I saw Creedence at the Royal Albert Hall on 27 September, 1971, and for some reason found myself sat behind them, on the steps that rise up towards the organ that choirs stand on during classical concerts. It wasn’t the best of views and no one else was sat there apart from a roadie or two but it was hellish loud and it was fabulous to see an RAH show from the band’s perspective, to be able to look up at all the tiered levels and watch everyone grooving away.
In many ways this Fogerty show was a CCR show because that’s all everyone wanted to hear. I think I wrote this for Tony Fletcher’s website the day after the show.
Listening to John Fogerty was like listening to an early ‘70s bar-room jukebox banging out hit after hit, most of them less than three minutes long, one after the other, endlessly and gloriously. Since disbanding Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1972, Fogerty has had a sporadic solo career dogged by legal problems with his former record label and unseemly public spats with his former colleagues, and for this reason I half expected to see a rather dour fellow, serious of intent and probably distant from his audience, a bit like Dylan or Van Morrison. In the event, the opposite was the case: Fogerty behaved like a kid who’s unexpectedly found a Gibson Les Paul in his Christmas stocking, grinning from ear to ear, his floppy hair bouncing around, jumping and running across the stage with all the energy of a jean-clad 21-year-old – Bon Jovi with better songs and no clichés. Actually, he was 61 last month.
Creedence weren’t psychedelic, neither were they prog-rock, glam, metal, hard rock or anything else really. There was a touch of garage about them but at heart they were simply a rock’n’roll band updated from the fifties in sound and style whose leader had a rare talent for writing simple catchy songs that invariably had four chords or less and intros that grabbed you in seconds. They sounded like they came from the South of the US but they didn’t – they came from San Francisco – and their songs about rivers and riverboats and the moon and the bayou earned them a pigeon hole of their very own called swamp rock, but in amongst the good times and toe-tapping dance music was the odd serious song about the Vietnam War. Also, they were a singles band, with nine top ten hits between 1969 and 1971 that still sound fresh today. Thirty-five years later, their hits CD never gathers dust on my shelf.
Aside from a support slot for Tina Turner at Wembley Arena back in the eighties, this was the first time Fogerty had performed in the UK since the latter day three-piece Creedence played the Albert Hall in 1971. So it wasn’t surprising that Hammersmith Apollo was jam-packed and raring to go. What was surprising was the age-range of the audience. I had a standing only ticket but managed to creep down the right aisle where I found myself alongside four twenty-something girls who danced the night away and seemed to know all the words to every song, most of which were recorded long before they were born. Creedence music is truly ageless.
Fogerty bounced on stage and opened with ‘Travelling Band’, after which the hits came thick and fast, at least 20 recognisable songs and a few I wasn’t so familiar with. This music is not difficult to play – the bass player’s fingers barely moved – but was played with skill and enthusiasm; vintage good-time Americana that evokes an era when my life was good and about to get better. No wonder I enjoyed it so much.
Here’s just a few of the songs: ‘Born On The Bayou’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Who'll Stop The Rain’ (always loved that one), ‘Up Around The Bend’, ‘Down On The Corner’, ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ (which he wrote and Status Quo stole), ‘Green River’, ‘Cottonfields’, ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Sweet Hitch Hiker’, ‘Keep On Choogling’, ‘Fortunate Son’ and, of course, as the final encore, the wonderful ‘Proud Mary’ who’s still rollin’ on the river. There was a couple of songs from his his 1985 solo album Centerfield, the title track and ‘Old Man Down The Road’, and the odd lesser known album track, like ‘Ramble Tamble’ which featured a spaced out jam as as the Cosmo’s Factory album
Fogerty fronted a five-piece band but did all the work himself, soloing cleanly but never at any great length, and filling in licks everywhere. Bob Britt, the lanky guitarist in a red tee-shirt played some fine rockabilly runs on both Strat and pedal steel, but the function of the band was to create a great wall of sound, fat and full like the Creedence originals.
Wisely, there was no support, just one hour 45 minutes of great rock’n’roll delivered by a man who knows exactly how it should be delivered but does it all too rarely. I was on my way by 10.15 leaving time for a decent beer in a proper pub and not the ghastly Carling lager that is all that’s available at what used to be the Hammersmith Odeon until Carling took a franchise on it.