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A Fortunate Son Meets Rock Band: John Fogerty on Music Games and More

What would a '60s rock legend have to say about the music-game phenomenon? We finally had a chance to find out when we got on the phone with John Fogerty, mastermind of Creedence Clearwater Revival, turned notable solo artist (Creedence’s 1969 classic “Fortunate Son” appears in covered form on Rock Band). Fogerty was doing a roundtable phone conference to promote his current tour behind the new album, The Blue Ridge Rangers…Rides Again. After talk about the new album and his current state of mind (see attached story), Brett Milano jumped in with the music-game question, which prompted a thoughtful response from Fogerty. Here’s what he had to say…but unfortunately we didn’t record what happened just afterward. The next journalist came on for his turn and all he said was “Nope, I pass. That last guy just asked my question!"

 

Brett Milano: Hey, John, I'm a long-time fan. Good to see you today.

John Fogerty: Thank you. Nice to talk to you.

BM: I was wondering...you've moved a little bit into the world of music games and gaming. I work with the people at the Rock Band game and "Fortunate Son" - there's a version of that song in the game - and I wonder if you've had any experience with those games where you play pretend instruments in line with an original song and how you feel about that whole phenomena.

JF: Well it's an interesting area. How can I say [it]? I'm not "into" video games like my kids are. I think this new generation starting probably thirty years ago was born with an extra genome or something. They hit the ground running. First video games [were] in places like bowling alleys, and now they're just at home. I really don't spend any time doing that, although I've watched my kids play that sort of thing. They have a great time. I'm not sure I'd be any good at those things. [laughs] I think I'd be trying to play the real notes, you know? What I like about it - there is some stuff I really do like - it's exposing new people to that music. Put it this way, both of my kids, who are now eighteen and seventeen and play guitar, they have a band and they basically have formed themselves through the last six, seven years, loving classic rock. I didn't do that to them other than being who I am. They were certainly free to like whatever music was available. And I've watched people go through rap, and hip-hop and Britney and all the rest of it, but somehow they found themselves a few years ago with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. [laughs] And it wasn't really by me maneuvering anything. They began to ask me questions: "Hey Dad, do you know how to play this guitar lick right here?" - the intro to "Back in Black." I think part of that exposure has come from these video games, which I think they very heavily feature classic rock bands and songs. 'Course I also have my own opinion that, especially the '60s, early '70s was kind of the golden age of those bands, of rock and roll bands. People like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and perhaps myself, and Eric Clapton. The template for being a guitar god in a band was really laid down during that time. And that's really a lot of fun. I think that's what it feels [like] to young guys now.


Bonus Interview: The World According to John Fogerty

You don’t always expect a roundtable interview to be very revealing, but this one with rock legend John Fogerty proved to be an exception. He was online to discuss his new album, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again - the sequel to a country/rock covers album that he first did in 1972, just after Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up. And much of the talk hinged on the changes in his life since then - particularly how he’s made peace with the Creedence legacy (after coming through legal battles with his label and bandmates), how the new disc came about, his then-upcoming VH1 appearance, and how love changed his life. Thanks to Gary Graff, Paul Robicheau and the other journalists who participated.

Q: You began your solo career with the first Blue Ridge Rangers album. Why come back to it after more than three decades? 

A:  Last summer I was busy working on a DVD, and I was in post production of that and my wife suddenly suggested, “That Blue Ridge Rangers album, why don’t you do another one of those?” And that tickled me, I wasn’t even aware that she thought much about that album. I was happy that she thought that would be something I can do now, and I jumped in with both feet, that’s where the motivation came from. I knew that if I did another one I’d want to do it with real guys this time, instead of playing it all myself.

Q: You had the Revival album two years ago, now the new album and the DVD. It’s been a pretty busy time for you. 

A: You’re right, we’ve been very busy - that’s not the royal we, it’s my wife and I. And sometimes the kids and the band of musicians I work with. As you know I was so non-busy for such a long amount of time. They say it’s a blessing and a curse but I’d rather be real busy and complain about it. It comes from the fact that my wife Julie is so supportive and she has really blessed my life  - we are very close and very happy. It’s been a slow evolution but she is now my manager and she runs the show, the one I trust to come up with ideas. It’s fun to be making music, you might say I stored it up for a long time.

Q: You’re doing VH1’s "Live By Request" this week. How are you feeling about that?

A: I would say it’s pretty nerve wracking, especially in this modern world. In the old days when the red light went on, everything was live and you had to have it all together. Even the records people made in the old days, it wasn’t multi tracked. That’s what this show will be like and adding the additional thing that I have to turn around to the band and say “Okay, here we go!” I did it one time before and I remember getting very keyed up for it. That’s certainly what’s going to happen this time but once it’s over there’s certainly something very satisfying about it.

Q:  This seems to be a very energized part of your career. How does your state of mind compare to when you made the first Blue Ridge Rangers album in 1973?

A: I often have remembered the first Blue Ridge Rangers album in a couple of weird ways. Number one, I didn’t think anybody noticed it and I felt that it wasn’t very good. I have since had a lot of people talk very fondly about it to me, and I realized I just didn’t feel very good then, I wasn’t doing too well personally. On the new one, I am just lovin’ life. Since I met my wife Julie I am the happiest that I have ever been and I think the music really reflects that. The new Blue Ridge Rangers album is so full of joy and that is more important than the particular songs you certainly get a sense of fun. [In the '70s]  I felt like I was a prisoner… those were dark days. But I don’t really think about that anymore or reflect on it. It’s something I tell my wife now, “20 years of hell is worth one day of happiness with you.”

Q: So it seems like you're in a happier place now than you were after Creedence.

A: When I first started making music, when I grew up and very early adulthood it was all joyful - until some bad stuff happened connected to the music business. I don’t walk around with that baggage on my shoulder which I confess was there for a long time. When you get ripped off and you feel something was unfair, you may be whining a little bit. I tended to feel that something unjust had happened. I don’t have any of that rap going on anymore. The music is now pure and joyful and energized. When I tale a look at my life, my situation right now, I consider myself the luckiest man in the whole world. Certainly considering my brother Tom [rhythm guitarist in Creedence] who passed away in 1990 - we were at odds with each other at that time. A lot of water went under the bridge. I’ve totally forgiven him, that may sound pompous but if you know all the ins and outs…at least one guy in that situation has to make a start. We had a whole lifetime of growing together and it’s important that I feel close to him now. It’s unfortunate that we entered a bad phase but somewhere in the other side well run into each other and I’ll be glad to see him. 

To see how Fogerty plays his own music onstage, click here to see him rocking the title song from his new live DVD, Comin’ Down the Road: Live From the Royal Albert Hall.