Man, mama, I been nappin’ too long, I ain’t even know this slumgullion was out. Five songs in, I remember why I was sleeping in the first place.
Seeing as John Fogerty is hardly miring in obscurity these days, a couple topical points make themselves prominent given the obnoxiously good-ol’-boy praising tone of liner note scribe, but a way you could also phrase it is, what the hell is all this stuff? It’s sort of like if a mid-18-century Briton were to go to sleep and then wake up in modern Kansas City or something, he’d walk around and just be like, what the hell is all this stuff?
Let me get to what I’m talking about, without further dalliance. JOHN FOGERTY WAS BORN IN BERKELEY AND THE FIRST SONG ON HIS NEW, SHOULD-BE DEFINING GREATEST HITS PACKAGE IS CALLED “BORN ON THE BAYOU.” But ask this sap-factory who’s writing the liner notes, and he might say John Fogerty needs to be SOLD to us all over again. This booklet is rife with pointless laudatory ennui: “(John Fogerty)’s contributions to the soundtrack of our lives continue to this day”; “That (‘Proud Mary’) as tallied over 7,500,000 plays on radio and television in the U.S. alone is astounding, but hardly surprising.” Break out the girl scout cookies, folks, it’s a**-kissing time. The overall message I get from these liner notes is more or less that people aren’t smart enough, or have no conception of the rigorous greatness that Credence captured on wax, back in their prime days. This guy is definitely writing like someone who’s never been to a 2005 kegger in Bloomington, Indiana and witnessed a hispanic/Asian lookin’ dude replace the Led Zeppelin CD that was on with some CCR. And yeah, part of it is the Coen Brothers, give credit where credit is due. I was more of a Zep fan back then, so my initial thought was, “Yeah, CCR is trendier, that’s why this guy wants ‘em on.” But when I was compiling my “Dolby’s Top 214 Albums of All Time” list, something hit me, Credence is just better than Zeppelin. They beat ‘em fair and square, Revolutionary War style.
So sales pitch on John Fogerty, liner note guy, we needn’t. And I’m writing this as someone was born in 1983, speaking voluminously for his own generation. We NOTICE the solo stuff from the last decade or two (even “Walkin’ in a Hurricane,” which this collection, claiming to be so culminating, left out), but unlike this liner note guy we don’t feel the need to champion it: every time has its own music to it, and eventually it became the time for techno, and for Eminem. True music fans realize this. Credence was inarguably the music of its time in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s: it was the “war on war,” as Wilco would put it, sociologically leveling music from the proletariat with every bit the muscle and destructive capabilities of a B-52 bomber, and you could call it “punk,” since it made gutsy political statements and was unlike anything before or since, except that it was catchy, all-encompassing and great, and made radio play.
The Long Road Home is a pointless, record label back-slapping ploy for people who don’t know anything about music, and don’t care. And don’t get me wrong, given the task of sequencing and ordering these songs (and overall the track selection itself isn’t TOO bad), I wouldn’t have put the best songs first. Chronicle Vol. 1 is perfect, how “Bad Moon Rising” and “Lookin’ out My Back Door” get at you on the heels of other rockers, they’re most effective as creepers.
But “Born on the Bayou” first? Can it get any cornier? And what about the fact that this guy was actually born in Berkeley: no sociological compunction is taken by this golden boy A&R liner note writer, or whoever the fu** he is, no mention is made of how, or why, southern culture infiltrated this baseball-loving Californian. They could have at least had the common courtesy to fabricate a false story about Fogerty being indeed born in the South, raised on bat and gator and hating the ni**ers down the road, or something. I mean, this would be a lot more believable to me than such a person actually liking baseball, or even having a TV to watch it on.
