Time changes things. There were years there when John Fogerty, legendary frontman for the rock and roll band Creedence Clearwater Revival, harbored frustration toward some of the musical entities he was connected to closely, whether that was former band members, family, or record executives. But now that’s largely, if not entirely, all gone. Fogerty’s changed feelings can be summed up in a neat package when considering CCR’s newest release, a two-pronged album and documentary film featuring the music from the band’s now infamous performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
For 50-plus years the recording and footage from the show had been lost—or, at least, hidden. As the tumultuous feelings cooled between Fogerty and record execs, talks of the work emerging increased. Now, it’s here today (September 16)—Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall—and Fogerty says he’s feeling grateful and in full witness as more and more water goes under the proverbial bridge.
“I’m just happy and relieved that it’s out,” Fogerty tells American Songwriter. “It’s been a long, ongoing process—I have not always seen eye-to-eye with the record label, but a lot of things have changed, and we are on better footing these days.”
Fogerty says the revived recordings are something of a “time capsule” of the band, which, though forming in the late ’50s or early ’60s (depending on how you count), have continued to last through the ages due to the songwriting, performances, Fogerty’s impeccable Americana voice and with a little help from movies like The Big Lebowski, which features the band’s songs prominently. Oh, and “The Dude” himself, actor Jeff Bridges, narrates the new CCR doc. Though the performance occurred in 1970, the footage and recordings have not surfaced formally until now (and there’s a new box set with more goodies coming in November). The 12-track album features hits like “Born on the Bayou,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.” It’s an exquisite example of maybe the best band in the world at that time, performing just days after the breakup of the Beatles.
“I was in my hotel speaking to a British interviewer,” Fogerty remembers of that time. “Suddenly Tom [Fogerty, CCR’s guitar player] comes into the room and says, ‘the Beatles broke up, I just heard it on the radio. The Beatles broke up!’”
Then, Fogerty says, Tom adds, “They just handed it to us!”
“In other words,” Fogerty says, “he had a few moments to already think about it… That little moment is frozen in my mind. Of course, there’s such irony to that because what we did later—maybe they just handed it to us—but we only got to keep it for another half-year or so.”
Of course, CCR broke up not long after that, due to some internal conflicts and disagreements with the trajectory of the band. For a spell there, they were the top of the tops, evidenced by their rousing performance in London at the Royal Albert Hall. Guitars shriek, Fogerty’s voice rumbles, and growls, and the drums and bass sing and box. Listening to it all recently, readying it for release, Fogerty says it’s odd seeing himself back then, especially knowing the drama or tumult that would find him. But he’s glad for it all.
“It’s kind of water under the bridge,” he says. “It’s nice that it’s finally seeing the light of day.”
Fogerty, who is 77 years old, marvels at the young “hillbilly” up there on stage. He gasps at the youthfulness of his younger self. So much has happened since then. He’s softened now. He’s a family man, someone who has endured decades in the music business to come out as one who still loves songs and writing them. But the new releases showcase a man at the top of his game. Today, he says, he maintains a “very personal” relationship with his music. He knows it more intimately than anyone since it emanated from his fingertips. It’s fun to see himself in the eye of that creative tornado, he offers. Though it does feel like he’s watching someone in a room tucked away in the far reaches of some house, to use a metaphor, he says.
“It’s funny to see me that young,” he says, “and yet be in total touch with the same mind. It’s almost like that inner-connection some people reference in a paranormal-type concept.”
Memories flood back. He recalls being in junior high, standing in front of his fifth- or sixth-grade class with his friend Bob Carlton and pantomiming comedy records in the mid-’50s. He remembers feeling those first primitive moments of understanding what it meant to be an entertainer, to hold an audience in the palm of your hand—or try to, anyway. Later, he got a guitar (on layaway) from Sears and he began pouring his efforts into music, inspired by Elvis and other early rockers of the time. These are the first sparks that led to the mesmerizing flames on display in London that fateful night. There would also be a performance at Woodstock, many gold records, and long-lasting hits. A solo career. Resolutions and new life chapters. And a friendship with Bridges.
“Believe it or not,” Fogerty says, “I was on a late-night show, Conan, I think. And Jeff was also a guest. I was sitting there on the couch next to him, as it were. During a break, he turns to me and says, ‘I’m here because I just did a movie that uses all your music.’ Little did either of us know what he was talking about was going to become a cult favorite.”
Speaking to Fogerty now is an exercise in lovely duality. His voice has always been forceful, and rugged in his CCR songs. But in person, it’s soft and even gleeful. He has more perspective now, but more of a punch back then. Life goes on. Life makes geniuses and fools of us all. Fogerty knows this. Yet, his music will likely live on for thousands of years. It’s remarkable. And the latest chapter in that timeline is the new work, restored from that performance at the Royal Albert Hall some 52 years ago. He did it. He and CCR made a long-lasting legacy.
“I’m very happy,” Fogerty says, “that it’s officially getting the ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal of approval, you might say. It’s certainly a moment frozen in time. But I have to admit, I’m proud of the music.”
Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images / Shore Fire Media