One of the energising aspects of supporting a large – many would say excessive – music collection involves those moments when something crops up on the turntable (or, whisper it, in the CD player) that provides an unexpected thrill.
It might be something from years past whose charms have faded from memory, leading to a mild shock of surprise at just how good this album was/is. Or perhaps it is a disc that slipped into the shelves without fanfare or particular notice and has sat there, patiently waiting through the years, for its moment of audio glory. Maybe a gift, received with slightly strained grace because what you really wanted at the time was something else… or the most direct path of all, a decision ‘I want to hear that record and I want it now!’ and you burst into spontaneous smiles because it hits the bullseye.
Any of these can produce the transitory but life affirming high we call ‘Buzz Of the Week’.
When this listening levitation occurs at a time when I’m able to jot down some responses, I’d like to share the buzz with you. Maybe you’ll check it out and get buzzed too. A trail of sound waves buzzing around the world; what a fine image.
Here is an initial Buzz Of The Week offering, one that slightly surprised me in the strength of the positive response.
First song opens with a drone – or is it a moan? – before a simple, mesmeric guitar figure starts up. Then the singer; warning, growling, instructing…
Now, when I was just a little boy
Standin’ to my Daddy’s knee
My Poppa said, “Son, don’t let the man get you
Do what he done to me”
‘Cause he’ll get you…
Let me tell you folks, you may have heard this song – the other side of the single from this album – as part of a greatest hits package or on ‘Gold FM’ radio but don’t be fooled. This record is the real deal: rampantly raw, swamp-driven and snakey, angry and exultant.
Take you a glass of water
Make it against the law
See how good the water tastes
When you can’t have any at all
There is moonshine whisky, there is illicit sex, there is the irresistible groove.
There is death in abundance.
For the graveyard, thirty boxes made of bone
For the graveyard, thirty boxes made of bone
Mister undertaker, take this coffin from my home
The lyrics are from the first three album cuts:
“Born on the Bayou”,
John Fogerty was serving his National Guard time in 1968 and playing guitar to stay sane. His band’s first album had done OK but John and his brother and the two other members of Creedence Clearwater Revival wanted more. What drew this San Franciscan longhair to the steamy mythology of the Mississippi? What images of the deep South dripped into the powerful, dark-shadowed current, leavened with anger and frustration and baked in the West Coast sun?
The ingredients are varied but of unimpeachable pedigree.
The base of this potent gumbo can be found in the haunted suffering of Howlin’ Wolf “Moaning at Midnight”, though this is not a blues record. Nor is it just suffering, it’s soul food. So add dollops of Booker T and the MGs, folding in the tight rhythms and the almighty groove. Some sanctified Pops Staples style guitar adds both zing and sigh. There’s a yearning, a reaching out towards… what? Heaven or hell? It’s the dilemma embedded in the life and music of Little Richard, another clear influence on Fogerty’s song-writing and directly honoured by the inclusion of “Good Golly Miss Molly” on Bayou Country.
I most love Fogerty when he is pissed off. While his spine-tingling pinnacle is “Fortunate Son” from Willy And The Poorboys, “Penthouse pauper” on this album is pretty damn good.
If I were a hacksaw, my blade would be razor sharp
And if I were a politician I could prove that money talk
You can find the tallest building
Lord, I’d have me a house at the top
… Oh, when you got nothin’, it’s all the same
Then there’s the single. It was massive everywhere then, and is still a staple of Hits-of-Yesteryear radio worldwide. But listen to this rollicking story of escape to a new, rich-hued river-life in its original album context and see if even the over-played “Proud Mary” doesn’t give you a thrill.
Finally, “Keep on chooglin’” takes us out with a loping, endless Creedence groove, rollin’ on like a mighty waterway.
Now I don’t know anything about the deep south, never seen the Mississippi, haven’t a clue how to conjugate the verb ‘to choogle’ and wouldn’t know a bayou if I was up to my armpits in it, but I was lifted up and carried along by this vivid postcard from a mythic past.
If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have no money
People on the river are happy to give
Bayou Country, released early in 1969, also continues to give. What a buzz.
Booker T & The MGs