John Fogerty - The 1993 Rolling Stone Interview- PART THREE and FINAL
by Michael Goldberg
|Your brother left in January of 1971, reportedly
because he felt restricted in Creedence and wanted to write and sing. Was his departure to
record a solo album the beginning of the end?
No. I think the beginning of the end was almost before the beginning.
What do you mean?
There was a point at which we had done the first album. Everybody had listened to my advice. I don't think anybody thought too much about it. But in making the second album, Bayou Country, we had a real confrontation. Everybody wanted to sing, write, make up their own arrangements, whatever, right? This was after ten years of struggling. Now we had the spotlight. Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame. "Suzie Q" was as big as we'd ever seen. Of course, it really wasn't that big. I looked at it like a steppingstone. I said to the other guys, "If we blow it, the spotlight's going to move over there to the Eagles or somebody." I didn't want to go back to the carwash.
I basically said, "This band is going to make the best record it can make, and that means I'm going to do things the way I want to do 'em." That sounds very egotistical, but that's what happened, and the other three guys had to swallow and go, "Okay, yeah, that's what we'll do." For the next two years it worked great, and then at some point they didn't want to swallow and say, "That's nice," anymore.
The seeds were sown before the group really hit big?
It was a time bomb.
Why did you ultimately give in ?
Here I had sort of forced my will on them because I thought it was right. Well, in terms of success, it was right. In terms of human condition, I don't know. I just really got beat down. For one thing, I was not popular in my own band. There's an old war movie where the guy says, "When you put on the clothes of the general, you cannot be popular with your men." I gave in 'cause I got tired, and that's what they wanted. Even though I thought it was wrong.
How do you account for the lasting impact of Creedence?
I tried to make as many of the best type of rock & roll records as we could make. For me, a great rock & roll record must include these elements: First, foremost, it has a great title. No. 2, it has a great sound. No. 3, it should have a great song. In other words, something that really is valid and makes sense and, hopefully, you could sing without hearing the record. And No. 4, the best type of rock & roll record has a great guitar lick in it. I tried like crazy to come up with great guitar hooks to fashion a record around. I'm thinking of the kind of thing that began the song and defined the record. "Born on the Bayou," "Up Around the Bend," "Bad Moon Rising," even though it's just chords, there was a thing to it. "Centerfield." That hook, that guitar thing, is great. Another is "Green River."
I think that's why the stuff is so popular. It's easy to listen to, it's simple to play, it sounds real good in a simple setting. You don't need a lot of equipment. It becomes magical even if you're in a bar in Winnemucca, which, believe me, I have heard.
Even Sonic Youth named an album, 'Bad Moon Rising,' after one of your songs.
I'm aware of the group, but I didn't know about that album. Are they from Seattle? I've never heard them, but I really applaud young bands, like those from Seattle, who find something a little different, but it's full of that garage rock & roll thing, and it's just played to the hilt. That's a musical ingredient I have always valued. Sometimes I lose sight of it, but I'm happy to say I have a strong grip on it now. It's what has always made great rock & roll.
Do you keep up much with new music and new bands?
To a much lesser degree than while I was in Creedence. Part of that is just lack of time. But when I hear something good, I sure become a fan. I used to hate [Nirvana's] "Smells Like Teen Spirit" first couple of times I heard it. And you make fun of it and delight in squealing like the guy. But the changes, the chords, there's a method to that. It ends up being a riveting piece of music. The Nirvana record has the right spirit. I prefer that to a lot of the slick stuff that comes out with so much hype and gloss.
From 1972 when Creedence broke up, until 1987 you didn't perform any Creedence songs publicly, mostly because of problems with the band's old record company, but beginning in '87 you started performing the old hits again. How has that felt?
The boy, the child who wrote those songs and the artist who sang them is absolutely thrilled. I'm allowing myself to do that because those are the songs that are identified with me, and if people come to see me, it's really cheating them to not do them. I've had Duane Eddy and some other guys tell me, "John, when they come to see you, they don't want to see 'Your Cheatin' Heart'; they're looking for your songs, the songs you made famous." That's a truth you have to face.
How does your new album relate to the sound you created with Creedence?
The early Creedence stuff reflected my personality. I made a conscious effort to stop imitating other groups. That was my philosophy in '68. Well, I finally found that inner voice again. And I've been searching for that inner voice even through the experience of Centerfield. I knew I hadn't quite discovered that guy. I could see him through the shades. Now I just feel that I have that guy well in hand. This record reflects that person very strongly.
So it's going to be a real rock & roll record?
Yeah. Sure. I just think that musically and lyrically it reflects as close to the center as I can get, stripping away all the later influences and things that have happened. This record is much stronger than Centerfield. If you were going to bet your life on something, in the old days I would have bet my life on "Born on the Bayou" and "Proud Mary." And at this point this is what I would bet my life on.
Rolling Stone magazine