David Cantwell, in the (hold your breath!) The New Yorker, celebrates Creedence on the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the band’s demise and the imminent release of a long-lost live recording from 1970.
When Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up fifty years ago this fall, they were critically respected, hugely influential, and popular almost beyond belief. Billboard credits the band with nine Top Ten singles in just two and a half years, from early 1969 to the summer of ’71—an amazing stat, but one that still undercounts the band’s success. The fanciful twang of “Down on the Corner” and the blue-collar rage of “Fortunate Son” were each tremendously popular, but, because they were pressed on flip sides of the same 45, Billboard counted them as only one hit record. C.C.R. also has the most No. 2 hits—five—of any band that never scored a No. 1. In 1969, as John Lingan notes in his new book, “A Song for Everyone,” Creedence Clearwater Revival even reportedly achieved “something that no other group had done in America since 1964: They outsold the Beatles.”…
They emerged from a transformative Bay Area music scene that included Sly and the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane. But, because they performed notably sober and straight, and were all married—and especially because they favored two-to-three-minute-long pop gems, tightly rehearsed, rather than improvised jams—they were perceived as squares even in their own scene. Hip crowds at the Fillmore jokingly referred to them, Lingan writes, as “the Boy Scouts of Rock and Roll.” When the critic Ralph J. Gleason referred to the band as “an excellent example of the Third Generation of San Francisco bands,” they felt disrespected again: they’d been performing together in the area, first as the Blue Velvets, then as the Golliwogs, since the late fifties. Look closely at the cover of their 1970 album “Cosmo’s Factory,” and you’ll see an embittered, handmade motivational poster tacked up in their rehearsal space: “3rd GENERATION.”
But even admiring critics acknowledged that the public image of the band wasn’t equal to their greatness. “For all Creedence’s immense popularity, John Fogerty has never made it as a media hero, and the group has never crossed the line from best-selling rock band to cultural phenomenon,” Ellen Willis wrote in this magazine, in 1972. Willis attributed this partly to the fact that Fogerty projected “intelligence and moderation,” rather than, for instance, “freakiness, messianism, sex, violence.” (This was also, she noted, “probably the main reason I have come to prefer him to Mick Jagger,” and partly why C.C.R. had become her favorite rock-and-roll band.) …
C.C.R.’s brief window as a working band coincided with the years in which rock music was busy splintering, innovating, into all sorts of new subgenres: progressive rock, psychedelic rock, country rock, glam rock, bubblegum, hard rock and heavy metal, funk, power pop, jam bands, and sensitive singer-songwriter types. Creedence’s backward-glancing approach may have seemed derivative; their chief heroes weren’t Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix but Little Richard, whose sound they swiped for “Travelin’ Band,” and Chuck Berry, whose comic storytelling Fogerty channelled for “It Came Out of the Sky.” But the truth is that, by retooling old-school rock and soul for a new era, they helped invent another new subgenre, one that is perhaps less-heralded but still thriving: roots-rock. A large swath of the artists we now term Americana might fairly look to Creedence as forebears.
Ryan Ritchie penned a letter to billionaire Sir Paul complaining about his ticket prices.
Let’s, Paul, for the sake of argument, say I want my parents to, you know, actually see you, so I buy three seats in section C129. Those seats are $450. Each. And, as Ticketmaster reminds me, “+ fees.”
I can’t surprise my parents with tickets to see Sir Paul freakin’ McCartney only for them to sit halfway to LAX. That’s like giving a child a toy without batteries. A $600 toy, mind you.
That $600 doesn’t include parking. I’ve yet to visit SoFi Stadium, but let’s pretend parking is $20. We both know it’s not $20, but let’s pretend. That’s $620. My parents don’t drink alcohol, so I’m definitely saving money on beers, but — and I know you don’t live here — have you any idea of current gas prices? You probably don’t because if I wrote “The Long and Winding Road” I wouldn’t know gas prices, either. Paul, gas is expensive. Like, so expensive that I’m writing to you and wasting space by talking about gas.
Conservatively, if I bought the cheapest tickets, I would be looking at $700 to take my parents to your show and sit far enough away that we will not be able to see you. To be frank, Paul, that sucks. I don’t want to spend that kind of money to stare at the big screens that I am sure will be on stage. Certainly, you’ve heard of YouTube. My parents and I can get the same experience tomorrow morning for much less money.
Paul, serious question: What the fuck?
