Thursday, April 05, 2007

So I'm apparently a hippie!

... I'll occasionally indulge in some ego gratification by doing a Google search on my name and I stumbled across a blog by Henry Yu, a former MRR columnist. He was let go in '05 (which was ridiculous--he had a good column) and decided to analyze the various columns that were left, including yours truly's...

... quite humorous. I mean that--it made me chuckle. But I'll always defend liking CCR... no need to be defensive about it, actually.

Here's the column in question:

Having just wrapped up the review section for this column, I now have the radio on, tuned to the local sports station. I was all set to tear apart wackjob fundamentalist Pat Robertson for saying that Muslims shouldn’t be judges and for his sickening comments on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” where he said, in essence, liberal judges were more of a threat to America than “a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.” Just the latest shocker in a long history of demagoguery from this fringe character who still gets a lot more mainstream media exposure than he should. His words speak volumes and it’s frightening that he still has any sort of following.

So that’s what I was planning on writing about but what more needs to be said, really? It gets exhausting and seems like screaming at a wall, to be honest. Robertson will be back on the chat shows and this episode will probably pass from the public consciousness until he says something else that’s equally crazy. Anyway, I’m half-listening to the radio and they had an ad for the upcoming John Fogerty/John Mellencamp concert at the corporate rock shed in the sticks--it used to be called Great Woods but is now named after a stereo chain. As with many of these “shed” venues, there are plenty of boomer-friendly acts playing there. The oldies or nostalgia circuit.

There’s a snippet of “Fortunate Son” that plays in the ad. It’s not the classic CCR version but a newer rendition by Fogerty. The grit and anger in his voice is long gone. It sounds tame. No intensity. It sounds as though he’s trying to summon the Fogerty of old but it’s not quite happening. But I’m sure it’ll be crowd-pleasing, anyway. I can see the middle-aged patrons (and, yes, I know I’m also middle-aged) in their hideous patterned shirts covering their paunches (have one of those too!) swaying and singing along, before getting in their SUVs with the yellow ribbons and heading back to their homes in the ‘burbs.


When that song came out in 1969, it sounded ferocious, especially to this 9 year old kid who had just started listening to the radio a lot more. It was a song I always looked forward to hearing. I didn’t get the record for a few more years—it was kind of a beat-up copy I got at a thrift store but it remains in my collection. That sturdy bass-line, steady drum-beat, the spare guitar riff and then Fogerty’s gem of a voice. Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith called it “the voice of American rock and roll,” if memory serves me correctly. Snarly, angry, cantankerous. This wasn’t hippie pie-in-the-sky. Fogerty was from more of a working class background and this was song was about how people of his background got the short end of the stick. These were the kids getting sent off to fight that terrible conflict in Vietnam. “Fortunate Son” and the Bob Seger System’s “2+2=?” are my two favorite war-themed songs from back then. No flower-power, just pure rock ‘n roll. I didn’t know that much about the horrors of war at that age. A few years later, when I was 11 or 12, I became more aware of the horrors of what was going on over there and had fears that it’d still be going on when I turned 18 and I had a pretty good idea I wanted nothing to do with it.

Getting back to “Fortunate Son,” though, it’s been stripped of its meaning, hasn’t it? It’s not just that the new version sounds so weak. The original version was used in a commercial and I’m purposely forgetting the product but I think it was for jeans. You know, the clothing of choice for the counterculture. The commercial included the line “some folks are born made to wave the flag/ooh, they're red, white and blue” as there’s an image of a flag waving. Not so surprisingly, in this commercial, the next line of the song is omitted: “and when the band plays “Hail To The Chief,” oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord.” I know Fogerty probably had nothing to do with the placement of his song in this ad since he lost the rights to his back catalog years ago and, in fact, wouldn’t perform any Creedence songs for a long time. Still, if someone’s exposure to that song is only through the jeans commercial, they probably think it’s just a song about being a good flag-waving American. They don’t have the context. Something’s wrong about that. I could go off on a tirade about how a lot of songs I loved as a kid and teenager have been bastardized in this way but I don’t have the space.

So Fogerty and Mellencamp are on the nostalgia circuit. I just saw MDC play two nights in a row, with the original lineup—Dave Dictor, Mikey “Offender” Donaldson (one of the best bass players in hardcore), Ron Posner and even Al Schvitz. It was a bit loose at times but I’m not averse to a trip down memory lane and those songs still have meaning to me. They played well and they were playing DIY venues, touring around in a van and a trailer. No rock star trips. Doing it because they still want to, I imagine. It seems genuine and still heartfelt.

The songs on “Millions of Dead Cops” forever corrupted my thinking. At the shows, Dave talked about punk being a music for the freaks—I may not look like a freak on the outside, having never really gone in for punk fashion, except for wearing band shirts and some buttons on my jacket, but I always felt like one on the inside. A misfit. An outsider. “Business on Parade,” “America’s So Straight,” “Church and State” and “Born To Die” Those hit me goddamned fucking hard as I played a tape of the album while commuting to a much-despised job in 1982.

The thing is, unlike the probable audience for Fogerty/Mellencamp show, the audiences in Cambridge and Haverhill, Mass. were mostly made up of people who were born after the first MDC album came out. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere, but it was true around here. It made me wistful, in a way, because I wonder what happened to all those people I used to see in the 80s. There were a few older faces at both shows but it was a vast minority. In Cambridge, Dave put his arm around my shoulder and pointed out to the youthful gathering that I was probably the only person there who saw them in ’82. I’d guess that’s also true for their 1983 Rock Against Reagan show. But we’re both still here. I’ll leave it to others to decide if that’s cool or pathetic. I’m kind of happy about it, myself.

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