John Fogerty is back on Fantasy Records.
Most music fans would gloss over such a small detail, but for years that simple statement was about as realistic as Neil Armstrong flying back to the moon.
When the California-based record label was sold last year, it ended one of the most famously contentious artist-management relationships in music, freeing the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman to return to the company that distributed his most famous work.
Their first project together, “The Long Road Home: The Ultimate John Fogerty-Creedence Collection,” is a 25-song disc that pulls together his old band’s hits with Fogerty’s solo material, up to the anti-Iraq war song “Deja Vu (All Over Again).” (It’s being released Nov. 1.)
“There’s no way to overstate how cool this is,” said Fogerty.
In an almost impossibly productive period (1968-71) Creedence churned out concise, often socially conscious rock hits like “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Down on the Corner,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Green River.” That burst of work alone earned Creedence induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Fogerty wrote and sang them all.
Yet Fogerty, now 60, spent years without performing those songs because of bitterness over his feud with former Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz dating to Creedence’s messy breakup in the early 1970s.
Long feud comes to an endTheir bickering kept generations of lawyers fed. Fogerty spent years as a recluse, and his 1985 comeback album contained thinly disguised contempt in “Mr. Greed” and “Vanz Kant Danz” (renamed from “Zanz Can’t Dance” after, of course, a lawsuit).
Zaentz unsuccessfully sued Fogerty, claiming the songwriter had plagiarized himself because the comeback hit “The Old Man Down the Road” sounded too much like Creedence’s “Run Through the Jungle.”
The fight became heartbreakingly personal when Fogerty’s older brother Tom, also a former Creedence member, took Zaentz’s side. The brothers were estranged at Tom’s death in 1990.
The years of court time had taken such a toll that Adam Sweeting, a writer for The Guardian, wrote about Fogerty in 2000 that “it remains to be seen whether he will be remembered for his music or his lawsuits.”
That’s why seeing Fogerty’s name willingly associated with a Fantasy product is so startling.
After the Concord Music Group, partly owned by legendary TV producer Norman Lear, bought Fantasy, Fogerty asked for a meeting with the new leadership. He came away feeling they respected him and his music. It also didn’t hurt that Concord restored Fogerty’s rights to royalties, which he had signed away decades ago to escape Fantasy.
‘A very, very happy, wonderful time’They asked for Fogerty’s opinion on decisions about how his old music would be used, which had never happened since his split with Zaentz.
“It’s turned out to be, for me, a very, very happy, wonderful time in my life and career,” he said. “Even a year ago I could not have envisioned this. The most happy thing is that I am reconnected with the music I made on Fantasy Records all those years ago, that I had basically been cut off from financially and emotionally for a long, long time.”
He has also recorded a DVD that will be released sometime next year, and hopes to make new music for Fantasy soon after.
Most of Creedence’s biggest hits appear in their original form on “The Long Road Home,” but he replaces a handful of older songs with live versions recorded recently.
“Keep On Chooglin”’ was replaced because Fogerty feels it is a substantially different song now than when he wrote it. He went with the live version of “Fortunate Son” because it’s “a white-hot dose of energy,” he said.
The toughest call was the live version of “Hey Tonight,” which is primarily different because he did all the background vocals himself in the original version.
His current good feelings don’t extend to Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, Creedence’s other surviving members, whom Fogerty also sued for performing under the banner of Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
He compared them to a rattlesnake.
“They bit me very badly in the same way that the old folks at Fantasy did,” he said. “That hasn’t changed, so I will continue to give them a very wide berth.”