September 23, 2018
Todd: Ahem. Okay, here's a joke: What's the last thing a drummer says in a band? [dorky voice] "Hey guys, why don't we try one of my songs?"
Audio for Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Fortunate Son" plays over live performance
Todd (VO): If there's any rock band in history you can fairly claim to be called "timeless", it's Creedence Clearwater Revival. Their songs really do sound like they've always existed.
Live performance of "Proud Mary"
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Rollin', rollin'
Todd (VO): In fact, that's what made them so popular. Even during the upheaval and chaos of the '60s, Creedence was the band for everybody, even if you were a hippie or a redneck. [clip of live performance of "Bad Moon Rising"] And because of their timelessness and down-to-earth image, it's hard to think of them as any kind of pop idols, but they were extremely popular. When the Beatles broke up in 1970, that left Creedence as probably the biggest band in the world. Todd: And their music was so good!
Clip of "Born on the Bayou"
Todd (VO): There are only a handful of bands with as many classic tracks as CCR. And the amazing thing is that they did it in just two and a half years.
Todd: Just two and a half!
Todd (VO): Even a lot of the greats were around for, like, fifteen before they accomplished that much. [quick shots of covers for...] But the six albums Creedence made between 1968 and 1970 were all smash successes and produced some of the greatest songs in rock history.
Todd: But we're not here today to talk about those six albums. We're gonna talk about the seventh.
Clip of live performance of "I Put a Spell on You"
Todd (VO): In 1970, Creedence may have been the biggest band in the world now that the Beatles were gone, but Creedence were secretly in the same position as the Beatles, completely dysfunctional and on the verge of total collapse. Todd: But they kept soldierin' on. They [single cover for "Keep On Chooglin'"] kept on chooglin'. And how did they keep going? Well, imagine it like this.
Footage of The Beatles performing "Don't Let Me Down" on rooftop
Todd (VO): What if the Beatles had not broken up and instead had chosen to record one more album. And they decided that the only way they could keep the band together and make it happen is if they made [image of frowning...] Ringo do all the work. And Ringo doesn't get a choice. [clip of "Sweet Hitch Hiker"] That's pretty close to what CCR did. The majority of the album was given to its least talented members, and the result was 1972's Mardi Gras, a completely predictable disaster. Rolling Stone called it the worst album they'd ever heard from a major band. CCR itself would only last a few more months before breaking up. Todd: But was it really that bad? Let's find out. This is Trainwreckords.
Trainwreckords intro, followed by album cover for Mardi Gras
Todd: Okay, I want to be clear: The drummer did not write all the songs on CCR's last album.
Footage of CCR backstage; "Down On The Corner" plays in the background
Todd (VO): The plan was to have all the members do an equal share of the work, so... Todd: ...it's not as bad as the Ringo analogy I said earlier. But in a way...
Clip of The Beatles - "Act Naturally"
Todd (VO): ...it's also much worse than the Ringo idea, 'cause people liked Ringo. Ringo had a personality, people knew who he was. [CCR backstage footage continues] People didn't have a clue who the other guys in the band were. Todd: They barely knew the main guy in the band!
Clip of '60s interview with John Fogerty...
Todd (VO): Like, what's his name? I got a young viewership, so a giant chunk of you don't even know. And before those of you who... Todd: ...do know jump down the young'un's throats, let me ask you: Who are the other guys in the band?
...and Stu Cook
Todd (VO): Who's this guy? What instrument does he play? 95% of you failed that question. Probably more. Todd: Like, I'm a classic rock guy myself, and I knew so little about them that [holds up book in each hand] I had to go, like, buy books and read them and shit. Ugh.
Clip of another live performance
Todd (VO): But here's what you need to know. Before 1971, Creedence had one singer and one songwriter. That's John Fogerty. He wrote and sang all the songs; he also played lead guitar; did most of his own backup singing, he produced, he was their business manager, he controlled literally everything. [footage of other band members...] The other three are John's brother, Tom on rhythm guitar, Stu Cook on bass, and Doug Clifford on drums.