Can I take a guess before you answer? You probably have no idea how much tickets are to your show in Inglewood or any show on your “Got Back” tour. You also probably have no idea how many tickets are being sold by Ticketmaster as “Verified Resale Tickets,” which appears to make the prices increase and fluctuate. But what about the tickets that are not resales? Why are those so expensive? Surely someone in your camp knows how much tickets cost to your shows. And surely they can be cheaper.
The COVID-19 lockdown meant lots of people didn’t make money. I’m assuming your band members fall into this category. If so, I sympathize with them just like I sympathize with everyone whose income suffered due to the pandemic. What about them, Paul, your fans? What about people like me, people who want to see you, to take their parents out for a night to hear the music of their youth, the music of my youth, the music of all our youths?
Should that night cost $700?
Call me naïve, but I don’t think any three people should have to pay $700 to attend any concert that doesn’t include Elvis walking onto the stage and confirming he faked his 1977 death. That is worth $700.
Sure, you are Paul McCartney, but I grew up going to five-dollar punk shows where the musicians were two feet away from me and my friends. Those were the best bands I’ve ever seen and the best times of my life. You wrote the soundtrack to my life, to my parents’ lives, to so many people’s lives, but even you, Paul, can’t convince me that any concert is worth $190 a ticket to sit as far away as physically possible.
I’m a bass player and songwriter and I’ve been vegan for 18 years (vegetarian for seven before that), which means there’s pretty much nothing you could do to get me to stop loving you and your music. If this letter means anything to you, hopefully it’s this: The idea of seeing you in concert is worth every cent in my bank account and for the first time in my life, I can afford $700 and not worry about how I’m going to eat for the next three months. But I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to see you at a reasonable price, especially from a mile away.
Peter Lay (obviously more of a Stones man) contemplates, and rejects, critical hyperbole extolling the greatness of the Fab Four. They’re pretty darn good at their best. Sergeant Pepper was wildly over-rated. And they do not rank with Schubert.
In his review of The Beatles (aka “The White Album”) published in the Observer in October 1968, the filmmaker Tony Palmer hailed Lennon and McCartney as “the greatest songwriters since Schubert”. The White Album, he insisted, “should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making”.
Palmer was not the first, nor will he be the last, commentator to abandon critical faculties in order to claim a place on the “right side of history”. The previous year Kenneth Tynan declared the release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band a “decisive moment in the history of western civilisation”.
There are those who still cling to that claim and, as the gushing response to Peter Jackson’s Get Back, an eight-hour film of salvaged material from the 1969 Let it Be sessions, suggests, the popularity of the Beatles and the affection in which they are held shows no sign of abating. But Palmer’s Schubert comparison is a telling one, not least because The White Album does contain one Schubertian masterpiece: Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird”.
A comment, it is claimed, on the US civil rights struggle, “Blackbird” was inspired by JS Bach’s “Bourée in E minor”, a piece for lute with which McCartney was acquainted. No other song distils his melodic genius down to its purest form and even the lyrics are a notch above the Beatles’s often banal musings.
The problem, apart from the fact that Schubert wrote scores of superior songs, is that The White Album — a double LP which is best edited down to a shortish two-sider — also contains what might be McCartney’s nadir: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, a song of “desperate levity” so hated by the other band members, that they vetoed its release as a single. Its irritatingly ingratiating melody took it to number one anyway, covered by Marmalade.
It’s the pattern with Beatles LPs — that frustrating mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Even Revolver — widely regarded as their masterpiece — contains a couple of duffers, courtesy of George Harrison. Similarly, his contribution to The White Album, along with the portentous “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, is “Piggies”, a grimly twee attack on bourgeois conformity that undermines all the trippy sentiments of peace and love and karma that Harrison preached to his immature end. One is reminded of the Twitter trolls who remind us to “be kind” while spewing misanthropy left, right and centre.
Nowhere is this inconsistency as striking as on Sgt Pepper. Despite its treasures — McCartney’s “She’s Leaving Home”, a heartbreaking narrative of intergenerational misunderstanding set to a rising melody of instant memorability; and “A Day in the Life”, perhaps their finest hour, with verses by Lennon, detached and dreamy (“I’d love to turn you on”) married to McCartney’s jaunty middle section celebrating banality and routine (a psychiatrist could make much of it) — the rest is mediocre: “When I’m Sixty Four”, “Lovely Rita”, “Fixing a Hole”, all fine and dandy, but Schubert? Sgt Pepper has aged horribly in its psychedelic whimsy, especially in comparison with its great contemporary, the Beach Boys’s Pet Sounds. …
Summer Brennan channels the Susan Sontag of “Notes on Camp” in an over-the-top essay occasioned by Meatloaf’s recent passing, celebrating his MTV video of “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
I’m not any regular viewer of MTV videos. It’s an artistic? genre that emerged really after my time of personal engagement with popular music, but I watched this one, and feel obliged to agree: this one’s a hoot.
