I won’t hear any badmouthing of John Fogerty on my internet. John Fogerty is tops. If he’d drunk a bottle of poison after recording “Proud Mary,” we’d still remember him as a peer of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. But Fogerty left the cyanide on the shelf and led Creedence Clearwater Revival for an astonishing run of hit singles and albums, every last one of which (okay, maybe not Mardi Gras, but that leaves six LPs of quality) belongs in the collection of even the most half-assed, fair-weather, penny-pinching, Sunday-driving, miserable, mean, craven self-abnegating rock fan. I guarantee it!
So it is not to mock Fogerty that I draw your attention to a low point in his career, but to praise him. Behold: this lowly nth-generation bootleg of this ridiculous album, Hoodoo, which was to have been his second solo LP before he destroyed the tapes—even this sorry thing, with its stiff beats, gratuitous synths and friendly gestures toward the disco audience, is like unto one of Paul Bunyan’s labors compared with the bleats of today’s puny “Americana” people. It’s pretty good!
Hoodoo sure is weird, though. Since none of the surviving images of the cover are up to DM’s standards, let me tell you about it. Picture Fogerty’s name (in yellow) and the album title (in blood red) printed in the kind of Gothic script you’d expect to find on a Hellhammer LP. Below stands Fogerty, his sunburst-finish Fender slung over a black jacket embroidered with a crescent and a pentagram, his right hand raised in warning to point at some haint or zombie lurking just over your shoulder. And if you were there with him at the photo shoot, you’d be pointing at the exact same spot, because there’s a fucking knight in a full suit of armor over Fogerty’s right shoulder. The overall effect: you’re gazing into a magic mirror that reveals you to yourself as John Fogerty, trapped between worlds in the Pit of Souls.
In 1976, “You Got The Magic” b/w “Evil Thing,” the lone single from Hoodoo, “managed to escape,” in Fogerty’s words, before he and the label agreed to flush the album down history’s toilet. Here’s how it happened, according to last year’s Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music:
Joe Smith was now the head of Asylum, and just before my new album Hoodoo was to be released, he requested to meet with me in Los Angeles. Very gingerly, he said, “This isn’t very good, John. We’ll put it out if you want us to. We just kind of feel like it’s not up to your level.” You can’t be any more generous or diplomatic than the way Joe Smith handled it. That was hard for him to do. You have to be able to be brutally honest if you’re ever going to be worth a crap.
It was hard for me to hear it, too. Nobody likes to hear, “You stink!” But they didn’t really have to twist my arm too much. I kind of knew it in my heart. “On the Run” was one of the songs on Hoodoo. I could never quite get the words to make sense. Funny: about a week before I wrote this chapter I was still trying to write that song. People under duress will do stuff because of a deadline, let it go, call it finished when they really don’t think it’s finished. My head just wasn’t right. I was in a bad way. The one-man-band thing was really hard. And the stuff with [Fantasy Records owner] Saul [Zaentz] was eating me up. Those were the hardest times I ever went through up to that point.
Joe Smith was right, of course, and I knew it, so I went back home and instructed my engineer, Russ Gary, to destroy all the Hoodoo tapes. Some things in life it’s better not to get snagged by. It’s better to move on. I didn’t want to have this come out after I’d died in some plane crash. One of the things Joe said to me was, “Why don’t you go home and fix whatever it is that’s bothering you?”
More after the jump…