Todd: And unless you were a superfan, you wouldn't know [image of band featuring Tom, Doug, and Stu] any of those three guys.
Todd (VO): Like, one of the odd things about Creedence was that they were the biggest rock band in America, but they weren't rock stars. They wore flannel shirts and kept out of the news. Reporters would show up to interview them and not even know which one was John Fogerty. And if the lead singer's not getting any attention, you can imagine how little the fucking bass player gets.
Clip of Stu Cook riding in a limo with the band
Stu Cook: Someone said to me..."Should I get his or not? Is he just here to see them, or is he one of them?"
Someone in the band laughs offscreen
So...I guess the rest of the band started getting butthurt about it, and...
Todd: ...that's where the trouble starts.
Todd (VO): I can't tell you exactly what happened next. The details are hazy because the band members all hated each other and still do to this day, so there's a real Rashomon thing going on. I've done a few reviews of bands in meltdown mode, but...
Todd: ...those at least seemed like an honest clash of personalities. In this case...
Clip of VH1: Behind the Music interview with CCR
Todd (VO): ...one of the two sides is absolutely lying. Or maybe they're both lying, but they're not both telling the truth.
Todd: But here's my closest understanding of what went down.
Todd (VO): At some point in 1970, the other three guys called together a "big group meeting" [clip of Jersey Shore with caption: RE-ENACTMENT] where Tom and Doug and Stu met with Fogerty and demanded more power and more creative control. More contributions.
John Fogerty: You know, "I want to sing! I want to write songs! I wanna...play more, or something. My-my thing should be louder on the record."
Todd: John Fogerty calls it, "The Night of the Generals." [still shot of miitary sergeant shouting] He means that all the soldiers in their little unit wanted to be in charge. It's also a reference to a movie about [movie poster for The Night of The Generals] Nazi generals at the end of the war, when everything's falling apart, so...uh, yeah, that should tell you what John thought of the rest of the band.
Clip of Downfall with subtitles
Adolf Hitler: I want more bass solos on the albums!
Another clip of VH1: Behind the Music
John: They had to hear John give up the reigns. We will now be a democracy. Four guys, four votes.
Todd (VO): A short time later, Tom quit the band anyway, so now they were just three. Some time after that, John Fogerty came up with the idea to split the work equally. Write your own songs, sing them, even produce them yourself. Todd: Here's what Doug and Stu say John told them at the time. [image of John Fogerty looking...] "Guys, I'm burnt as hell. I'm tired. You're gonna have to step in and help me out." Here's how they describe it now. [shaking image of John performing] "FINE! YOU WANT MORE INPUT? WHY DON'T YOU WRITE THE SONGS?!" And here's how Fogerty describes them. [brief clip of Looney Tunes] "Wahhhhhh! Wahhh! I wanna write songs! Wahhhhhh!" I don't know what the real story is.
Clip of VH1: Behind the Music; "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" plays in the background
Todd (VO): Fogerty says he was trying to make everyone happy; Doug and Stu say it was an ultimatum.
Stu: He told each of us to write and sing a third of the album, or he was gonna quit.
Whatever they originally demanded, I get the feeling Doug and Stu did not think they'd be expected to carry such a heavy load so quickly.
Todd: But also, that they convinced themselves that it was doable. I mean...
Todd (VO): ...they're on all those songs, too. They're part of the band, they're just as good.
Todd: It's gonna work out!
Todd (VO): They went into the studio in 1971 to pump out yet another hit. As they did, CCR was a damn hit factory; no reason to stop now. And Fogerty wrote them their next single. [single cover for...] That single is "Sweet Hitch Hiker".
Video for "Sweet Hitch Hiker" starts
Oh yeah, this one's a barn-burner. It's a song about finding some hot mama hitchhiking on the side of the road, and uh...[pause] yeah it's got some power behind it. CCR were a laid-back band but... Todd: ...when they wanted, they could absolutely tear it up.