Meat Loaf looking as grotesque as Quasimodo, in a setting as Gothic as the Phantom’s Opera House, singing nonetheless passionately about love, bizarrely enough, works on a variety of levels.
When I saw Meat Loaf’s iconic I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) for the first time on MTV, I had just finished eighth grade. It was… I mean… oh my god. This music video had everything: revving engine sounds; a mausoleum; a Michael Bay-directed helicopter, car, and motorcycle chase; a foggy blue forest; angst; a sexy fat man in Halloween makeup smashing a literal hall of mirrors; flashlights; dorky lyrics; sexual longing; an opulent bi-curious bedroom set, lesbian succubi absolutely included; and so, so many candles. It was a power ballad missile of queasy erotic awakening aimed straight at my 14-year-old heart.
I was powerless to resist it.
The pure old-fashioned melodrama of it all. The absolute cheesiness. The passion. It was glorious. It was ridiculous. It was histrionic. It was camp as fuck. It was a music video that asked, what if Quasimodo was an over-the-top bombastic 70s rock star and also sang like the Phantom of the Opera? What if a floor-length white dress could also show your whole underwear? What if you followed a fugitive hunchback through the dark woods and then bathed in your clothes by the light of a thousand burning tapers? What if backup singers? What if lightning? What if chandeliers?
If you were unmoved by this kind of thing, even in middle school, then fine, but you are not my people.
There’s a truism in sport that what makes a champion is not the level they play at when they’re in top form but how well they play when they’re not in form. When we meet The Beatles in Get Back, they’re clearly in a dip, and that’s what makes their response to it so impressive. Even the best songs they bring in are not necessarily very good to begin with. Don’t Let Me Down is not up to much at Twickenham. George calls it corny, and he isn’t wrong. But John has a vision of a song that eschews irony and sophistication and lunges straight for your heart, and he achieves it, with a little help from his friends. They keep running at the song, shaping it and honing it, and by the time they get to the roof it is majestic.
The already classic scene in which Paul wrenches the song Get Back out of himself shows us, not just a moment of inspiration, but how the group pick up on what is not an obviously promising fragment and begin the process of turning it into a song. In the days to follow, they keep going at it, day after day, run-through after run-through, chipping away, laboriously sculpting the song into something that seems, in its final form, perfectly effortless. As viewers, we get bored of seeing them rehearse it and we see only some of it: on January 23rd alone they ran it through 43 times. The Beatles don’t know, during this long process, what we know – that they’re creating a song that millions of people will sing and move to for decades to come. For all they know, it might be Shit Takes all the way down. But they keep going, changing the lyrics, making small decision after small decision – when the chorus comes in, where to put the guitar solos, when to syncopate the beat, how to play the intro – in the blind faith that somewhere, hundreds of decisions down the line, a Beatles song worthy of the name will emerge.
A good song or album – or novel or painting – seems authoritative and inevitable, as if it just had to be that way, but it rarely feels like that to the people making it. Art involves a kind of conjuring trick in which the artist conceals her false starts, her procrastination, her self-doubts, her confusion, behind the finished article. The Beatles did so well at effacing their efforts that we are suspicious they actually had to make any, which is why the words “magic” and “genius” get used so much around them. A work of genius inspires awe in a lesser artist, but it’s not necessarily inspiring. In Get Back, we are allowed into The Beatles’ process. We see the mess; we live the boredom. We watch them struggle, and somehow it doesn’t diminish the magic at all. In a sense, Paul has finally got his wish: Let It Be is not just an album anymore. Joined up with Get Back, it is an exploration of the artistic journey – that long and winding road. It is about how hard it is to create something from nothing, and why we do it, despite everything.
The Stones’s final public appearance with Watts was a filmed segment for the first we’re-all-in-this-together COVID broadcast in April 2020. Charlie played along on a spirited version of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, drumsticks in hand, using a trio of musical storage cases and a nearby couch for percussion. It was an effortless, funny and musically deft performance, and absolutely right for the occasion. Only the drummer in the world’s greatest rock band, it seemed, might not wish to keep a set of drums at home. Somehow that summed up the man.
Tyler McCarthy, at Fox News:
The quiet, elegantly dressed Watts was often ranked with Keith Moon, Ginger Baker and a handful of others as a premier rock drummer, respected worldwide for his muscular, swinging style as the band rose from its scruffy beginnings to international superstardom. He joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest lasting and most essential member.
