I avoided and dismissed the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival for a long, long time. A little because I thought they seemed like red necks. But mainly because I thought the people who screamed along to Sweet Home Alabama when it came on at the pub were red necks. It’s hard not to judge a band based on their fans, when their most vocal fans are such cocks. Even worse, Sweet Home Alabama isn’t even a Creedence song. Yet when I was 19, and it came on at the pub, for some reason, I gave Creedence the blame.
But the older I get, the more I come to realise that the American south might be the most prolific originator of amazing music in the modern age. So with that outlook, and the fact that I blamed them for so long for a crime they didn’t even commit, it’s time to forget the fans, and give the music a chance with Creedence Clearwater Revival and Willy and the Poor Boys.
As far as iconic songs by this band go, Down on the Corner would be right up there. And its icon status is justified. John Fogerty’s down home, Cajun accent makes the story of these good ol’ boys sound like the only way to live. Who wouldn’t want to join in, “Early in the evenin’, just about supper time. Over by the courthouse, they’re startin’ to unwind”? Followed by the 12 bar blues based rock of It Came Out of the Sky is a little too simple and anonymous to stand out, but it’s harmless.
The story of the Cotton Fields down in Louisiana, just about a mile from Texarkana, gets back to the subject matter that suits Forgerty’s voice so well. And its impeccable harmonies and country-plucked guitar solo make it sound all the more lived in and real. Feelin’ Blue reigns everything in just a little, letting Fogerty’s voice provide all the pathos and frustration.
If Down on the Corner is only ‘one of’ the most iconic Creedence songs, the title of the most iconic song is undisputedly Fortunate Son. This story of a guy sent to Vietnam because his family wasn’t rich or powerful enough for him to avoid the draft should seem dated almost four decades after the fact. But it still feels current and immediate. And like Down on the Corner, it’s iconic status is immediately justified as it clearly stands out on Willy and the Poor Boys, despite the rest of the track listing being so strong.
But if there’s another thing that this record is teaching me, apart from Fortunate Son still being amazing, it’s that Creedence Clearwater Revival are so much bigger and better than their hits. The masterful story telling on Midnight Special, the shredding guitar instrumental of Side O’ the Road, the darkness of Effigy. It turns out, the closing trio of songs is a pretty thorough example of everything right with Creedence Clearwater Revival and Willy and the Poor Boys.