Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rock And Roll Girls Follow The Old Man Down The Road

To take a welcome break from the essay length posts, I thought I’d focus on a particular album from the mid 80s that is one of my favourites, with a side glance at the artist behind it. It happens to be by a man who became a popular music legend during the late 60s/early 70s through his stewardship over one of the most popular and influential acts of that time. The man is John Fogerty, and the band of course was Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Creedence notched up nine U.S. top 10 hits in the space of just over two years from May ‘69 to July ‘71, with the dubious honour of scoring five number two singles in that period. Among the songs that would become synonymous with that era in rock history, were ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Down On The Corner’ and ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’. As much as the band’s infectious down home tinged hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll, country and R&B , Fogerty’s unique soul filled vocal style became a signature for Creedence.

Immediately following Creedence Clearwater Revival splitting, Fogerty formed The Blue Ridge Rangers, a bluegrass/country fusion outfit, and scored the 1973 hit ‘Jambalaya’ (US#16/OZ#12) , a cover of the 1952 Hank Williams’ hit. A couple of minor solo hits followed in the mid 70s, including 1975’s ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ (US#27/OZ#55 - re-recorded by Status Quo) from his self titled album. In the decade following Fogerty largely retreated from the spotlight (partly due to unresolved contractual issues from his Creedence days and partly to enjoy family life on his farm), but he would bounce back in style during 1985.

From the opening riff on the southern style guitar intro of ‘The Old Man Down The Road’, it was clear this was the guy from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fogerty’s vocal dexterity hadn’t diminished with the years and the song had all the hallmark’s of a Fogerty penned classic - so much so in fact that Fogerty was sued by the owner of Creedence’s old label ‘Fantasy’ for plagiarizing his own songs. Sure it had echoes of half a dozen Creedence tracks, but it was claimed in the law suit that it borrowed from the chorus of ‘Run Through The Jungle’. Fogerty proved that his latest hit was a wholly distinct musical entity and rightly won the case (besides the court ruled there’s nothing wrong with sounding like yourself). ‘The Old Man Down The Road’ reached #10 in the U.S. and repeated the feat in Australia during the first half of 1985. For his legion of fans, old and new, it was like he’d never been away.

His comeback album ‘Centerfield’ (produced by Fogerty) was duly rewarded with the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top 200 chart, peaking at #4 in Australia (UK#48). The follow up track was the brilliant ‘Rock And Roll Girls’. It peaked at #20 in the U.S. and #26 in Australia, and is by far and away my favourite track from the album, lyrically and musically. The lines “Sometimes you think life is just a rodeo. The trick is to ride, and make it to the bell” are as good as anything from Fogerty’s Creedence days. The title track was the only other single to be lifted (US#44).

The follow up album ‘Eye Of The Zombie’ (US#73/OZ#17) surfaced in 1986, but proved a huge disappointment, receiving poor reviews and failing to deliver on the promise offered by ‘Centerfield’. The title track reached #30 in Australia but only flirted with the lower reaches of the U.S. Hot 100 (#81), whilst the follow up ‘Change In The Weather’ (OZ#89) signalled Fogerty’s career was once again about to stall. Fogerty once more retreated to the seclusion of farm life, before mounting yet another comeback a decade later with 1997’s ‘Blue Moon Swamp’ (US#37). The album was roots rock at its purest and received rave revues and a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. The live album ‘Premonition’ (US#29) followed in 1998, before Fogerty once again packed away the guitar case and retreated to the simple life.

The aptly titled ‘Déjà Vu (All Over Again)’ marked Fogerty’s return to the recording scene in 2004. In recent years he’s maintained a more regular touring schedule, perhaps freed up by the long awaited final resolution of the whole Creedence back catalogue fiasco. Most recently he released 2007’s ‘Revival’ (US#14) and launched a sell out world tour, including Australia in early 2008. Fogerty fans the world over will hope that this latest phase in his career will prove to be an extended one.

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