Creedence Clearwater Revival “Tombstone Shadow” (1969)

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There are so many incredible things about Creedence Clearwater Revival. Let’s just start with this: Despite all the swampy iconography of the deep South portrayed in so many of their songs, the band was actually from northern California, near the San Francisco Bay area. Very few green rivers and riverboat queens up there, and they definitely were not born on the bayou. And then there’s this: In their history as a band they put out a total of 7 albums – all of which were certified Gold – in just 5 years! It’s not uncommon for bands nowadays to go 5 years between albums; In that time Creedence recorded 7 of the greatest albums in rock history. In 1969 alone they put out 3! And played at Woodstock! (because discord among the band resulted in their performance being left out of the film and soundtrack, many people fail to recall that CCR was actually one of the event’s headliners). Really, except for The Beatles I’d say they were the biggest rock band on earth for the brief period bridging the late ‘60’s to early ‘70’s. Then just as quickly, amidst growing conflict and controversy, they were done.

As the band broke up, it’s unmistakable leader, John Fogerty, found himself in massive legal entanglements, first with his fellow band mates (one of whom was his brother), then with his label, Fantasy Records, with whom he eventually settled by releasing the rights to all of CCR’s song catalog. As a result, he was once sued for his subsequent 1984 solo recording ‘The Old Man Down The Road’ which was, according to Fantasy label owner Saul Zaentz, a blatant re-write of Fogerty’s own Creedence hit ‘Run Through The Jungle.’ In other words, Fogerty was actually sued for plagiarizing himself! (a jury later ruled in his favor, dismissing the suit). I think it’s also important to note their cultural import, marked by widely revered Vietnam era protest songs such as ‘Fortunate Son’ and ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’, and the somewhat less identified fact that stolen Creedence tapes provide a small but pivotal plot line in The Big Lebowski, in which The Dude is also seen merrily banging the roof of his car jamming out to the CCR hit ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ before he burns his crotch with a joint and crashes into a dumpster. But perhaps most significantly, according to my friend Zing they are the only hugely successful rock band ever with absolutely no bad songs. None. And I totally agree.

Here’s a tune, ‘Tombstone Shadow’, that’s lesser known than so many of their classic rock staples but still contains all the fantastic and familiar Creedence elements, chiefly Fogerty’s unique growl of a voice and his stinging guitar playing. I love the way he holds out the second syllable of “shad-oooow” right from the opening line and then throughout the song; How he takes San Bernadino down to San Berdoo (he just excises two whole syllables); and how his twangy delivery in the 3rd verse can comfortably rhyme ‘pain’ with ‘machines’. And then of course there’s the guitar. I like to think of the song as starting with an intro solo, containing 3 long solos, and having a mini solo after every line. All with very distinct notes. In fact, 302 notes in all. Yup, I counted. Here’s my breakdown: 19/3/4/7/2/9/3/5/8/2/11/54/2/2/2/3/6/9/48*/3/7/5/6/4/3/6/10/2/11/46

Please feel free to check me, and enjoy every one.

*and that’s not including the doubled notes played during the middle solo


2 thoughts on “Creedence Clearwater Revival “Tombstone Shadow” (1969)

  1. Great insight into this incredible band. I love Tombstone Shadow and your reference to a mini solo after each line.

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