean that’s kind of like Michael Jackson territory. (Laughs.) But at the time I just sort of took that in stride. That was what we were doing back then.
The band accomplished so much in such a condensed time period. Now it’s normal for bands to wait three years between albums, but Creedence didn’t waste much time.
As you probably know, the history of the band ---- I was a very strong leader, and I had a mountain, a whole roomful of musical ideas. So I was sort of an unstoppable force. Basically the hardest part was just getting the band up to speed musically so they could record and accomplish these songs. And also just to be in sync and on the same page, wanting to do it. As the success and time went on and got greater there was more and more dissension within the band. You mention how other bands are. What happens then is you spend half your time in the political realm, meaning, well, “I don’t know if I want to do that song.” Or, “I want to come up with my own song.” That takes time. There’s a lot of time being consumed in bands where everybody’s having their say, then you have a meeting, you take a vote ---- you see what I’m getting at. But basically, “Cosmo’s Factory” was really the very end of me being very strong and very pure and very clear in my direction. And after that . . .
. . . the fine running machine was starting to get a little wobbly. Democracy’s a wonderful thing. But as we all know in America, it’s really hard to manage.