There are many, many sixties and early seventies bands that get pilloried by DJs and critics. ELO’s fortunes seem to be on the rise after years in the wilderness. “Yes” are more often panned than applauded. Perhaps part of it is the sheer quantity of stuff. Even the good groups, the Buffalo Springfields, the Crosy Stills and Nashs, the Eagles, wrote some absolute howlers. Most of their hits, even, have faded into the mists of time. In some cases, this is a great shame. One such case is that of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
For the uninitiated and/or younger crowd, even the name needs some kind of introduction. Creedence is a misspelling of someone’s friend’s first name. Clearwater somehow refers to a beer commercial and, misleading, Revival doesn’t mean they got back together after an acrimonious break-up, it just somehow means ‘commitment’ or ‘longevity’. They did suffer an acrimonious break-up, but they never re-formed afterwards. Sadly, an alternative name they came up with, Gossamer Wump, didn’t make the cut.
Band leader John Fogerty either wrote all of their songs, or all of the good ones. The fabulous and often-covered Proud Mary is one of his best, as is Bad Moon Rising. Up Around the Bend is in many of those “Top 10 million hits to hear before you die” lists. They weren’t beyond covering songs themselves, with a somewhat routine but solid Heard It Through The Grapevine.
Possibly their very-most covered hit, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, made famous in Britain by Welsh crooner Bonnie Tyler, is by far their best. It’s very simple lyrically, but a nevertheless dramatic tune. For me, it’s evocative of the US South, as it refers to the apparently common phenomenon known colloquially as “the devil beats his wife” or some such graphic metaphor. It’s about having heavy storms on an otherwise sunny summer’s day. In reality, it’s about the impending departure from the band of John Fogerty’s brother, Tom. Why do families never learn that the last thing they should do is form a band? Are there any examples at all of happily ever after stories?
Perhaps an unexpected and unplanned reason so many of this band’s tunes are well-known, and possibly abused, is another of those early 1970s phenomena: the artist who lost control of his back catalogue. After John Fogerty sold all claim to his songs to his label, Fantasy Records, the company quite predictably went on a marketing crusade. The songs turn up in various odd commercials, some good movies like Forrest Gump, An American Werewolf in London, and even Kong: Skull Island. However our favourite abuse, of Bad Moon Rising, is its use as a football chant in, of all places, Argentina. Honestly, we’re not making this up.
So fire up your favourite streaming service and give these boys a go. They’re often overlooked or forgotten now, at least outside the US, but they made a big contribution.