Ever wonder why Creedence Clearwater Revival decided to name their hit-packed 1970 album Cosmo’s Factory after their drummer? Doug “Cosmo” Clifford explains that it was because the band’s singer and songwriter wanted nothing to do with the spotlight.
“That was John Fogerty’s idea,” Clifford explains. “He was kind of a pretty shy person and he knew that there would be a lot of press people bugging him about it. He really didn’t feel comfortable in that role. And I’m certainly the opposite. I like talking and BS and telling stories that are true, and I make up a few along the way. He said, ‘We’ll name it after you because the press is going to be all over it and want to know why.’
“This was before the internet, so if I was in Chicago, I’d have a story made up about why it was named after me, and then go to New York and have a completely different story. I made up some pretty amazing things along the way. When we got into the Midwest, I was really getting pretty hot. Most of them believed it. You have to sprinkle a little truth in there once in a while. But I didn’t want to say, ‘Well, John doesn’t want to talk to you guys, so he put me up front.’”
Whatever the reason for the name, there is no doubting that Cosmo’s Factory had the game. Featuring classics like “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Run Through The Jungle,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Lookin’ Out My Front Door” and “Up Around The Bend,” it dominated the singles charts and sold over 4 million copies. Released in 1970, the album is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is getting a reissue for audiophiles via a half-speed master edition on 180-gram vinyl, courtesy of Craft Recordings.
In telling the story of the album to American Songwriter, Clifford spoke with both pride in the work of he and his bandmates (John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty and Stu Cook) and disbelief at the pace they kept: Cosmo’s Factory was their fifth LP in the span of barely two years. “The pace was jet speed,” Clifford says. “Nobody released three albums in the same year, that was ‘69, and then we came out with two more in ’70.”
“If you look at the three singles off Cosmo’s Factory, they were double-sided hits. It was like a mini-greatest hits album. That was another thing that made the clock tick even faster for us. We put out a single and both sides would be charted. It was a two-for-one sale. It cut the time in half in terms of putting material out, putting two songs out at once. Not many people could do that. We started the tradition pretty early and it just added to the madness.”
Clifford says fear of obsolescence drove them to hustle. “John said that if we were ever off the charts, we would be forgotten. We were the only ones that had that particular plan. I don’t know any of our peers that weren’t off the charts for a while when they would do extended tours. But that wouldn’t have worked for us because we had to have something out. And we would also go against some industry taboos, such as don’t put a single out in front of your album because it will hurt the sales of the album at the other end. That never really held true for us. Anyway, here we are 50 years later and we’re not forgotten. So much for that theory.”
Yet even with the frenetic pace, CCR never went into the studio unprepared, mainly because they always had a plan. “We would rehearse our butts off before we would go into record,” Clifford says. “And we also knew what the album was going to be, what songs were going to be on it. We didn’t go in and do 15 tracks and then pick the best 10. We figured out what the album was going to be, then we rehearsed for at least six weeks before we went in. We were so ready to record because we’d been playing those songs every day for weeks. We had more #1 takes than anybody I know. Let’s get these done so we can do it all over again.”
As the hits kept coming, Creedence drew the jealousy of other artists. “We were put down by our peers as sellouts and a singles bands,” Clifford remembers. “Later I found out that those guys in actuality were envious of us. They tried and tried to make a single, just one single. We were putting them out two at a time.”
On one of those hits, “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” Clifford had to stand up for the way he wanted to play on the track. “For me, it was special because I had a very important drum part in that song,” he says. “It runs throughout the whole song, a triplet break. It runs into the chorus. I fought with John on that. He didn’t like it. And I said it makes the song. We went round and round on it and I didn’t give up. If you listen to that song, listen to what the drums are doing. What it did, musically, it pushed the song along to be as good as it could be on the other side.”
“You have something and you know you’re right. I was the only drummer in the room. I’m surrounded by all these goddamn guitar players. I took enough shit from them to say hey, wait a minute, I have something here that’s totally different and don’t be afraid of it. I knew that I was right and the fact that it was there was John’s way of validating it. He wasn’t one to give out compliments, I can tell you that.”
Cosmo’s Factory represented a peak for CCR, one from which they would soon start to descend as rancor between band members took its toll. But Clifford isn’t one to dwell on that. “There was a lot of animosity,” he admits. “But the good news is that in that short period of time, we were able to amass a huge legacy of music. Forget the animosity. Forget all the other shit that surrounded it. The finished product of what was played, how it was played, we hit a home run there.”
In fact, Clifford had forgotten some of the magic of the album named after him, only to be reminded when listening to the reissue. “Holy shit, ‘Ramble Tamble’ is a kick-ass song,” he says of the shapeshifting opening track. “I totally forgot about that. That song, with the change in tempo, it’s not a quick change, which would be real easy. It’s a long thing and everybody has to be following the train. And I’m the train. To be effective, it has to be slow speeding up and slowing down. It makes that song. And the guitars in there are so simple, but so powerful. That’s an eight-minute piece of music that I’d completely forgotten about.”
As for the hits from Cosmo’s Factory and the rest of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s formidable catalog, Doug Clifford is reminded of them often, which is fine by him. “Every time I go to the grocery store, when I’m in the fruit and vegetables area, I hear one of our songs,” he laughs. “I still get a kick of it. That was the dream. And the dream is still alive after fifty-some odd years, actually 60 years because we started ten years before we had a hit. When you do something that you love and millions of people around the world love it, and, in some way, you’ve done something that affected them in a positive way in their lives, that’s pretty cool.”