BY JOHN B. MOORE
When it comes to record companies screwing over the artists that make the music they profit from, the list is a long one. But from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, few deals were as blatantly lopsided as the one Creedence Clearwater Revival signed with Fantasy Records. Despite owning a slew of hits created by the band, and more specifically singer/guitarist John Fogerty, the label ended up suing the front man in the 1980s because a song, “The Old Man Down the Road,” on his Centerfield solo album, sounded too much like a song he wrote and sang on from his CCR days – so he was being sued for allegedly ripping off himself. (Go HERE to read about the fascinating legal wrangling that ensued between Fogerty and Fantasy.)
Over the past few decades, Fogerty has talked a little bit about his clashes with Fantasy chief Saul Zaentz, but he finally discusses the relationship and history in full detail in his memoir, Fortunate Son (published by Little, Brown & Company). The book feels almost like an exorcism of sorts for Fogerty, who also goes into great detail about his falling out with his bandmates, including his brother Tom, in the mid-‘70s, when all members wanted more say in the writing of songs.
“As I have been quoted as saying, the worst thing that happened to my band was the Beatles, because the guys in my band thought they could be the Beatles,” Fogerty writes. “Not only did the Beatles have three of the greatest songwriters ever, they had two great singers plus another pretty good singer – and actually a fourth guy with so much personality that it worked.”
He then asks the reader rhetorically if he feels like he was a tyrant in Creedence: “I don’t feel like I was.”
To the reader though, you can’t help but feel like he was at the very least pretty damn difficult to deal with (though it is easy to argue that the guy who wrote “Proud Mary,” “Run Through the Jungle” and “Long As I Can see the Light” deserves his fair share of ego). No one has yet disputed his assertion that he had to teach his CCR band members the various song arrangements on their instruments in the studio.
“Was I sure-handed, a perfectionist, even bullheaded about what I wanted? Yeah, you bet, sometimes. And sometime not… I didn’t sit there and berate or belittle someone in front of everybody else. That just wasn’t in my makeup.”
Along with finally telling his side to oft-discussed CCR music lore, Fogerty shares a number of interesting anecdotes and facts here, like his penchant for punk rock (he liked The Ramones and Bad Religion’s Sorrow is one of his favorite records). He also finally explains the genesis of the song Willie and the Poor Boys, which came to him on tour as he saw an ad in the paper for the “Winnie the Pooh Super-Pooh Package.”
“I just loved how that sounded, and I wanted to create a cartoonish Winnie-the-Pooh story in a song, with a mythical group.”
The book, a long time coming for many classic rock fans, is a solid read, though perhaps a bit too self-congratulatory. But hell, if you can’t tell the world how great you are in your own bio, who will?