When Doug “Cosmo” Clifford and Stu Cook launched Creedence Clearwater Revisited a decade ago, they weren’t sure how long it would last — although it certainly caused a “Commotion.”
There was plenty of resistance to the move by the rhythm section of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Creedence Clearwater Revival to continue under a similar name. John Fogerty, the group’s estranged frontman, took them to court — and eventually lost. A booking agent at International Creative Management took out a trade magazine ad calling Revisited a fake and urging an industry boycott of the group; he had to apologize when ICM added the Revisited to its roster. Even some radio stations campaigned against the group.
But a decade later, Clifford, Cook and their bandmates are having the last laugh. Revisited is alive and well, playing Revival favorites such as “Born on the Bayou,” “Fortunate Son,” “Down on the Corner,” “Bad Moon Rising” and the wedding/bar mitzvah staple “Proud Mary” for an audience that clearly has an appetite to hear them — including 27,000 fans who saw the group play two shows last year at DTE Energy Music Theatre.
“I think it just comes down to the fact that it’s feel-good music,” says drummer Clifford, 61, who co-founded Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1959 — known then as the Blue Velvets — with Cook, Fogerty and his late brother Tom Fogerty, who died from tuberculosis in 1990. “Even though a lot of the messages in the songs are pretty serious, it’s still upbeat rock ’n’ roll and not sort of in-yourface commentary.
“And the music doesn’t sound like it’s from the period of the ’60s. It’s not real psychedelic and whatnot. You listen to certain bands from that era and you realize exactly what time frame they came from. Our music is a little more timeless.”
They’re still at odds
But while Clifford contends that the days of controversy are “far behind us,” Revisited and Fogerty remain at odds about who was responsible for that music and who has the right to play it.
Back in 1996, Fogerty was absent from the scene and bitter about how the band ended in the early ’70s. By contract, he did not own any of the songs he wrote for CCR, and he felt betrayed by his bandmates, who he felt sided against him in business dealings with Fantasy Records, the group’s label.
“After all the years of me trying to protect the integrity of my songs and the music of Creedence, they put me in an untenable situation. After that I didn’t have a leg to stand on,” says Fogerty, 61, who refused to perform with his former bandmates at CCR’s 1993 Hall of Fame induction.
He re-emerged in 1997 with the Grammywinning album “Blue Moon Swamp” and returned to the road, playing CCR songs, too — partly, he acknowledged, in an effort to reclaim them from the Revisited camp.
“The whole vision came out of my imagination; it didn’t some from some entity called Creedence Clearwater Revival,” says Fogerty, who was sued in 1986 by former Fantasy chief Saul Zaentz, who claimed that his solo hit “The Old Man Down the Road” plagiarized the CCR song “Run Through the Jungle” — which Fogerty also wrote. Fogerty ultimately won the case.
“The sound, the music, wasn’t really something that was a group effort or a collective effort. It was drawn from my influences. It was the John Fogerty gumbo, as it were.”
Cook, CCR’s bassist, bristles at that, noting that “John believes he was the band. Somewhere along the line, Fogerty hijacked the whole Creedence thing.”
Clifford, meanwhile, says that “there were never any premeditated acts to go ‘get’ him or anything like that.”
“It was basically that, for all his brilliant talent, he insisted on taking over the business, which was something that he was totally unqualified to do,” the drummer explains. “When we tried to suggest that somebody else do it who was a professional, he said we were turning on him.
“We were only trying to help. There was no mutiny. But we never did get a new artist contract as a result of that. He doesn’t own his songs to this day. It was a disaster.”
Moving forward, looking back
In a unique turn of events last year, Fogerty returned to Fantasy after the company was sold. The new owners made immediate overtures to pay him artist royalties that had been withheld and, he says, showed “a general respect for the music and my wishes as the guy that created it. They put their best foot forward in the first place without even asking anything from me, so it seemed like the logical place for me to settle again.”
Fogerty has released two titles with Fantasy, a compilation and a DVD both titled “The Long Road Home.” But he scotches any hopes that returning to the label will lead to a reconciliation with Cook and Clifford.
“Oh, I guess if I was playing in Sydney and they were playing in Stockholm, we could play together that way,” he says. “But, no. ... The guys did a couple of, let’s say, last straws that really kind of ruined it for all time.”
Clifford is sorry Fogerty feels that way.
“I was hoping that (returning to Fantasy) might help him get over the past,” he says, “but in terms of us, it sure hasn’t. I just hope that eventually he might take a really good look at what really happened, because carrying the negative for any reason is just not good for him, not to mention for anybody else.
“But for now, it’s business as usual.”
Clifford says that besides touring, Revisited, which has released one live album, “Recollection,” is looking into some other projects, including a DVD and maybe even some original material. But the heart of the band will always be playing the proven hits that keep holding up nearly 40 years after they were written and recorded.
“It’s amazing because we have three generations coming to the shows now,” Clifford says. “I look out and I can see very, very young people, teens and early 20s, and they know all the words just like the older people do.
“It’s really a treat, and going out now is something that is a totally different experience. We appreciate things more and realize there is no guarantee on tomorrow and we’re not going to live forever. So it’s really a privilege and an honor being out and able to work and have people appreciate it.”
Creedence Clearwater Revisited performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday (July 13th and 14th) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $34.50 pavilion, $10 lawn. Fogerty plays at DTE with Willie Nelso
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