Fortunate ones will listen to the Creedence classics
John Lithgow has been through hell.
His character has just been terrorized by some sort of vicious flying ghoulie who had been tearing apart one of the wings of a jetliner in which Lithgow was a passenger. So traumatized was he that upon landing, he had to be carried off the plane on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.
During the ride to the hospital, the ambulance driver (Dan Aykroyd) turns off the siren and cranks up the radio, causing Lithgow to perk up.
“Creedence?” Lithgow asks, recognizing the strains of “Midnight Special.” “I love Creedence!”
Such is the impact of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The 1982 movie “Twilight Zone: The Movie” is just one of a number of popular films in which one can find CCR music, among others “The Longest Yard,” “Live Free Or Die Hard,” and, most appropriately, “Apocalypse Now” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”
CCR, the quintessential American rock band, was born of the Vietnam era, giving voice to a generation with such hits as “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Wrote a Song for Everyone” and most notably “Fortunate Son.”
“We’re reminded of that time every time a Vietnam vet comes up to us and says hello at a concert,” said Stu Cook, one of the band’s founding members, who is back on tour with a new version of the band called Creedence Clearwater Revisited. The group plays at the MontBleu Resort and Casino on Saturday, July 7. “They tell us how much of an impact we had on their lives, and it’s always very gratifying to hear,” Cook said. “But really, at the time, the main thing we were thinking is that this beats having a real job.”
The band broke up in 1972, and Tom Fogerty died of AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion, in 1990. It seemed that CCR would be gone forever, until Cook and CCR drummer Doug Clifford were sitting around talking one day in 1994.
“I was just sitting at Doug’s house at Incline Village having a beer, and we were kicking around ideas for a music project,” Cook said. “And we decided, what better project to do?”
And so Creedence Clearwater Revisited was born, and the band – now a fivesome as opposed to the original quartet – has been touring ever since. Absent the Fogerty brothers, Revisited now includes Cook, Clifford, San Francisco native Tal Morris on guitar, John Tristao on lead vocals and guitarist/keyboardist/percuissionist/harmonica player/vocalist Steve Gunner.
“To get inside out songs, to play with the intent of the original band, that takes a special kind of guy,” Cook said. “So Tal, John and Steve are very special musicians to be able to do that.”
Originally a product of the protest generation of the 1960s, which adored them and raised them to fame, the new CCR finds itself worshipped by an ever-widening demographic.
“We have three generations coming to our shows now,” Clifford said. “The toughest test in pop music is the test of time. We have teenagers, 20-, 30- and 40-somethings and on up in the crowd now.”
“Young people still have their role in our shows, but we now have all age groups. In the early days, there weren’t any older folks at our concerts, and now they’re the ones making all the noise. I consider if an extraordinary part of our heritage, and I’m thrilled with it.”
The fact that CCR music has been featured in so many films is a testament to their standing as the soundtrack to a generation.
“Our music’s been featured in a lot of movies; I’ve lost track,” Cook said. “My two favorites are “The Twilight Zone” and “The Big Lebowski.” One of our songs is in “Evan Almighty” as well. It’s a lot of fun.”
But to truly appreciate CCR, one needed to have seen them in person. Born in the Bay Area, the group started as a threesome – The Blue Velvets – while still in junior high school in El Cerrito. John Fogerty, Clifford and Cook began backing the older Tom Fogerty in 1959 at parties and in recording sessions for Fantasy Records. After a few name changes (The Visions, The Golliwoggs), new ownership at Fantasy in 1967 asked for another name change, and they settled on Creedence Clearwater Revival – from Credence Nuball, a friend of Tom Fogerty’s; “clearwater,” a reference to the band’s concern for ecology (from a beer commercial of the day); and “revival,” which spoke to the four members’ re-commitment to their band.
The group was heavily influenced by Southern rock and Louisiana “swamp blues,” as well as the prevailing British Invasion rock sound, giving them a unique sound.
You know the hits: “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Lodi,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and many others. They played at Woodstock; they were seemingly everywhere.
“We grew up in the Bay Area, but the music of Louisiana was what we listened to as kids,” Cook said. “We were into rhythm and blues big time. There was this radio station out of Sacramento, KRAK, which had a clear signal at night. That’s where we got a good dose of country. It had easy, accessible roots, and it influenced us greatly.”
The touring life is a lot different in 2007 than it was 1967.
“We appreciate things more now,” Clifford said. “Sometimes I’m up there playing and I go right back to where I was in the day. And we’re actually playing more; when I was 25 years old, a typical concert was 55 minutes. Now we play 75-90 minutes. And all of it’s fun.”
There are no new tunes in a Creedence Clearwater Revisited set. Just classic CCR.
“We tried (new songs) once, and it didn’t work well,” Clifford said. “Our audience knows what they want to hear.
“We try to keep it simple and uplifting,” Clifford said. “That’s what we’ve always done. It’s a formula for the world.”