Watts stayed on, and largely held himself apart, through the drug abuse, creative clashes and ego wars that helped kill founding member Brian Jones, drove bassist Bill Wyman and Jones’ replacement Mick Taylor to quit, and otherwise made being in the Stones the most exhausting of jobs. …
He had his eccentricities – Watts liked to collect cars even though he didn’t drive and would simply sit in them in his garage. But he was a steadying influence on stage and off as the Stones defied all expectations by rocking well into their 70s, decades longer than their old rivals the Beatles.
Watts didn’t care for flashy solos or attention of any kind, but with Wyman and Richards forged some of rock’s deepest grooves on “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar” and other songs. The drummer adapted well to everything from the disco of “Miss You” to the jazzy “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and the dreamy ballad “Moonlight Mile.”
Jagger and Richards at times seemed to agree on little else besides their admiration of Watts, both as a man and a musician. Richards called Watts “the key” and often joked that their affinity was so strong that on stage he’d sometimes try to rattle Watts by suddenly changing the beat – only to have Watts change it right back.
Jagger and Richards could only envy his indifference to stardom and relative contentment in his private life, when he was as happy tending to the horses on his estate in rural Devon, England, as he ever was on stage at a sold-out stadium. …
Charles Robert Watts, son of a lorry driver and a housewife, was born in Neasden, London, on June 2, 1941. From childhood, he was passionate about music – jazz in particular. He fell in love with the drums after hearing Chico Hamilton and taught himself to play by listening to records by Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and other jazz giants.
He worked for a London advertising firm after he attended Harrow Art College and played drums in his spare time. London was home to a blues and jazz revival in the early 1960s, with Jagger, Richards and Eric Clapton among the future superstars getting their start. Watts’ career took off after he played with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, for whom Jagger also performed, and was encouraged by Korner to join the Stones.
Watts wasn’t a rock music fan at first and remembered being guided by Richards and Brian Jones as he absorbed blues and rock records, notably the music of bluesman Jimmy Reed. He said the band could trace its roots to a brief period when he had lost his job and shared an apartment with Jagger and Richards because he could live there rent-free.
“Keith Richards taught me rock and roll,” Watts said. “We’d have nothing to do all day and we’d play these records over and over again. I learned to love Muddy Waters. Keith turned me on to how good Elvis Presley was, and I’d always hated Elvis up ’til then.”
Watts was the final man to join the Stones; the band had searched for months to find a permanent drummer and feared Watts was too accomplished for them. Richards would recall the band wanting him so badly to join that members cut down on expenses so they could afford to pay Watts a proper salary. Watts said he believed at first the band would be lucky to last a year.
“Every band I’d ever been in had lasted a week,” he said. “I always thought the Stones would last a week, then a fortnight, and then suddenly, it’s 30 years.”
Kindred-spirit blogger Gerard van der Leun has a regular nostalgic feature of posting “Boomer Anthems,” i.e. old Rock & Roll classics. This week, it was a real winner, with the Stones, circa 1964 and looking like high school kids, covering the Buddy Holly favorite on American TV. Brian Jones joking about Mick Jagger’s “ambivalence” is priceless and you marvel that the joke was actually broadcast back in that so much more innocent era.
Followed by the middle-aged and already pretty wrinkly Stones’ circa 1994-1995 Voodoo Lounge version.
And finally, topped off with the Austin City Limits 2014 cover by a host of famous names, including Jeff Bridges no less.
I was nine years old and in 4th Grade when the Buddy Holly original came out. This one seems a pretty appropriate protest choice as Gerard’s generation and mine finds itself well along in the process of fading away.
The Hu (a Mongolian Rock Band) musically contends (“Black Banner be awakened”) that Mongolian boys should stop eating popcorn, sleeping, and watching soccer, and get on out there, horde up, and sweep down on Europe, or China, or somebody.
“This song makes me proud to be Mongolian, which is weird because I’m Latino.”
“this is the mongolian rammstein.
Nobody understands a shit but everyone likes it”
“Imagine being Chinese in the 12th century and hearing this outside your village”
“My cat listened to this song, he’s now a mongolian warhorse”
This brilliantly-edited version of The Band’s 1968 classic has the song’s principal author Robbie Robertson accompanied by Ringo Starr and a load of talented performers from five continents.
Despite all the Goo-Goo Gobalism BS, Gerard van der Leun is right: turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy, this is a really terrific performance. The shit-eating grin on Robbie Robertson at the end is the perfect finish. Great job all around.
