John Fogerty Celebrates Birthday, New Album in L.A.
John Fogerty performs at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
"When I don't know what to say, I just go directly into music," John Fogerty declared last night at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, ripping into the molten swamp rock of "Green River" as the classic rock icon celebrated his 68th birthday and the release of his new album, Wrote a Song for Everyone.
Fogerty spent nearly two hours onstage at the intimate venue, amid chandeliers and elegant red walls hung with blow-ups of Fogerty from his early days in Creedence Clearwater Revival. Wearing blue-and-white flannel and blue jeans, Fogerty unfurled CCR and solo hits one after another, beginning with "Fortunate Son," "Lookin' Out My Back Door," "Who'll Stop the Rain," "Born on the Bayou" and "Midnight Special."
He began "Keep On Chooglin'" with a blast of feedback, dancing the fingers of both hands along the frets of his guitar like a bayou Yngwie Malmsteen before blowing a heated harmonica solo. Joining him on guitars for "Lodi" were his sons Shane and Tyler Fogerty. None of the big names that populate Wrote A Song for Everyone, from Foo Fighters and Kid Rock to Miranda Lambert, were onstage with him last night, but Fogerty and his band were clearly energized by the celebration.
A new folk-rock tune from the album, "Mystic Highway," unfolded with a revivalist's vocal while the crowd clapped to the beat as if they'd been hearing it for years. When Fogerty's wife and young daughter brought out a birthday cake, he joked, "I'm almost there, man. I'm just about out of the awkward 60s."
Before the show, Fogerty sat up in the El Rey balcony and spoke with Rolling Stone about Wrote a Song for Everyone and revisiting the music that began his career.
What was the idea behind returning to songs from your early career on the new album?
One day my wife said, kind of out to the clouds, "Why don't you get a bunch of people you really like and sing your songs?" That was such a remarkable idea to me. Wow, I'll get to be with artists I really love, and we'll be in a studio together and we'll come up with arrangements. In other words, we'll make music.
The roaring first track of "Fortunate Son" with the Foo Fighters makes a strong statement.
We achieved on that track something that is the very highest level of rock & roll. It's really rare when you have a really great rockin' performance from the band on a really great, rockin' song, and it all comes together in one place. People like AC/DC have done this a lot. A song like "I Saw Her Standing There" by the Beatles or "Satisfaction" with the Stones, "Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce.
There's far more of the other stuff that's mid-tempo stuff that's not really rockin' hard – something like "Mystic Highway" or "Like a Rolling Stone." It's great, but the rarest of all is rock & roll that is out and out, balls-to-the-wall rocking, with a great performance by the band, great performance by the singers, and a great tune to do it to.
For any songs redone on the new album, were you unsatisfied with the original versions?
Some of these I think are better. "Someday Never Comes" I think is a lot better. Dawes is a great band. Some of that is my fault – I made some choices on the original, just how I sang. My singing is a little flat on the humming part. Ouch. Creedence had already broken up in one form, and I probably wasn't feeling real great in those times.