Never been more ready to play, today

One of the more moving musical performances for me during the pandemic has been John Fogerty singing and playing with his kids, with his wife apparently behind the camera, in our Tiny Desk Home Concerts series. He sounds great, and the kids play well. And they are all stuck at home, and his best wishes to the rest of us are most sincere. When he plays Centerfield, you’ve heard the song a million times, but you’ve never experience its yearning quite so much.

Always reviving

Loved this Tom Moon piece for NPR about CCR, my first favorite band. Discovering my dad’s copy of the Creedence Gold LP in the basement early in high school was pivotal. Then making Chronicle one of my first compact discs, then I may have written an essay about Green River for sophomore year English class. Anyway…

Lots of acts managed a long string of hits. Very few were able to thread that string into a coherent and sustained evocation the way Creedence Clearwater Revival did. The songs offered scenes of placid rural life far from the purview of most pop – peering into shadowy swamps and bayous populated with all manner of creatures, characters with deep flaws and big hearts. Fogerty told Musician magazine’s Paul Zollo in 1997 that his breakthrough in that regard came late at night, during a period when he was struggling with insomnia.

“I was probably delirious from lack of sleep. I remember that I thought it would be cool if these songs cross-referenced each other. Once I was doing that, I realized that I was kind of working on a mythical place.”

Out of that place came a series of deceptively simple songs that stand alongside the works of Mark Twain and William Faulkner – musical-literary inventions that conjure the idyllic waters and mists and wildness of a remote America, and in the process, reveal clues about the whole country’s soul.

The article came late this summer with the release – the first release ever (long story, but Moon summarizes it well) – of Creedence’s set at Woodstock. Some of the reviews out there say the band sounds more aggressive and live than they do on their previous live material, and I couldn’t agree more. The earlier sets show how tight CCR was as a band – they’re clearly live but sound so close to the album versions. Here at Woodstock, you can feel that talent but also hear live fire.

Three that have jumped out from the new poet laureate

I haven’t read a ton of Charles Wright, but here are three of his poems that struck me enough in the past for me to mention them here. I always get the sense he would be a great person with whom to sit in woods as night falls.

Bedtime Story.” First lines: “The generator hums like a distant ding an sich. / It’s early evening, and time, like the dog it is, / is hungry for food….”

Oxford Dictionary, or whatever that means online, definition: “(In Kant’s philosophy) a thing as it is in itself, not mediated through perception by the senses or conceptualization, and therefore unknowable.”

Littlefoot, 14.” First lines: “The great mouth of the west hangs open, / mountain incisors beginning to bite / Into the pink flesh of the sundown.”

Consolation and the Order of the World.” First lines, capturing life here recently: “There is a certain hubris, / or sense of invulnerability, / That sends us packing / Whenever our focus drops a stop, or the flash fails.”

Beignets, welcome to the neighborhood

Bayou Bakery has opened in my neighborhood, and I’m taking my first taste tonight. It’s a work-heavy night, so I’m just getting Louisiana lite to go. Turkey meatballs, deviled eggs, salad, beignets. I’m planning to go back soon and have a seat for the deeper cuts: gumbo, arm drip — a roast beef, gravy and debris sandwich, the boss says — and beers.

Early report: The turkey meatballs are the best I’ve had in some time, good taste balance without overloading the spicy. Deviled eggs, that’s where the spicy shows up, generous kick with generous deviled yolks. With salad, I just have a simple one, but you know I love croutons with character — not let down here. Beignets… baby, that’s why we’re here, right here, right now, in this moment. Hot and fresh and covering me in powdered sugar in a way that’s going to get me through this winter.

The Bayou opening is just soft so far, and the crew is still learning the registers and kitchen techniques. But everyone couldn’t be nicer, and the food comes up quicker than expected for this point in the start. The space is a mix of functional and chill. The lighting’s a little unbalanced, but whatever. I’m looking forward to getting back soon for a table.