Damon Linker notes glumly that the final end of Rock& Roll and the Baby Boom generation is not that far away.
Rock music isn’t dead, but it’s barely hanging on.
This is true in at least two senses.
Though popular music sales in general have plummeted since their peak around the turn of the millennium, certain genres continue to generate commercial excitement: pop, rap, hip-hop, country. But rock â€” amplified and often distorted electric guitars, bass, drums, melodic if frequently abrasive lead vocals, with songs usually penned exclusively by the members of the band â€” barely registers on the charts. There are still important rock musicians making music in a range of styles â€” Canada’s Big Wreck excels at sophisticated progressive hard rock, for example, while the more subdued American band Dawes artfully expands on the soulful songwriting that thrived in California during the 1970s. But these groups often toil in relative obscurity, selling a few thousand records at a time, performing to modest-sized crowds in clubs and theaters.
But there’s another sense in which rock is very nearly dead: Just about every rock legend you can think of is going to die within the next decade or so.
Yes, we’ve lost some already. On top of the icons who died horribly young decades ago â€” Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, John Lennon â€” there’s the litany of legends felled by illness, drugs, and just plain old age in more recent years: George Harrison, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty.
Those losses have been painful. But it’s nothing compared with the tidal wave of obituaries to come. The grief and nostalgia will wash over us all. Yes, the Boomers left alive will take it hardest â€” these were their heroes and generational compatriots. But rock remained the biggest game in town through the 1990s, which implicates GenXers like myself, no less than plenty of millennials.
All of which means there’s going to be an awful lot of mourning going on.
Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).
A few of these legends might manage to live into their 90s, despite all the â€¦ wear and tear to which they’ve subjected their bodies over the decades. But most of them will not.
This will force us not only to endure their passing, but to confront our own mortality as well.
Henry Racette is not one of those swaddled, buckled-up-for-safety types, begging for the Government to take away his guns and drive his car for him.
Thereâ€™s talk â€“ silly, absurd talk â€“ of banning the private ownership of cars. Molon labe, baby! You can have my Yukon, my three-ton id, when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And you can forget the self-driving nonsense, too: up here where I live, you canâ€™t see the lines on the road four months out of the year on account of the blowing snow. Good luck dealing with that, Google.
Ayn Rand, in one of her two major works of fiction (Iâ€™m going to go with Atlas Shrugged, but someone correct me if Iâ€™m wrong â€“ itâ€™s been almost 40 years since I read it) has her heroine wax rhapsodic (as if thereâ€™s any other way to wax) about the act of smoking. Dagney (or possibly Dominique) marvels at the flame held in obeisance inches from her, the spark of destruction so casually lashed into service for the pleasure of mankind. Never having been a smoker, and coming of age as I did during the first great anti-smoking crusades of the â€™70s, I admit that the imagery was less compelling for me than it might have been for someone of my parentsâ€™ generation. But Dagneyâ€™s ruminations have remained with me, an oddly vivid example of our peculiar attraction to dangerous things â€“ and to mastering them.
I like guns. I didnâ€™t always: when I was a child, I was indifferent to them. Then I became a man, a lover of liberty, and an enthusiastic critic of the insipid and emasculating idea that safety comes first. Lots of things are ultimately more important than safety. Being able to credibly say â€œthus far, and no fartherâ€ is one of them; merely reaffirming that we have the right, the moral right and the legal right, to say that is another.
Safety is important, donâ€™t get me wrong. But of all the parameters that define the human experience, safety isnâ€™t the one we should seek to maximize. John Lennonâ€™s â€œImagine,â€ the most comprehensively evil song ever written, is an ode to safety above all else, the pathetic celebration of the apathy-induced coma. Iâ€™m glad Lennon never became a US citizen.
Living as an adult male â€“ as opposed to an androgynous, pajama-clad, cocoa-sipping man-child â€“ means spending years, decades even, standing precariously close to the edge of doing something stupid. (The life of a young man is a race between the rising arc of sensibility and the statistical certainty that, if weâ€™re only given enough time, weâ€™ll have our â€œhold my beerâ€ moment and, if weâ€™re lucky, the ER visit that goes with it.) That sometimes leads to tragedy, but most often to maturity, and thereâ€™s no path from baby to man that doesnâ€™t, at least occasionally, tread close to a dangerous edge.
The best things in life are dangerous: freedom, love, faith, women, sex. Children â€“ those raw nerves we thrust out into the world. Cars. Guns. Saying what you think.