09 November 2009

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 104]

Green River
b/w "Commotion"
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fantasy Records 522
Released 3 August 1969
Produced by John Fogerty
Written by John Fogerty

Four working class boys from the San Francisco suburb of El Ceritto certainly bucked the musical trends of their region - much less the rest of the rock and roll scene - back in 1969. Their native California was awash in psychedelia. But the band - John Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford (later joined by John's older brother, Tom) - now known as Creedence Clearwater Revival, was steeped in American music roots and had honed their unique sound on live stages for the better part of eight years.

CCR had made some rumblings in 1968 on FM underground radio with a remake of rockabilly singer Dale Hawkins' "Susie Q," its album version stringing out to over eight minutes. A resultant single of the song (the "A" and "B" sides splitting up the tune) garnered strong air play in the Bay Area and on Chicago's powerful AM station, WLS. During this period, lead writer, singer and guitarist John Fogerty was serving a hitch in the Army reserves.

In January 1969, with the band once again at full strength, CCR broke through with its first hit single culled from the new album Bayou Country. It was the now ubiquitous "Proud Mary," which reached #2 on the Billboard chart. Bob Dylan called the song, an amalgamation of rock, blues and gospel, his favorite song of the year. (In 1971, Ike & Tina Turner would turn the song into a hit a second time with their memorable version.) Only a couple of months later, the band claimed the #2 spot once again with "Bad Moon Rising."

Two weeks before playing at the famous Woodstock Festival, CCR released its third album, Green River. The title track was selected as the next single, and, once again, raced up the chart to the runner-up position. Its distinctive opening riff and resultant guitar solos are akin to Chuck Berry, but with muscle. Fogerty later described this influence as borne from his listening incessantly to Duane Eddy instrumentals, allowing a "white guy to play blues in a pop way."

The lyrics paint an idyllic picture of home, real or imagined: Love to kick my feet way down the shallow water/Shoo fly, dragon fly, get back to your mother/Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River. As the opening track to the album, the closing lines of "Green River" hint at an ominous tone that will hang over the next seven tracks, but nevertheless remind our narrator of a protective oasis: Old Cody Junior took me over/Said, you're gonna find the world is smolderin'/An' if you get lost, come on home to Green River.

CCR flamed out in 1972 in a now-famous contractual dispute between John Fogerty and Fantasy Records that would last 30 years. But in 1969 alone the band had three top ten albums and four hit singles (all within the top three on the charts). The group has sold over 26 million records and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. It is possibly because of their commercial success and John Fogerty's unforgettable hooks that CCR is not mentioned as often as The Band as the standard bearers of Americana or "roots rock."


Watch John Fogerty and John Mellencamp stomp through a thrilling "Green River" from their joint tour in 1995.

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