John: Saw a slight distraction standin' by the road
Todd (VO): That's what they're doing here. Todd: Yeah. Yeah, they're killing it.
John: Sweet hitch-a-hiker
We could make music at the Greasy King
Won't you ride on my fast machine?
Todd: [beat] Yeah, this song is crap.
John: Sweet hitch-a-hiker
Todd (VO): I actually had a really strong negative reaction to this. I did not like this at all. Todd: I don't wanna hear CCR sing about chicks, man.
Video for Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?"
Todd (VO): Creedence was a soulful band about serious things, about hard living and tough times, growing up at the bottom, life on the road. Todd: They didn't write meathead songs about girls. And I know what you're thinking: "What about 'Long, Cool Woman In A Black Dress'?"
Clip of The Hollies - "Long, Cool Woman In A Black Dress"
Allan Clarke: She was a long cool woman in a black dress
Todd (VO): That song's pretty good, right? Yeah, well, that's not actually them. That's The Hollies. In the early 70's, Creedence wasn't even the best version of Creedence anymore. Todd: But, I digress.
Clip of "Sweet Hitch Hiker"
John: Cruisin' on through the junction
Todd (VO): But, yeah, this is bad. What it mostly reminds me of is that there were a lot of guys that became hippies who...weren't actually rebelling against anything; they just [image of hippie giving the peace sign] wanted grass 'n' ass. Todd: So here, we got this dude-bro fantasy about picking up some random hot chick, and she sucks your dick.
Clip of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Hitchhiker (George Carlin): The unwritten book of the road.
Cut to hitchhiker giving truck driver road head and driving off
Todd (VO): Yeah, like that...ish. Todd: It just doesn't sound Creedence. It [image of Grand Funk concert poster] sounds like all the shitty, boogie-blues, butt-rock that came after them.
Clip of "Sweet Hitch Hiker"
Todd (VO): W-where the hell did this come from? Well, I'll tell you this: It made more sense when I found out that...
Todd: ...Fogerty was going through a divorce at the time.
Todd (VO): Y'know, you've been a married man a long time. Now he's famous and he's a free man. Probably feeling himself. Single, ready to mingle. Ready to score some action.
Todd: Yeah, he was only 26 at the time, but if you imagine him in a bar in a [image of guys wearing...] middle-age sport coat and a balding ponytail, the song makes a lot more sense.
John: Do you want to, she was thinkin' can it last
Todd (VO): For the record, Fogerty does not get his dick sucked in this song. He's so busy drooling, he crashes into a ditch and the hot chick blows by him laughing. So... Todd: ...y'know, see, it-it's funny. It's okay...I guess. I don't know, I can't make out a word he's singing anyway.
John: Could make music at the Greasy King (won't ya ?? my ?? ?????)
Todd: But the test of time says I'm right.
Todd (VO): Fogerty doesn't perform it anymore and no one ever plays it. Fogerty barely even mentions it in his book. Eh, whatever, it's not that bad. That bridge is pretty awesome. The band was still hot shit, so they went right into the Top 10 again.
Todd: But, whatever. The-the true test of this experiment was not gonna be Fogerty's songs. [single cover for "Sweet Hitch Hiker" and...] Let's check out the B-side, the first Creedence song not written by John. Stu, the bassist wrote this one. It's called "Door to Door."
Audio for "Door to Door" plays over live performance
Stu: Find me out a-walkin', time the whistle starts a-callin',
Maybe stoppin' early, knockin' at your door
Take so long to answer, lord knows it ain't the milkman
Could be stoppin' early, sellin' door to door
Todd: Well...this sounds like ass.
Todd (VO): And Stu can't sing at all. At least, I don't think he can, I can't tell behind all that reverb. Lyrically...
Todd: ...it's about...being a door-to-door salesman.
