Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: john fogerty

Maybe That’s Cuz It’s The Midnight Special

It was an AIDS benefit.

You remember AIDS.

This was 1989, and Freddie Mercury was still alive but Jobriath and Sylvester weren’t. You could still appear on MTV wearing a tee-shirt reading (in parody of the old Raid bug spray ad) AIDS Kills Fags Dead* and it wouldn’t hurt your record sales too much. Elton John gave a shit, but he had skin in the game. Starving Africans got benefit concerts, and so did the farmers, but there was no AIDS Aid.

Until 5/27/89. The Dead headlined–their usual two sets–even though they had played two shows at Frost the previous month and were scheduled for three at Shoreline the next month. (This may have cut into attendance, although the less-than-sold out crowd was blamed by promoter Bill Graham on “the continuing stigma attached to AIDS, and because of lingering fears that the fatal disease can be contracted through casual contact,” which you will recognize as utter horseshit. No one in 1989 thought they could get AIDS from a concert. We all thought we could get it from a toilet seat, but not from a concert.) To bolster our storied adventurers, Graham also put Tower of Power, Tracy Chapman, Los Lobos, and John Fogerty on the bill, and–as it became evident that ticket sales were slow–advertised the fact that Garcia and Bobby would be filling in as Fogerty’s band.*

Bill Graham called the show In Concert Against AIDS. Soon would come benefits of all sizes, and red ribbons would turn awards ceremonies into Flanders Fields, but this show in 1989 was the first big one and the Grateful Dead headlined. You will hopefully recall this fact the next time some chucklehead starts with that “The Grateful Dead weren’t political, maaaaaaaaaan” bullshit.**

Two things about Fogerty:

ONE

He hadn’t played the old Creedence tunes–except for special events–onstage for years. Simple songs, but they had complicated emotions attached to them.

The contracts CCR and Fogerty had with Fantasy, the label that released all their classics with all their immense hits, were hilariously onerous. Black acts and boy bands didn’t get fucked this bad. Fantasy was owned by a Show Biz sharpie named Saul Zaentz, who used all of the royalties Fogerty’s songs produced to fund his Hollywood aspirations. They loved him in Los Angeles; gave him the Thalberg award. That’s the kind of town Los Angeles is.

Which means every time Fogerty lurches into Proud Mary for a paying crowd, Zaentz gets a piece, and though I claim no special knowledge of the inside of John Fogerty’s mind, I can tell you this: that fucker takes shit personally. Go watch five minutes of an interview. Any one, it doesn’t matter. This (understandable) bellicosity from Fogerty led to what may have been the most surreal court case of the Rock Star era. Or ever.

SO…in 1984, after a good decade away from the charts, Fogerty released an album called Centerfield. Huge record. Three top-ten hits, all of which are still being played on classic rock stations to this day, and one of which will be played at baseball stadiums until the end of time. The last track on the album, though, is called Zantz Can’t Dance. The lyrics concern a fellow, Zantz, who is a pig and a thief and all sorts of nasty, low-down things. Saul Zaentz, it turns out, also took things personally. He set about concocting the perfectly stupid lawsuit, and achieved his goal: he would sue Fogerty for plagiarizing…

Wait for it.

…himself. One of Centerfield‘s hits was a swampy number called The Old Man Down The Road. It went like this:

This is Run Through The Jungle, from 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory (which also had three top-ten hits on it):

Now, they’re the same damn song, but if writing the same damn song twice (or three or four) times is a crime, then AC/DC would have been executed long ago. The Ramones wrote the same damn song dozens of times. Hell, one of rockyrolls’ towering classics is literally called It’s The Same Old Song because it’s a direct rip-off of I Can’t Help Myself.

BUT…the Young brothers owned the rights to all their material, and so did Motown, thus freeing them up–legally speaking, at the least–to copy themselves as much as they wanted. Here, Saul Zaentz owned the earlier variation on the choogly theme and had the right–legally speaking, at the least–to sic his lawyers on John Fogerty.

Fantasy v. Fogerty. The poor bastard had to defend himself against accusations of plagiarizing himself.  Which is either Kafkaesque or Helleresque, depending on your literary tastes. And he won, too. Brought his Les Paul onto the stand with battery-powered Pignose amp, cranked out some boogie for the jury, turned on that Rock Star charm. Sweet victory. Only cost him a million dollars in legal fees.

Understandably, the man had a complicated relationship with his old material. He opened the songbook only for important events. Military stuff, mostly. Fogerty’s always loved the troops. And this show, In Concert Against AIDS, at the Oakland Coliseum in 1989. The only other member of Creedence you can name is Tom Fogerty. He was John’s older brother until 1988, when he died of AIDS, and then John didn’t have an older brother anymore. Tainted transfusion during back surgery.

And so John Fogerty dusted off the old old routines, ran through the changes in the dressing room with the pick-up band, and gave the crowd what they wanted.

TWO

The most dangerous place in the world is between John Fogerty and a chance to talk shit about the Dead.

 

 

*Sebastian Bach, ladies and gentlemen:

You thought I was making that up, didn’t you? Always remember: the past was terrible, even the recent past.

**As always, Corry from Lost Live Dead explains all of this far better than I do.

***The subtext to this statement is–almost invariably–“The Dead weren’t political in the way I wanted them to be.”

Playing In The Travelin’ Band

Hey, Bobby. What are you smirking about?

“Just thinking about something Billy said to me before the show.”

What was that?

“Well, uh, he said, ‘Weir, if you even think about wearing a neckerchief, I’ll cut off your dick and make you blow yourself.'”

That’s a bit aggressive.

“I told you it was Billy, right?”

True. Did Billy say anything about your guitar?

“Not out loud. But there’s a certain word he mutters when he sees it.”

I bet I can guess what the word is.

“I bet you can, too.”

Chooglin’ On Down To Get Busted In New Orleans

It was nice of John Fogerty to let Bobby and Garcia hang out onstage while he played the old hits. Our heroes added little to the proceedings other than backing vocals, but even the awesome power of two fully bush league chooglers can’t quite trainwreck the afternoon when the rhythm section was Steve Jordan and Randy Jackson.

OR

What a fetching kerchief, Mr. Forgerty.

“Go fuck yourself.”

Okay.