For the Greatest American Band debate, I nominate Creedance Clearwater Revival this afternoon.
I know, it's probably pretty weird for a millennial to nominate CCR, but I just recently got into their music, and these guys were awesome. Hell, John Fogerty is still making pretty good music. I think the main thing that drew me to CCR was their sound. These were four Californians, but their music sounded like they were from the bayous of Louisiana. I love how gruff and raw their music sounded. The best thing I read or heard, I don't remember exactly, was, someone called their music "swamp rock". It was really bluesy and had sounds of rock and roll, but that "swampy" sound with the guitars and John Fogerty's vocals was a perfect description. I love that their music is referred to as "swamp rock".
This is another classic American rock band that only stayed active, meaning the original four founding members, for five short, but very productive years. They put out seven albums in five years. That's unheard of nowadays. You're lucky if you get two albums in two years from your favorite band or musician now. Hell, it's almost expected that a group will take two to three years off after each album. The fact that CCR had that many albums, four of them recognized as some of the best rock music ever, in that short period is very, very impressive.
Now let's look at what puts CCR in this discussion. The members of the group include, Tom and John Fogerty, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook. We all know who John Fogerty is. He was CCR's lead singer, guitarist and wrote every single lyric and instrumentation of every CCR song. His brother, Tom, was the rhythm guitarist. He's the Fogerty that we all only know for one reason which I'll touch on later. Doug Clifford was the drummer and Stu Cook played bass. I think we all can agree that John Fogerty is head and shoulders above the other members of the band, but this band wouldn't have been so famous had it not been for the other three members. Tom Fogerty was the rhythm guitarist, and contrary to popular belief, they're important. They keep the timing for the band just as much as the drummer. Tom Fogerty was crucial to their sound as well, because he loved old blues music. He brought them inspiration for their sound. Stu Cook brought the gruff, distorted bass sound to this swampy music. He's really good and next time you listen to CCR, try and just listen to the bass, he's really incredible. Doug Clifford on drums was awesome. He also kept time for the band, but his drumming on songs like "Born on a Bayou" or "Fortunate Son" are great. The albums they released, as I said earlier, are prolific and they busted them out. Seven in five years. They started in late 67 early 68 with their debut album titled, "Creedance Clearwater Revival". This is a great debut. They did take one year off, but in 1969 they had one of their most prolific periods of new albums and new music. They put out three albums in 1970, "Bayou Country", really taking off with the swamp rock sound, "Willy and the Poor Boys", showing their blues roots and the classic, "Green River", this album showed the band melding all their sounds into one and making an epically awesome rock/blues album. They took a much deserved rest and in 1970, they put out two phenomenal albums. In 1970 we got "Cosmos Factory" and "Pendulum". "Pendulum" is a really good rock and roll album. In fact, this is their most basic rock album, in my opinion. "Cosmos Factory" is great on so many levels. This is, by far, my favorite CCR album. This album is much like "Green River", melding all their styles into one, but it's better, because the band had been playing together for awhile then and with the same members and comfort in each others musical ability, they were able to make their best music. "Cosmos Factory" is a must for CCR fans and for rock fans in general. This album is awesome. In 1972 they released their last album with the four founding members, "Mardi Gras". This album is okay, but you can tell that they were beginning to grow weary of each other. That much time together with the same people that aren't family or loved ones will take it's toll on a lot of people.
Back to the great albums and some of the songs included in these albums. CCR has a TON of hits. Songs everyone knows like, "Fortunate Song", "Bad Moon Rising", "Lodi", "Run Through the Jungle" and "Travelin Band/Who'll Stop the Rain". The early hits, "Fortunate Son" and "Bad Moon Rising" are great, anti war songs. Something some people may not know is, the members of CCR were veterans and after they returned home, they became the first, real protest band. They hated the war and told anyone within ear shot why the war was wrong through song. I love this about them. In a time where it was frowned upon to talk down to authority, they fought authority and used their platform, music, to fight it. "Lodi" showed a softer side to the band. This is a quieter song abut being stuck in one place at a certain point in your life. It's a really cool change of pace. "Run Through the Jungle" has one of the coolest sounding guitars I've ever heard on record. The riff sounds simple, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. It's so cool. This song really shows off John Fogerty's guitar playing ability. "Travelin Band/Who'll Stop the Rain" was the bands way of getting two songs on a single record. They're both great, memorable songs. Really smart idea by CCR too. Pack more music on a record for the fans. CCR also did a good amount of cover songs. Their version of Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine" is a ten minute epic swamp rock song. They took a 2 minute R&B song and turned it into this ten minute swampy, bluesy rock and roll song. They covered Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby" note for note. This was them thanking one of their influences. When they first exploded on the scene, a song a lot of fans liked was their version of Screamin Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell on You". This is a classic blues tune, but they put their twist on it, and it's really good. Many people think CCR covered the Ike and Tina Turner classic "Proud Mary", but this was an original CCR tune.. Their covers are almost as good as their originals. That takes talent in my opinion.
CCR also had problems with each other and other bands. They famously said about the Grateful Dead, while following them at Woodstock, that they, and I quote, "put audiences to sleep with their music". I don't like the Grateful Dead personally, so I find this very funny. More notably, they didn't get along with each other after they released "Mardi Gras". John Fogerty didn't really like anyone in the band, but he and his brother Tom fought the most. They went so far as to break all communication off with each other and didn't ever speak to each other again. Tom Fogerty died in the 80's due to complications from AIDS and John Fogerty never got any real closure with his brother. That's a bummer. John Fogerty also has the famous court case where he was sued by his former record company for sounding too much like John Fogerty. When he signed , as a young, dumb kid, he signed all his rights away. The record company basically had a strangle hold on all of CCR's music, but he must have had some damn good lawyers, because he won the case and now has all the rights to his own music. The fact that this record company sued him shows how big of dickheads record executives are. They don't care about music, they care about money. Fights, or "beefs" like these are now common place in music, but CCR was one of the first bands to openly fight like this. You may disagree with me, but that tells me they're an American band. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, but they dislike each other so much, they wouldn't play together at the ceremony. As I said earlier, John Fogerty is still making music today, but don't expect any kind of reunion with the rest of the living members of CCR. According to a recent interview, John Fogerty was asked if CCR would ever reunite and he said, "I'd be up for it, but I don't think the other guys want anything to do with me anymore". Sad, but also, that's bands for you. One minute they love each other, the next they hate each other. I love CCR and their five year run is unparalled. They deserve and belong in our debate. The above reasons are why I'm nominating them. Creedance Clearwater Revival is awesome and will forever be credited with creating a new brand of music, "swamp rock".
That's pretty cool in my book.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the co host of the X Millennial Man podcast. If his car gets stolen he is holding our hope that the cops can find his Creedance tapes. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.