Clip of different performance of "Proud Mary"
Todd (VO): I guess that's not too different from life on a riverboat, so, uh, yeah, it's just like "Proud Mary." Todd: If "Proud Mary" was a joke song by a guy who can't sing.
Clip of "Door to Door"
Stu: Here's my latest sample; like to show you how to use it
First, you pull the curtain while I spread some here
This stuff'll get the stain out if you use it loosely wadded
This here'll take the pain out and won't mess your hair
Todd (VO): I think this was supposed to be an innuendo, and then he just forgot what he was doing.
Todd: Like, okay, I have to believe that Doug and Stu were telling the truth. They didn't want this. They never demanded it.
Todd (VO): Because if they demanded to write songs, and all they had was a novelty about selling stain remover...
Todd: [stutters] It rhymes "door" with "door!"
Todd (VO): In any case, the full album came out in 1972. And that alone was a big tell that...this didn't go well, because that was two years since their last album. CCR usually pumped out records every six months.
Clip of another interview with John Fogerty
John: I mean, every three months, there was a Creedence single.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.
John: But, uh...that was too professional. So we decided to wait twelve months.
Todd: But you know, they're trying out some new shit. Maybe that's to be expected. [album cover for...] It was called [Todd zooms in on album title] "Mardi Gras". 'Cause it's a party album! [image of Mardi Gras booze cruise] Y'know, Mardi Gras! Woo!
Todd (VO): Well, let's listen to the album proper. Let's kick this shit off.
Todd: I mean, Creedence albums always start with a bang. [brief montage clips of...] "Green River," "Ramble Tamble," "Down On The Corner," "Born On The Bayou." Always leading off strong, those albums. And here's the opener John wrote for this one, "Lookin' For A Reason."
Audio for "Lookin' For A Reason" plays over live footage
John: I'm lookin' for a reason to stay
Todd is speechless and clearly confused by what he's hearing
I'm all wound up and tied in knots today
Todd tries to dance along to the song
The morning comes, I'll be on my way
Todd: [uhh...] Woo?
Todd (VO): So, uh, it's uh...it's a country song. Interesting way to start. I guess Creedence was never far from country, but...they were still always a rock band. They had muscle, and...this is just kinda sickly and sad.
Todd: But I do notice that, um...yeah, this is extremely about the band breaking up.
John: I used to like it here, I can't remember why
Todd: Yeah, that's...yeah, that's not hard to figure out what's going on here.
Clip of "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?"
Todd (VO): Hey, true story, but their last big hit before the album, "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?". That was also about them breaking up.
John: Have you ever seen the rain
Comin' down on a sunny day?
See, the sunny day is all their success, and the rain is the band dysfunction that was tearing them apart. Todd: But I'd have never guessed. I mean, it's poetic, it's universal.
Video for "Lookin' For A Reason"
Todd (VO): I listen to this and, uhh...yeah, no song has ever been about just one thing more than this one. Todd: "Because I Got High" is more open to interpretation than this.
Clip of Afroman - "Because I Got High"
Afroman: 'Cause I got high
Because I got high
Because I got high
Todd: Maybe it's about being high on life.
Todd (VO): Anyway, second song, another one from Stu, "Take It Like A Friend."
Stu: Maybe you'd move over
Gave someone else a chance
Todd: [taken aback] Nope! Nope, nope, nope, big ol' nope.
Stu: Thought you had the honor
Clips of people getting buzzed on America's Got Talent and The Gong Show
Todd: Oh my God.
Todd (VO): I thought he was bad on the last one, but I had no idea.
Todd: Now I know why he needed all that reverb! In fact, can we slap some reverb on this one, too?
Snippet of Stu singing with reverb all the way up
Stu: Seemed so long when we began
Hope you take it like a friend
Todd: That's way better, Jesus Christ. [exhales] No, hold on, play it normally.
