Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Lodi" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

Creedence Clearwater Revival holds a strange place in history. Burning bright and quick, they left their legacy in a period of tremendous creativity measurable in months. Yet most similar ‘flashes in the pan’ blaze a revolutionary trail across history. CCR were hardly revolutionary; if anything, they’re reactionary. So why should we care about them all these years later?

It’s strange. They single-handedly created the genre of beer-commercial music. Those who follow in their footsteps tend to be agonizingly dull. On occasion they stumble into hokeyness, and frankly they never stray very far from it. John Fogerty sings all his songs in a hokey fake Southern accent and half of the time his lyrics seem like a Mark Twain book, or that painting with the old farmer couple and the pitchfork, set to music.

Yet they have a pure simplicity, devoid of any nonsense or pretense, that makes them actually quite nice to listen to. More importantly than that, they exhibit an instinctive sense of what pop music is and contain melodies that can stick in your head for ages.

“Lodi”, precisely nobody’s favourite CCR song, is such an example. Its melody is actually generated entirely by its chord pattern, and its chord pattern is practically twelve-bar it’s so generic. The melody ought to suck. Yet somehow, it doesn’t. The melody fits the chord pattern like a glove, the words fit the melody like a gloved-glove, and the whole thing chugs along with a curious combination of melancholy and breeziness. “Chug” is an important point. It doesn’t exactly “choogle”, which is a good thing since that’s such a terrible word, but its forward dynamics (which, incidentally, give the impression of constantly getting slightly faster – perhaps they do) push you headlong into the song and keep you there until it finishes.

Complaining about the life of a traveling band always seems a little bit too precious in rock music. What’s nice about “Lodi” is, while Fogerty’s clearly complaining, he’s doing it without pettiness but with a forlorn acceptance. It’s a curious emotional weight, especially for a b-side.

Which it is. “Lodi” was the b-side of “Bad Moon Rising”, also a great (and history will tell us ‘more significant’) song. The amazing rate at which Creedence was putting out great music during their two-and-a-half-year blaze of glory meant that songs as wonderful as this were getting chucked out on b-sides.

Amazing. Though nobody else on the planet will make this comparison, that rate of productivity recalls the Smiths. As does the commitment to ‘pop’ music at its purest.

And pretense, too.
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