Travelin' Band 45 RPM single
It had to happen eventually. I’ve been meaning to cover a Creedence Clearwater Revival record for several weeks now, but I’ve always been able to come up with another idea that put Creedence onto the backburner. Well, no more: I don’t have any new ideas today; therefore, Creedence Clearwater Revival gets its due. The band started when John Fogerty (guitar), Doug Clifford (drums) and Stu Cook (bass) met in junior high school and started playing instrumentals together. Soon, they began backing up Fogerty’s older brother Tom (then the band’s lead singer). By 1964, the band (now christened The Golliwogs) to Fantasy Records, and independent San Francisco jazz label which had released Vince Guaraldi’s hit single “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” in 1962. The band’s future was murky when in 1965 John Fogerty and Doug Clifford were called up by the draft board; Fogerty enlisted in the Army Reserve while Clifford did a stint in the United States Coast Guard Reserve. The band released a few singles as The Golliwogs with Tom Fogerty as the lead singer, but these singles went nowhere. The band did not find its direction until John Fogerty took over singing and songwriting duties. By 1968, Fogerty and Clifford were discharged from military service, and the new owner of Fantasy Records, Saul Zaentz, gave the band an opportunity to record a full-length album, providing that they changed their name. They settled on Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the self-titled debut album was a huge success, buoyed by the first single from the album, “Suzie Q (Part 1)” b/w “Suzie Q (Part 2), a recover version of Dale Hawkins’ 1956 rockabilly hit, which reached number 11 on the Billboard charts. 1969 was a banner year for the band, as they released no less than three albums and four hit singles. In early 1970, the band did not have a new album to release (having released “Willie And The Poor Boys” only two months earlier); nonetheless, they released a new single: “Travelin’ Band” b/w “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, which is today’s featured single.
This single is actually one of the rare instances in this blog of a true “double A-side” single, with each song getting equal billing. It’s also a prime example of CCR’s ability to release tightly-focused radio-friendly pop songs with broad appeal, even as they displayed an ability to record lengthier pieces (such as the 11 minute version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”). “Travelin’ Band” starts with a blaring horn section (a sign that the band’s musical palette was expanding), and a melody that sounds suspiciously similar to Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” (in fact, the band ended up getting sued by the song’s publisher, a suit that was eventually settled out of court). But this song is no mere clone of the Little Richard song; it may be derivative, but it packs a powerful punch into a 2 minute pop song. John Fogerty’s vocals seem to be informed by Richard’s gospel-influenced delivery, as he sings enthusiastically about a band on the road: “737 comin’ out of the sky/Oh! wont you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride”. The instrumental breaks are brief yet don’t waste a note: first we get an extremely intense guitar-sax break, then we get a guitar solo with slide flourishes. Fogerty’s screams on the record are screams of infectious enthusiasm that could easily rival James Brown and of course Little Richard himself. “Travelin’ Band” was the more popular of the two songs on this single, reaching number 2 on the Billboard singles chart.
“Who’ll Stop The Rain”, on the other hand, was a more thoughtful, serious song, and does not seem to be derivative of any pop record, although it does not stray far from the folk rock template. The song features an acoustic melody and rather melancholy textures, and one can understand how the more fun-sounding “Travelin’ Band” would be the bigger hit; nonetheless “Who’ll Stop The Rain” is a great song in its own right. The acoustic guitar riff that opens the song is a catchy one that indicates that CCR by this point was a road-tested rock band with a proclivity for roots music rather than a traditional folk band. The lyrical content is dreamy and murky: “Long as I remember the rain been comin down/Clouds of mystry pourin confusion on the ground”. Some have interpreted this song as an anti-Vietnam song (the “rain” presumably representing the forces of war); this is not an unreasonable interpretation, since the band was anti-Vietnam even though they were more apolitical than many of the bands of the time. Still, I tend to think that the malaise referred to in the song is more universal than that; the line about “[f]ive year plans and new deals, wrapped in golden chains” seems to indicate a general cynicism about any government that promises prosperity and unlimited rice pudding for everyone. There is also the possibility that the song was influenced by Woodstock (CCR did play there, even if they weren’t in the movie or soundtrack); there is a lyric in the song that could be a reference to the festival and the rain which intermittently plagued it: “Heard the singers playin, how we cheered for more/The crowd had rushed together, tryin’ to keep warm”. And the song could be about both: inspired directly by Woodstock, yet referring indirectly to the troubles, both perceptible and tangible as well as imperceptible and intangible, which plagued the nation in 1970. Released not too long before the Guess Who’s “American Woman”, it seems worthwhile to compare the two, and while “Who’ll Stop The Rain” is a song that gently prods us to think about the current state of affairs (assuming that we look beyond the literal meaning of the lyrics for a more figurative and substantial meaning), “American Woman” sounds more like a slap in the face with its reference to “war machines and ghetto scenes”. Whatever the case may be, evidently there was a lot going on in popular music around this time.
“Travelin’ Band” b/w “Who’ll Stop The Rain” was released squarely in the middle of the CCR juggernaut, and the band would release two more albums before Tom Fogerty left the band in early 1971. John Fogerty decided to let Clifford and Cook have an equal voice in songwriting duties, and the release of “Mardi Gras” in 1972 and the lukewarm reception it received from critics and fans alike seemed to confirm that John Fogerty was the real force behind the band, which broke up in October 1972. John Fogerty was the only former CCR member to release any notable material after the break up; he had a hit with “Centerfield” in 1984, and after putting his musical career on hiatus for a number of years, returned with the Grammy-winning “Blue Moon Swamp” in 1997 – his first new album in over ten years. The death of Tom Fogerty in 1990 put an end to any talk of a CCR reunion with the original members, although Clifford and Cook had for a time appeared as “Creedence Clearwater Revisited” (due to a legal dispute with John Fogerty, they couldn’t use the Creedence Clearwater Revival name).
The single (catalog #: Fantasy 637) features the orange-red and green Fantasy label which was used on all the original CCR singles from 1968 to 1972. [The top of the label is orange-red in the shape of a flower, and has “FANTASY” in block letters across the top; the track information is across the bottom.] No picture sleeve was issued with this single, at least not in the United States.
Creedence Clearwater Revival performing Travelin’ Band live
John Fogerty performing Who’ll Stop The Rain (not CCR)
Who’ll Stop The Rain (music + still photo of the band)