Willy and the Poor Boys: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fantasy Records, 1969.
One of rock and roll's great forgotten albums,1 Willy and the Poor Boys is possibly CCR's greatest album. Not unlike the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of two years before, this album is done in a persona not of the band itself--namely, of Willy and the Poor Boys, a group of four kids sitting on the corner of the courthouse, singing songs for spare change.
This album is sonically less dark than Green River, as it moves more into the blues/country vein, but also more political than previous albums: it addresses Vietnam with "Fortunate Son" and "Effigy." "Effigy" is interesting, as it combines blues with psychedelia, while expressing the nation's growing disatisfaction with the war:
I saw the fire spreadin' to
The palace door.
Weren't keepin' quiet
While "Fortunate Son" attacks the time-honored practice of sending working class and poor sons off to war while the rich kids get deferments or strings pulled for them by their powerful parents:
Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief",
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son
What makes these songs successful, though, was Fogerty's refusal to name names--he takes a situation, but broadens the issues until we see that these are universal problems not contained just to one war, or one government.
The album can best be understood as the culmination of John Fogerty's love for the South (though he was from San Francisco) and America in general. There are covers of old blues songs ("Midnight Special" "Cotton Fields"), a country jam ("Poorboy Shuffle") and a blues jam ("Side O' the Road"), and the inimitable "Down on the Corner"--a pretty joyous song that evokes sitting in the town square and listening to the local boys jam away on homemade instruments. It is a sort of mythical America, a world of Huck Finn and Jack Kerouac.
But the songs chosen also reflect the darkness of rural--and thus Southern (though believe me, I'm from PA, and we have a rather virulent form of racism here too)--America, and thus truly America itself. "Cotton Fields" evokes that most famous cash crop of the South, while "Midnight Special" is about black convicts on a chain gang; it's best known a Leadbelly song. In fact, Leadbelly's spirit is all over this album--evoking swamps and sharecropping, prison and release, anger at the rich and privileged. This is best seen in Fogerty's own composition, "Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me)":
Who will take the coal from the mines?
Who will take the salt from the earth?
Who'll take the promise that you don't have to keep?
Don't look now, it ain't you or me.
This song was later covered by the Minutemen, a band who actually were the spiritual heirs to CCR. It's on Double Nickles on the Dime, another brilliant ablum.
- Down on the Corner (Fogerty) - 2:47
- It Came Out of the Sky (Fogerty) - 2:56
- Cotton Fields (Leadbelly) - 2:54
- Poorboy Shuffle (Fogerty/Fogerty) - 2:27
- Feelin' Blue (Fogerty) - 5:05
- Fortunate Son (Fogerty) - 2:21
- Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me) (Fogerty) - 2:12
- The Midnight Special (Traditional) - 4:14
- Side O' the Road (Fogerty/Fogerty) - 3:26
- Effigy (Fogerty/Fogerty) - 6:31
1. To the noder
who softlinked people who don't know what the word "forgotten" means
--I call it "forgotten" because unlike albums like Revolver
or Sticky Fingers
or Dark Side of the Moon
or The Velvet Underground and Nico
, this isn't an album that many people talk about, but which had an impact at the time, and still can be listend to without sounding dated. Hense, it is forgotten.