Stu: Maybe you'd move over
Gave someone else a chance
Forgot about the others
We moved out towards the light showin' empty hands
Todd: Yeah, Stu is just shit-talkin' John right to his face.
Stu: Seemed so long when we began
Hope you take it like a friend
Todd (VO): And surprise, John did not take it like a friend. He refused to help at all. He barely even played guitar on any of the other guys' songs.
Todd: Kind of a dick move, but...
Todd (VO): ...I wouldn't wanna help write a song about what an asshole I am, either. [clip of VH1 interview] And how can Stu claim now that John forced them to write songs, when he's clearly complaining that John should let them write songs?!
Clip of Doug Clifford performing "Tearin' Up The Country"
Doug Clifford: Playing a pavilion on the outskirts of town
Todd (VO): Doug, the drummer, has two songs after that. Todd: [pause] They're fine. They're okay.
Doug: Tearing up the country with a song
Tearing up the country with a song
Todd: Actually, they're probably less than mediocre, but having heard Stu's songs, I'm inclined to be generous.
Doug: I paid no attention, left my books at home
Rather play my music real loud
Todd: Doug, obviously, still isn't [clip of live performance of "Travelin' Band"] as good a singer as John. John could fuckin' holler.
Todd (VO): Doug is just soft, he sounds like your grandpa.
Todd: But at least he's better than Stu.
Audio for "Sail Away" plays over previous clip of Stu performing
Stu: Lock the door...
Todd (VO): By the way, Stu's third song in here's called, "Sail Away." It's about being a sailor. Mostly so he can shit-talk... Todd: [air quote]..."the captain."
Stu: The captain of the sea
Shoutin' orders to his crew
Todd: Guess who that is? [image of John with sailor hat covering his face; sarcastically] Who could he be talking about?
Todd (VO): Fitting that this is about sailors, 'cause Stu is incredibly salty. An album about your own band chaos seems like it should be more entertainingly messy, but...[live performance of Fleetwood Mac - "Go Your Own Way"] only Fleetwood Mac could pull that off because they had three songwriters. CCR had one.
Todd: Oh, and there's a cover song on here. Great, a cover! Now, no one has to write anything.
Live performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Suzie Q"
Todd (VO): And CCR were a great covers band. Some of their biggest hits were covers: "Suzie Q", "Midnight Special." This one's a cover of Ricky Nelson's "Hello, Mary Lou."
Clip of Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Hello, Mary Lou"
John: Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
Sweet Mary Lou, I'm so in love with you
I knew Mary Lou
Todd: [hangs his head] Okay, play-play them back-to-back.
Intercut clips of both versions of "Hello, Mary Lou"
Ricky Nelson: Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart
John: Sweet Mary Lou, I'm so in love with you
Ricky: I knew Mary Lou...
John: ...we'd never part
So, hello Mary Lou
Todd: It's the same fucking song. They've added nothing.
Video for "Someday Never Comes"
Todd (VO): There is one bright spot. At the end of Side A, there is one great goddamn song. Todd: "Someday Never Comes."
John: First thing I remember was asking papa, why
Todd (VO): It is so much better than the rest of the album, it's fuckin' ridiculous. Yeah, this one is about John's parents' divorce and John's useless deadbeat dad. Todd: Considering that he was going through his own divorce, you could see why it was on his mind.
John: And I'm here to tell you now, each and every mother's son
You better learn it fast, you better learn it young
'Cause someday never comes
Todd (VO): He ended up not getting divorced, for the record; he stayed with his wife another ten, fifteen years. And I think his own song convinced him. Todd: It's the standout track on the album by far.
John: Ooo someday never comes
Todd (VO): Mmmm, that's good stuff. Although, honestly, I would've maybe given it one more pass through before recording it. Todd: It does feel like maybe it's a little too fast, or the chorus should be louder.
Live performance of...
Todd (VO): It reminds me a lot of "Tuesday's Gone" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, which came out the year after, and...which I prefer honestly. It soars a lot higher.