The writer for these liner notes just brushes it all under the carpet, which is almost as annoying to me as his overly caregiving tone, which is as if anybody in their right mind didn’t already think Fogerty was a singular genius. Now THAT’S insulting. Which brings me to the type of person this collection is designed for: pop culture oafs. I mean, what could possibly be more awkward than this mindfu** anachronism of leading with a song from the commercially deserted Chronicle II, jumping back to a Chronicle I hit, then going to some solo stuff, then back to the early? Let’s make one thing clear: John Fogerty’s solo stuff is in no way “southern rock.” Southern boys don’t say “rock ‘n’ roll girl,” they say “honky tonk girl” (see Meat Puppets’ cover of “Burn Another Honky Tonk down” for a superior taste of homogenized hick culture), and they sure as hell don’t like baseball, if anything they’d line up and hit the taxman in the head with a bat. Don’t tread on them. They know catching animals and shooting guns, and they sure as hell ain’t rubbin’ shoulders with no industry fancy-pants-es.
But I don’t REALLY care about any of this. The thing that sold me on CCR from when I was in high school and first REALLY discovered who they were, apart from hearing their 582 different singles on the radio constantly but not knowing their name, was the mortar and pestle, unmistakeable genuineness in the vocals. I mean this guy was just wailing, and it was believable. He was exactly as good as he had to be to sell this whole “southern rock” thing on us.
But my point is, we already KNOW all this. By this point “Fortunate Son” is like a placebo pill, it’s like the noise the cash register makes at the grocery store: we don’t even HEAR it anymore, that’s how used to it we are. But since all of us sitting here at this industry back-scratching party probably have shares in Halliburton anyway, let’s scroll onto this song that was actually in a movie — “Lookin’ out My Back Door” there, that’s a little more of an exploitative genre, one more conducive to making “stars” (the liner note guy even refers to this one guy who covered Fogerty’s song as a “punk rock star.” Hmm. Strikes me as someone who didn’t get hit in the head with enough beer bottles).
Can you FIT enough material on one disc as to encompass a defining Fogerty collection, including Credence’s prominence as well as the catchy solo stuff like “Centerfield,” “The Old Man Down the Road” and “Rockin’ All over the World”? I believe you can. But in putting anything together, you have to understand sources of power. And aesthetically, Credence and Fogerty are as different as night and day — “Centerfield” awkwardly follows my favorite CCR track, “Bad Moon Rising,” and stymies the party’s valor and luster entirely and utterly, the gushy work of opulent studio tycoons who only know “goosebumps” as the children’s horror book series.
The bottom line is, along with all his preposterously off-topic indulgence in the “record company’s success” in the wake of CCR’s rise, we need an acknowledgement that Credence was effective for the very reason that they were angry, and were dealing with an angry populace. In this way, it already was “punk” music, though as I said this undermines its catchiness and artistically vanguard influence. “Born on the Bayou,” late-era CCR, is more a toying song of mimicry than anything (wasn’t it used in that Adam Sandler movie The Waterboy?) So here we are anyway, babying this dozen-times platinum rock veteran and praising him for the hopelessly desultory “Born on the Bayou,” when that early stuff won the war all on its own (I would’ve opened with some unassuming early rocker like “Down on the Corner”, “Green River” or “Commotion”), and who also had a song chosen, somewhat unfittingly, “Up around the Bend,” for Remember the Titans. Who loses out on this new collection: the music fan, the fan who already, a decade and change ago, were bemoaning the lack of availability of “Run through the Jungle” and “The Old Man Down the Road” on the same disc (the latter of which Fogerty actually got sued for because it sounded too much like the former, he got sued for sounding too much like himself. This is the great, mighty record label that this liner note clown insists on back-scratching). This liner note guy doesn’t seem to realize that people would still love Fogerty even if he’d never made another great song after ’69. He feels this unexplainable obligation to tout Fogerty’s later stuff, and treat time as equidistant, when really the whole reason we’re talking about him is that in his hey day he took us through centuries of pantheon rock glory within one three-minute segment. It’s saps like this who ruin music: put too much pressure on artists to keep putting out album after album when they’re not inspired, and it’s this sort of stocking-stuffer, here-we-have-a-star type vanity-fair mentality that would in its lifetime ever appreciate the drooling plutocrat that is The Long Road Home. I mean, they could at least have the common courtesy to tell us whether the road points north or south.