John Fogerty – I have no problem with ‘Wooly Bully’ and ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ sitting right next to each other
There was a time, oh, three-plus decades ago, when John Fogerty was making his mark like few rock artists could ever imagine. With Creedence Clearwater Revival, especially over a startlingly successful two-year burst beginning that saw the release of three classic albums in 1969, Fogerty meshed the sensibilities of ’50s and ’60s rock with country, rockabilly, the politics of the Vietnam era, and a somewhat fantastical idea of the south into a groundbreaking sound. Their seemingly relentless string of songs are now woven into the American psyche: “Proud Mary”, “Born On The Bayou”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, “Looking Out My Back Door”, “Down On The Corner” and “Fortunate Son”, to name but a few.
The second chapter of Fogerty’s career has been anything but prolific. With the release of his latest solo effort, Deja Vu All Over Again, his post-CCR canon now stands at six official full-length studio releases since 1973. The gaps have been glaring: nine years between his self-titled sophomore solo release and 1985’s comeback effort, Centerfield; eleven years between Eye Of The Zombie and 1997’s Blue Moon Swamp; six years between Swamp and the new Deja Vu.
An explanation? Consider it a grab-bag of reasons, including extended and extremely bitter dealings with his former bandmates and his former label, Fantasy Records (including being sued for plagiarizing Creedence on Centerfield’s “Old Man Down The Road”, though he won the case); protracted seclusion; and, in the case of the recent six-year break, a focus on family and songwriting, the latter often a painstaking task for Fogerty.
Still, the quality of Fogerty’s music has not diminished in proportion to the output. None of it is necessarily landmark, but his first two solo efforts, 1973’s The Blue Ridge Rangers and 1975’s self-titled album, retain a fair amount of CCR-like magic, and Centerfield brought his singular style to a wholly new audience. Yes, 1986’s Eye Of The Zombie is bombastic and forgettable — Fogerty is the first to admit it. Blue Moon Swamp repositioned him as a laid-back middle-aged rocker — nothing earth-shattering but pleasing enough, not to mention Grammy-winning (whatever that means).
Which brings us to Deja Vu All Over Again. If only for its title track, the album would be a worthy effort. Echoing the seductive, plaintive sounds of CCR’s “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, “Deja Vu (All Over Again)” is Fogerty’s social-conscience song for the new century. Essentially, it bridges the gap between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, and wonders if a such a war can really be happening again. “Day after day another Momma’s crying,” Fogerty sings over strummy acoustic guitar, “she’s lost her precious child, to a war that has no end.”
But Deja Vu is much more than the song of the same name. There’s a requisite yet enjoyable swamp-rocker (“Wicked Old Witch”), a Hendrix-inflected psychedelic workout (“In The Garden”), a cranky rocker spewing venom for the cell-phone generation (“Nobody’s Here Anymore”), a charming acoustic love song (“I Will Walk With You”) featuring dobro master Jerry Douglas, and more than a few songs that celebrate the simplest facets of life (“Honey Do”, “Sugar-Sugar [In My Life]”, “Rhubarb Pie”). Deja Vu might not be Cosmo’s Factory, nor even Centerfield, but is does capture a classic rock artist growing older with humor, intelligence, and grace.
I. THIS THING JUST SORTA CAME RIGHT THROUGH ME
NO DEPRESSION: “Deja Vu (All Over Again)” is the most pointed, socially conscious and affecting song you’ve written in years. What makes a good political song?
JOHN FOGERTY: Shut up and go away! [laughs] How can I say it? The great Bob Dylan songs, of course, were just good songs — good melodies with a good tone to them, besides having a great message. “Blowin’ In The Wind” is just a wonderful song.
Then there are other people of that generation who really wore me out pretty quickly, people like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. There were really times when I said to myself, “Shut up and go away!” I guess apparently so did Pete Townshend. I didn’t actually see it but Abbie Hoffman was thrown off the stage at Woodstock [by Townshend] for basically trying to get up and make a bunch of speeches.
It should be about music, and I don’t want to hear ten of them in a row, that’s for sure. You still have to somehow pique the interest of an already weary audience, you know? So whatever it is that can do that, that makes a good political song.