Todd: I did wonder if that was just me being the nasty critic, you know, gotta find something to complain about. But for what it's worth, [another clip of VH1 interview] Fogerty says the same thing. He also wishes he'd spent a little more time on it. But he hated the other guys so much at that point, he just wanted to get it done.
Todd (VO): And just wanting to get it done is the entire impression that I get from this album. It took 'em four times as long as usual to get done, and it still only [shot of Wikipedia article for Mardi Gras with album length circled: 28:04] clocks in at under half an hour. I've had [image of...] sandwiches that took me longer to finish than this record!
Todd: By the '70s, bands were trying to give you your full money's worth on an LP. Twenty-eight minutes is a length that says that they just wanted to shit something out and call it a day.
Todd (VO): And one of the things that Creedence's critics used to give them shit for is being a singles band instead of an album band. You know...
Todd: ..."Oh, they just exist to get radio hits. They're basically [promo picture of...] Maroon 5."
Clip of CCR performing "Lookin' Out My Back Door"
Todd (VO): And people had that idea because Creedence made albums the way that Elvis or Chuck Berry would have in the '50s. You know, you record the singles, you let them become hits, and then you slap 'em on an LP. And then you'd fill out the rest with cover songs and a handful of deep cuts.
Todd: They weren't trying to make Sgt. Peppers, is what I'm saying.
Todd (VO): But that criticism only came from the real snobs. They were clearly wrong; those albums are extremely cohesive, they're not just a collection of songs.
Todd: But Mardi Gras absolutely is just a bunch of songs slapped together in random order.
Video for "Sweet Hitch Hiker"
Todd (VO): I mean, it ends with "Sweet Hitch Hiker"! That's not a closer, that's an opener! No one seems to have any interest or care in making this a real album.
Todd: But believe it or not, a lot of critics liked it.
Todd (VO): Plenty of big publications gave it decent reviews. Rolling Stone was the only one that really went in hard on it.
Todd: But Rolling Stone turned out to be absolutely right; this album blows.
Todd (VO): Doug and Stu say that John expected them to run before they could crawl and hung them out to dry, like he was trying to embarrass them. Rolling...
Todd: ...Stone called it [air quote] "Fogerty's Revenge."
Footage of CNN interview with John Fogerty
Todd (VO): Fogerty says he wasn't trying to hurt anyone, I don't believe him at all. In any...
Todd: ...case, he sure wasn't trying to make it work.
Todd (VO): I've listened to this album a bunch of times now and I still can't remember Doug's songs, and I remember Stu's songs for all the wrong reasons. It's a death rattle from a group of very unhappy people working against each other rather than together. Everyone in it comes off like an asshole. Doug and Stu say Fogerty's a tyrant, Fogerty says they're a couple of talentless ingrates.
Todd: I don't know who's right, but, you know what?
Clip of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band performing "Glory Days"
Todd (VO): Springsteen never has drama with his band because he is "The Boss." That's his name. Everyone knows who makes the decisions. CCR should've just named themselves, [image of CCR with caption...] "John Fogerty and the Creedences"... Todd: ...and it would've been clear who was in charge and none of this would've happened.
Clip of VH1: Behind the Music interview
Todd (VO): Creedence never reunited, except for Tom's wedding and their high school reunion. The hostility never subsided, and in fact, they're all still suing each other right now. What a waste. What a stupid idea this album was.
Todd: Hey, I've got an idea: Why don't I make my dog write my reviews from now on?
Todd speaks to Amy in his bedroom
Todd (VO): You're not pulling your weight, dog! Why do I have to do all the work? Give me a thousand words on the new Eminem album! This is what you wanted, right? I heard you beggin' at me! That was clearly what you meant!"
Video for "Sweet Hitch Hiker" ends
Ending music: Todd plays "Someday Never Comes" on piano
"Mardi Gras" is owned by Fantasy Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!