A few years ago, if you’ll recall, I wanted a Krispy Kreme and a cereal joint to arrive next door. There was no luck on either, but Cereal Bowl opened in Cleveland Park. Was just there Saturday with friend Jessica, and a 20-minute drive isn’t too bad for crazy cereal mixes. The Krispy Kreme, well, I couldn’t help corporate America. Since then, I’ve been waiting for a neighborhood place to help me forget those dreams of deliciousness. The Peruvian-Asian spot didn’t do it. Camille’s didn’t do it. Sushi Rock’s proven a good distraction, but it hasn’t changed lives.

I have high hopes for Bayou Bakery. We need to chase some hoodoo.

Music as I crack open the work laptop… Obligatory, necessary, thanks to my Dad for keeping the Gold LP around the basement, Creedence:

I may be biased toward bayous just because of this song’s chooglin’.

94.7: But first let us be awesome before radio death

A DCRTV commenter caught onto this as well, but 94.7 sounded great tonight on the drive home, best I’ve heard it since the day the Globe launched. Did someone give Cerphe permission to play whatever he wanted with the clock running out? It’s too bad the station’s website is gone because I didn’t know half the stuff. The playlist seemed back to more conservative choices by later in the evening, but the run was good while it lasted. (Can the PPM track blocks like that one? Could it have made a little bit of a case for or against that kind of looseness?)

Best discovery in the bunch: Eagles, Those Shoes. I’ve somehow never heard this song on the radio or anywhere else until tonight. “Got those pretty little straps around your ankles / Got those shiny little chains around your heart…” Unfortunately, you can’t find a full, free, original version on the Web. No YouTube, no Google Videos, no iMeem, no, no Don Henley, thanks so much. You still got my dollar on iTunes, but you continue to live up to your Don Henley-ness.

Second best moment: Hearing the CCR Live in Europe version of Hey Tonight. I would’ve driven off the Tysons road if not for a cute blonde driving an SUV in the next lane. You could probably count on one hand the number of times that cut has played on D.C. radio in my lifetime.

15 albums

Jeremy gave the following preamble on Facebook, and I liked it: “I dutifully ignore most of these Facebook lists, in which you get tagged in someone else’s and are therefore obligated to make your own, but this one sounded kinda fun. So the challenge is to list 15 albums that changed your life, most impacted you or whatever …  I’m limiting mine to officially released material only because otherwise this would be a list of 15 Bruce Springsteen recordings unavailable in stores.” My list:

1. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
2. Darkness of the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen
3. Kids in Philly, Marah
4. A Legendary Performer Vol. 2, Elvis Presley
5. Gold, CCR
6. Tunnel of Love, Bruce Springsteen
7. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco
8. Summerteeth, Wilco
9. Pneumonia, Whiskeytown
10. Get Lifted, John Legend
11. Greatest Hits, John Denver
12. Joshua Tree, U2
13. My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello
14. Pet Sounds, Beach Boys
15. West Side Story soundtrack

If you want to fight, each one is easily explainable, and I know karate.

Most difficult cuts: Demolition, The River (but you know The River is fine without you), James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits, Chronicle, The ’59 Sound (I’m guessing it’ll stick), Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall, Let’s Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later on Tonight.

Ain’t no valley low, but still pretty low

Some musical revisionism is unforgiveable. The best example is Wrangler’s selective use of CCR’s Fortunate Son for a jeans commercial. “Some folks are born made to wave the flag / Ooo they’re red, white and blue,” the ad began. But what came next in the song didn’t make the ad: “And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’ / Ooo, they point the cannon at you.” Talk about missing the point for the sake of sales.

But when it comes to respecting American music tradition, the line is easier to draw with rock and roll than pop music. One song has me wondering if pop has a line and, if so, where. What does Ain’t No Mountain High Enough mean to you?

We’re talking the Diana Ross or Marvin and Tammi versions here. Warm thunderstorm or rainbow drenching love, respectively, and both amazing.

