Tuesday, October 02, 2007

John Fogerty revels in new 'Revival' album, tour

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

October 2, 2007

Hear that raucous beast stomping out of Green River's depths? It's the return of the swamp thing, the choogling signature sound of Creedence Clearwater Revival reborn on John Fogerty's new album, 40 years after he hatched it in a Berkeley, Calif., garage.
Revival, out today, celebrates the rock veteran's homecoming. Not only does Fogerty, 62, summon a long-banished muse, but his jubilant Cajun-fired roux is being served up by former enemy Fantasy Records, the label he battled for more than 30 years until new owners recently invited him back.

"It's surreal," Fogerty says of this full-circle odyssey. He chuckles and flashes a Fred Willard-like grin as he strolls from the corridor of his newly custom-built Spanish Mediterranean mansion in the Hollywood Hills. "For years, I wouldn't even say the word fantasy.

"In Berkeley, there was this business with a blue awning that said 'Fantasy,' and every time I drove past it, I felt horrible. A 20-minute diatribe would come out of me. If I heard a Creedence song on the radio, I pushed the button. I was very uptight."

Though Fogerty has been gradually reconnecting with his past in recent years, Revival taps directly into his roots with unabashed glee and gusto, wheeling out CCR's hallmark Southern grooves and itchy rhythms on tunes from jazzy spiritual River Is Waiting and rockabilly kicker It Ain't Right to hippie-dipped Summer of Love and countrified Gunslinger. Reigniting the anti-war rage of 1969's Fortunate Son are a pair of stinging attacks on the Bush administration, I Can't Take It No More and Long Dark Night.

He'll juggle oldies and Revival fare on a tour starting Nov. 2 in New York.

Career highs and lows

Fans feared he'd never find his way back. The tangled history: Releasing a self-titled debut in 1968 and three albums in 1969, CCR saturated the airwaves with Proud Mary, Born on the Bayou, Green River, Down on the Corner, Lodi and other hits before Fogerty's hostile departure in 1972 over contract disputes and band infighting. He quickly released a pair of solo albums but was so bitter over Fantasy's ownership of his music that he withdrew for 10 years and refused to perform his hits.

His popular Centerfield arrived in 1985, trailed by 1986's grim Eye of the Zombie, which prompted lawsuits from Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz. One, claiming copyright infringement, accused Fogerty of basing The Old Man Down the Road on CCR's Run Through the Jungle. Fogerty won but again retreated until 1997's Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp. He released the genre-hopping Déjà Vu All Over Again in 2004, just before Concord Music Group bought Fantasy and restored royalties Fogerty had relinquished to break his contract in the '70s.

The olive branch was extended before any discussion of signing him.

"I was hearing positive energy," Fogerty says, leaning back in a leather club chair beneath the gold records dotting the wall of his wood-paneled study. "They reinstated the royalties and then said, 'How do we approach this catalog?' That certainly was a new message."

His new Fantasy pact yielded 2005's The Long Road Home compilation of solo and CCR hits, followed by a live version in 2006.

"Some folks would keep that rehash thing going, but I was chomping at the bit to record new music," he says. "I had this ongoing conversation with myself that I should get back to my center and not allow myself to be distracted. I felt I had gone off on tangents. While those things are interesting to me, fans don't necessarily come with you.

"On Déjà Vu, I was into acoustic fingerstyle guitar. I've gotten a little too country at times. I've gone off the deep end. Stepping back, I realized, my real strength is intense rock 'n' roll."

When Fogerty began writing in January, the songs flowed as swiftly as they had in his 20s.

"The human mind doesn't always Google to the right place," he says. "Blue Moon Swamp was torture. I'd get an idea, but the completion of some songs took years. This time, I had quickly defined ideas."

Nowhere is Fogerty's reawakening more apparent than on the new Creedence Song, a proud self-referential ode to the songs he crafted in his youth. During the period he regarded his catalog as kryptonite, he often overheard patrons in diners and roadhouses requesting a "Creedence song" on jukeboxes. The tune celebrates the dismissal of demons.

"It's completely nostalgic and joyful, a good litmus test for where I am," he says. "For years, there was a syndrome where I'd get happily in familiar territory and be playing my swamp-rock thing and suddenly the gremlin of some lawyer or former bandmate would appear on my shoulder and go, 'No! You can't do that!' It destroyed those moments.

"This time, I told myself, 'Stay in your center.' I was doing this funky thing on the guitar and the phrase came to me, 'You can't go wrong if you play a little bit of that Creedence song.' I thought, uh-oh, here it comes. I told the gremlin to shut up, be gone. The Fogerty fan in me wants to be here and not cowering in the corner. It was a defining moment."

Though he feels empowered reclaiming his legacy, "I wonder if people realize I wrote those Creedence songs. In some circles, I'm an unknown entity."

Fogerty's dormancy "might have hurt his career in terms of his ability to fill stadiums," says Bill Flanagan, MTV Networks executive vice president. "At the same time, you can make the case that it kept alive the purity in his music.

"John has this remarkable ability to write songs that sound as innocent and joyful as the first songs he ever wrote. This record lives in that pure place. It's not early rock 'n' roll. It's young rock 'n' roll. If you put these songs next to Lodi and Proud Mary and Who'll Stop the Rain, you'd have a hard time picking which were written by the 23-year-old and the 62-year-old."

Matters of the heart

Long before Fantasy changed hands, Fogerty's career torments were eased by a change of heart, specifically his second wife, Julie, whom he met while on tour and married in 1991. They have raised sons Shane, 15, and Tyler, 14, and daughter Kelsy, 5.

"She saved my life," he says. "It's the most miraculous thing that can happen to a human being. You fall in love, you're loved in return, and that becomes more important than everything else. I started realizing how wonderful life is.

"I allowed myself to be vulnerable and stopped hanging on to those saddlebags of pain. I said: 'John, you got the winning ticket. The career stuff doesn't matter.' We've circled the wagons, and nobody can touch us. I know it sounds a bit Pollyanna."

Julie inspired Fogerty's first Revival composition, folk-rocker Broken Down Cowboy, about a shiftless, luckless gambler who "had a good hand, but he messed it up."

"I'm strumming away on this electric hollow-body guitar, making nonsense sounds as I usually do," he says. "And this plaintive phrase comes out — 'broken down cowboy, like me.' That got my attention like a nuclear bomb in the solar plexus. It made me cry, it made me happy, it made me thankful. It was about Julie and me.

"I knew that poor dude, but I'm not there anymore. I'm not wallowing in self-destruction and self-pity. I channeled several lines, a verse and a chorus real quick. It came from nowhere. It was a good rock 'n' roll moment."

Fogerty beams. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, an overgrown kid who waxes rhapsodic about AC/DC, still hungers for those moments.

"Rock 'n' roll has no rules. It should never be a bunch of elder statesmen saying, 'You can't do that. That's not traditional.' The best rock 'n' roll is a surprise. There's inspiration, freshness, intellect. Sometimes we happily turn off the intellect and get Wooly Bully. That's a good moment, too."

No comments: