Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pre-Creedence - The Golliwogs

The Golliwogs
Fantasy Records F-9474

When Saul Zaentz died earlier this year, my first thoughts were of John Fogerty.  I admire Zaentz's film productions and I love Fantasy Records' vast jazz library, which they put out in reasonably priced and nice quality re-issues many of which I have purchased.  However when it comes to Fogerty's bitter feud with Zaentz, I am completely on Fogerty's side.  I think Fantasy under Zaentz took advantage of Fogerty and treated him shabbily even by record company standards.  This album is a classic example of that.  All four members of Creedence Clearwater Revival were opposed to this release of their early recordings when they were known as the Golliwogs, but Fantasy ignored their wishes and released it anyway.  I have mixed feelings about this.  I sympathize with the band's embarrassment and feel that they should have control over what material gets released to the public, yet as a huge CCR fan I always wanted to hear this stuff and I have to admit that I'm pleased to have this record.  I do understand why the band would be embarrassed by these songs.  None of them are bad really, but most of them are derivative and sound nothing like CCR's mature recordings.  The album is comprised of the 7 Golliwogs singles running in order, which I like since you get to easily track the band's development.  The earliest single is "Don't Tell Me No Lies" backed with "Little Girl" which was released in late 1964.  Like all the singles except the final one, it was composed by John Fogerty and his brother Tom.  They share vocals on the A-side which is a punchy tune that sounds like a cross between the British Invasion and early sixties American pop like Jan and Dean.  Tom sings lead on the inane "Little Girl" which resembles the Beach Boys, in particular "Surfer Girl."  "Where You Been" and "You Came Walking" are from 1965.  Tom sings lead on both.  The former is a shameless retread of "Little Girl" with similar trite lyrics.  The B-side is a lot better.  It is another British Invasion inspired song with a surf-style guitar break.  "You Can't Be True" and "You Got Nothin' On Me" were also released in 1965.  The A-side features John on lead vocal and I think he is a big improvement over his brother whose vocals I find kind of sappy.  John is a grittier singer and this rhythm and blues style song is right in his wheelhouse.  The song is not particularly distinguished but the group is starting to sound a little like CCR.  The B-side is a rocking tune that is a duet with John and Tom and is obviously derived from Chuck Berry.  The band is still searching for their sound but this single is a big improvement.  "Brown Eyed Girl" and "You Better Be Careful" came out in 1966.  This is another step forward.  The A-side bares a suspicious resemblance to Link Wray's "Rumble" but it is still a fine song that would hold its own on a garage band compilation.  John's excellent vocal and the band's tight instrumental attack are suggestive of the CCR sound.  The riff-driven "You Better Be Careful" also has a classic garage band sound and although it sounds nothing like CCR, it is constructed a bit like the early CCR songs and shares their moodiness.  "Fight Fire" and "Fragile Child" also came out in 1966.  "Fight Fire" is another riff-driven garage band style tune with an instrumental break that sounds like it was inspired by Them's "Gloria."  The jangly guitar riff and the song construction of the folk-rock style B-side reminds me of "The Little Black Egg" by the Night Crawlers.  The Golliwogs third single of 1966 was "Walking on the Water" backed with "You Better Get It Before It Gets You."  The A-side is a weird, melodramatic song distinguished by a smoking distorted guitar solo.  The band re-recorded the song for the debut CCR album.  The B-side is a slow rhythm and blues type song that sounds like the Rolling Stones until the rave-up kicks in.  Here at the end of the song you can hear the embryonic sound of CCR.  That sound is full blown in the final Golliwogs single from 1967, "Porterville" backed by "Call It Pretending."  The songwriting on this final single was credited to the entire band.  "Porterville" actually appeared on the debut album by CCR the following year and this single was re-released under the CCR name in 1968.  "Porterville" is classic CCR highlighted by John Fogerty's tortured vocal, the band's powerful rhythmic drive and the song's swampy riff.  "Call It Pretending" on other hand sounds more like Motown than CCR which is probably why it didn't make it on to the debut album.  I know this record was only released because of record company greed and I'm sorry it caused the band unhappiness, but it was a remarkable journey from the Golliwogs to CCR and I am happy to have this vinyl history of it.  Recommended to fans of the Standells.

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