So it makes me uncomfortable when Coors gives us a rap-rock version in their latest commercial. The rapping seems courtesy the Fat Boyz, and the rocking done by young men who would trade their girlfriends for, well, Coors. And maybe that’s the point, but Joe Frat’s six-pack is a long way from Motown.

The connection is clear: “Ain’t No Mountain” is all about mountains and so are Coors commercials. But so clearly springing from the mind of an aging boomer, to aim the ad so young seems bizarre. It’s a good thing MCI aims older in their current use of the very … same … song.

The phone giant has former Doobie Michael McDonald takin’ it to the streets, so to speak, with similarly uncomfortable results. “If you need me, call me,” he reminds us. Singing the track off his new album of Motown covers, he shows how bad a place Nirvana made the world for blue-eyed soul. The commercial isn’t as jarring as Coors’, but it sure makes you wonder what stubborn saint is holding the rights to the song’s hit versions.

Returning to the original question, I don’t know how I feel about all this cover commercialism. The companies aren’t perverting the classics themselves, but they’re messing with memories — first cousins to pop culture classics. Does that matter? I think Coors and MCI are committing crimes below Wranger-level. The respect seems there this time, but the creativity is nowhere to be found.

One for the money

I’d like to give a shout out to cousin Anderson. Last week most television anchors bantered mindlessly about the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death. Smiling anchor one: What’s your favorite Elvis song? Smiling anchor two: Ha, ha, that’s funny, I really don’t know.

But cousin Anderson — CNN anchor Anderson Cooper (not really a cousin) — gets my great respect for his work on the subject. Working the early morning hours last Friday, Anderson did the King proud. Live on air, he practiced his Elvis sneer. Behind him, he had an Elvis impersonator walk around the newsroom. To close, he let the guy sing a few tunes, including the terrific “Love Me.”

This kind of effort… I can appreciate.

It all began in fifth grade. The theme for the Blessed Sacrament School musical that year was rock and roll. The musical wasn’t an actual musical; each grade sang a song based around a theme. Long story short, my grade ended up with “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Not really knowing who this Elvis character was, I went with my mom after school to Mazza Gallerie and stopped at the record store. We searched through the Elvis cassette tapes until we found one with “Blue Suede Shoes” on the tracklist. The tape was Elvis: A Legendary Performer, Volume 2. I popped it in my tape player when I got home, and it was something. I had walked unfamilar to the ways of rock and roll for so long, but Elvis on a tinny kids’ tape player changed my life that day. When my mom went out to run an errand, I turned it up loud and danced on the living room couch.

It snowballed from there. I slicked my hair back for the musical and painted black sideburns down to the bottom of my ears. I worked up an Elvis impersonation, which impressed the relatives. For a Christmas, I got a set of Elvis stamps from the island nation of St. Vincent. (They passed my name on to Graceland, who continues to mail me offers on Elvis-themed credit cards.) For the same Christmas, I got the USPS Elvis stamp bath towel. (I voted repeatedly for Young Elvis in the competition.) These years are cloudy for me now, but I know there was a “Why Elvis is a good role model” school essay involved too.

Ridiculous? Yes. But fun. One year I was the King for Halloween, and I raked in the candy. The next year I was “Elvis Goes to the Supermarket,” dressed the same but carrying a grocery bag with a Cheerios box inside. Sure, creativity was down, but enthusiasm and candy-collection totals remained high.

In high school, Elvis faded for me a bit. I found my dad’s LP of CCR’s Gold and got into them. Then Springsteen showed up on my radar, and my rock and roll trifecta was complete.

But last week. Last week was pretty cool, and I’m understating here. Elvis on the television, Elvis on the radio, Elvis in the food. It threw me back to fifth grade, to the time when music got me all shook up and kept me that way.

Ridiculous? Yes. But have you heard the news? There’s good rockin’ tonight. And I thank Elvis for that.