Saturday, January 8, 2011

Creedence Clearwater Revival and Television (the band)

  Okay – it’s time to get things cookin’ here. Enough with the overarching concepts and philosophy. Let’s get down to bizniss………

  I was agonizing about my first post here and what I’d like to profile. Inspiration hit and two groups emerged – one popular, one obscure. Both from the US, but originating on opposite coasts. I listened to music from each group tonight and they seemed to represent some qualities that I relate to and value. Plus, it’s 20th century rock music in both cases essentially. Eventually I’ll move into genres that I’m even less qualified to write about – jazz, classical – but for now I’ll start with that rapidly disappearing ensemble – the interesting rock band! The popular group gets first mention………..

 When was the last time you cranked up some Creedence Clearwater Revival? Oh, man……not Proud Mary again! That’s like the only song even the unhip wedding bands used to know (the token “rock song” you could count on at weddings back in the day….).  Listen – forget Proud Mary (Ike and Tina Turner actually smoked that song way better than CCR anyway, but I digress……..). When CCR hit in the late 60’s / early 70’s they were the first to strike a blow for “roots rock” music. Coming out of the psychedelic weirdness of the late 60’s – they were a tough, no-bullshit return to great American roots rock and roll and came up with a white-hot string of radio friendly hits. In January 1969 – the Beatles began sessions for an aborted project that was designed to get them back in touch with their rock and roll roots and to re-discover the energy they’d had back in the early 60’s before Beatlemania hit. Well, if you’ve ever heard some of the outtakes of those sessions it’s a real downer and shocking how totally incapable the Beatles were to hit that goal. CCR took the same idea and did everything the Beatles would loved to have done – and did it their way and better – and it was nothing but home runs for like – a good two years at least! Between 1968 and through all of 1970 Creedence threw down some great music that set the standard of what it meant to really “Get Back” as the Beatles would have liked to. Maybe to compare isn’t fair – CCR was less of a collaborative venture than the Beatles were, but it hit me tonight that Creendence must have freaked the Fabs out. Just as the Beatles were imploding, CCR just burst onto the scene and stole the show.
Now, I don’t even have all of their records. I’m missing the first one and the last few. You would be doing well with those Chronicles collections (there’s a Volume I and II) – you get those and you get the essentials. But take a peek at the wikipedia entry and look at how many hit records these guys racked up in such short order! Put those songs into perspective – quite a feat – all quality stuff! I wish younger people had a band like CCR to really ignite the enthusiasm for rootsy rock and roll again. In fact, considering what CCR did with two guitars, bass and drums – they sound downright contemporary – timeless in fact – today. By the way – for years I had no idea that Creedence came out of the Bay Area in California. The Grateful Dead these guys were NOT. I would have guessed the deep south somewhere since they captured that country-rock flavor before it even had a name! Letsee – I spun the first side of the “Bayou Country” album and all of the “Green River” album tonight. I have those on LP – 80’s reissues and not bad sounding, really. Especially compared to the original vinyl pressings which are to be AVOIDED people! CCR was signed to a pretty small –in fact JAZZ - record label that liked to cut costs and those original LPs were pressed on really dogshit vinyl. Get reissue LPs or CDs – those old albums have so much surface noise they sound like bad 78s (played on the wrong equipment 78s sound like hell – played on the right equipment 78s can be an audiophile experience – seriously!!). Aside from the great sound of the band, you can’t ignore what an intense creative TEAR John Fogerty was on in those Creedence days, from a songwriting standpoint. It was like a Stevie Wonder / Elton John / in their prime white-hot streak. I think the time is right to re-discover CCR. Forget those cheesy TV ads they used to run trying to market the records like the latest Ronco product. These guys really rocked – and those vibrations they set down still groove hard!

    Now, CCR was pretty much kaput when band #2 were making their first record. These guys had the same instrumentation as CCR, but stylistically were about as far removed from roots-rock as any guitar-based band had managed to get without falling into the trappings of psychedelic rock. Ever hear of the group Television? Maybe, like me, you read about them but never heard their music. Their first record, Marquee Moon, shows up in all the hipper-than-thou lists of highly influential records that only the coolest of the cool people have ever heard, blah…blah….blah….. I usually get put off by music with that kind of a reputation, but once in awhile I’ll relent and grab something just to see what all the fuss is about. Which I did with this record. I got a cheap CD copy off amazon for like, four dollars. I wasn’t expecting much. Was I wrong. Now, first of all – this record came out in 1977, but was finished – in the can, ready to go – in 1975. There is NOTHING 1975 about this music. I’m not even sure modern music has caught up with what is going on with this record. Its like some weird species that mutated yet never reproduced and was never heard from again. Alright, maybe that’s a bit much. Television came out of the New York City area. They were a pre-punk band. Some punk people like to “claim” them I suppose, but this isn’t punk music. It’s really OTHER. Like that category you don’t know what the hell to put things in. It’s pretty polished music, but not in a slick way. Supposedly, the original idea was for the band to record at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio – a famous jazz studio – because that’s the vibe the group wanted. But it isn’t jazz music either. To be fair – singer / guitarist / songwriter Tom Verlaine has a pretty odd voice. That’s about the most punk thing on this record. But it isn’t that snarly Johnny Rotten kind of voice. Verlaine is singing some pretty weird lyrics on this album – I don’t know what these song lyrics are about. And I don’t care – it’s the music that’s so damn compelling. This record really threw me for a loop when I heard it – made me rethink what the heck was going on musically in the era of the 70’s and what people COULD be doing now. Oh, man – how I WISH musicians would just throw caution to the wind like this these days. I don’t know what any other Television records sound like. I’m a little afraid to know, since I like this one so much. I listened to the first “side” twice tonight – it’s that kind of record. I can say with certainty there were no hit singles from this band. I don’t think their record company knew what to do with them. I can’t guarantee you’re gonna like this, but it’s really interesting music – in a way that could get a person to re-evaluate what is possible with the classic two guitars, bass, drums lineup of a typical rock band. I think there are still plenty of copies of this thing on amazon for, like, three dollars used. For three bucks – it gets a major thumbs-up from me.

Rock on…………….

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