As a kid, I enjoyed going through my parents’ music collection. Most of the records belonged to my dad. Some of Mom’s were in there too, but I can say that Dad’s drew my attention more.
Dad was born in 1954. His middle school and high school years were from 1966-1972: one of the most productive periods in the history of rock and roll. Even 10+ years into its history, rock music was evolving daily. It could be heard every day with the new songs hitting the Top 40 stations and even more on the newly founded free-form FM radio style. On FM radio, disc jockeys were given free reign to be taste makers and sift through new styles of music or play album cuts. Music studios were pumping out Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock, Blues Rock, Jazz Fusion, Country Rock, and even early forms of Heavy Metal during this time period. Many record labels allowed artists to write their own music and experiment with new instruments and recording techniques. Even labels like Motown were allowing artists to experiment with subject matter with topics of the day like the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, or both.
For many labels like Atlantic, Elektra, and Reprise, this would pay off dividends in record sales. Artists like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience respectively defined or redefined what these labels represented.
For every major label pumping out top 40 hits and revolutionary albums, an independent label could be found doing the same. One of those labels jumped into the rock and roll genre in 1964 by signing a group called Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets.
In the 1960’s, Fantasy Records, based in Berkeley CA, was primarily a jazz label that was home to the likes of Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, and the earliest recordings of Dave Brubeck. They took a chance on the Blue Velvets, a young rock and roll band based in the Berkeley area. Over the next few years after some unsuccessful single releases, the band went through two name changes (The Golliwogs) and a shift in band leadership (younger brother, John Fogerty).
Creedence Clearwater Revival was a band of four Northern California boys seeking to become one of rock and roll music’s greatest of all time. Their style of music was very American. They mixed rock and roll, country, and rhythm and blues to make their own style of rock music that sounded very familiar, but sounded fresh at the same time.
Their first hit came in September 1968, a cover of Dale Hawkins’ 1957 rockabilly hit, “Susie Q.” As was typical in the late 1960’s, the album version of the song was over eight minutes long. Fantasy split the song into two parts for each side of the 7″ single release. Side 1 was a fairly true-to-the-original version of the original song. Side 2 was a long extended instrumental ending showing off the true capabilities of the young band. John Fogerty’s solo guitar was featured prominently. His style of playing was unique, even on cover songs such as “Susie Q,” but he still made it sound familiar and look easy.
Their eponymous debut album contained 8 tracks: 5 original recordings, “I Put A Spell On You,” “Ninety-Nine and a Half,” and “Susie Q.” This is a formula the band would successfully use to create 6 additional albums through 1972. However, most of their future hits would be the self-penned tunes, not the covers.
Creedence would blaze up the charts in the new two years at a blistering speed. Including “Susie Q,” they released six singles in the next 15 months, with the last two singles also charting their B-sides in the Billboard top 30. This moved the band into 1970 with three #2 Billboard hits, “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Green River.”
Looking to continue the band’s success into the new decade, they released two more singles to Top 5 success before they had enough material for a new album. These singles were “Travelin’ Band”/”Who’ll Stop The Rain” and “Up Around The Bend”/”Run Through The Jungle.” Finally in July 1970, they released their fifth album, Cosmo’s Factory.
Cosmo’s Factory became the biggest selling studio album for the band. The album would include both sides of the first two singles of 1970 along with both sides of the next single “Looking Out My Back Door”/”Long As I Can See The Light,” the John Fogerty penned barn-blazing psychedelic album opener titled “Ramble Tamble,” and four cover songs. The selection of these cover songs would span everything from rockabilly (“My Baby Left Me”) to blues (“Before You Accuse Me”) to Motown (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine”) to rock and roll (“Ooby Dooby”). Like many ‘peak’ albums for performers, the songs crossed all genres.
My dad just turned 16 when this album was released. The songs were ubiquitous. They represented the topics of the day while also allowing teenagers to escape from the looming pressures of the world. Luckily, my dad was too young to serve in Vietnam, as the draft was abolished before he turned 18. Others weren’t so lucky.
Dad was a gear head. Driving fast wasn’t an option. It was the only option. Playing loud music in the car was the only option too. My brothers and I inherited these traits from him when we approached the same age (and beyond).
As a kid, I remember dad playing Cosmo’s Factory fairly loudly on the bedroom stereo. I would look at the album cover and wonder what those guys were doing in that factory. Were they riding bikes? Or practicing music? Or just hanging out? Whatever it was, they looked cool.
The tones used on “Grapevine” were very indicative of a Creedence song. It was unlike the Marvin Gaye cover. It added a haunting, swampy feeling to the song. I have to admit, as a child, I didn’t like listening to that song. It scared me. As an adult, I get the same haunting feeling, but I can’t get enough of it. I can’t help but think of my dad when any song from this album comes on.
We didn’t get a chance to fully discuss his feelings of this album. I knew it was a favorite of his. This is very obvious when I take the album out of the cover and see the wear upon the grooves. He played it a lot. Like most good albums, no matter the wear to the grooves, the music shines through.