A PERFECT SONG?

I wrote about it three weeks ago. Actually I noted two, but I’ll save the Gershwin for next time. It has a pretty interesting story or two behind it too, as does the Creedence Clearwater Revival number, ”Run Through the Jungle.”

Deciding what song is “perfect” is, of course, completely subjective. It’s kind of a game I play with myself. But there have been so many moments when I am listening to a song I’ve heard dozens of times and then for some reason that time I’ve got different ears, I hear more, notice things, or hear it in its entirety, and my ears, brain and soul smile sweetly and do a happy dance, at this newfound relationship with an old friend. (Or sometimes, a new acquaintance.)

There are always unexpected and good benefits from these little games, or assignments. In this case, besides listening again, several times, to “Run Through the Jungle,” nice and loud and crisp in headphones, I let a few other CCR songs run by, and reached a new conclusion, with more certainty, than I previously had about their music.

CREEDENCE ROCKS LIKE MAYBE NOBODY ELSE

That’s not a news flash, except to the extent I have now drawn nigh to the CCR temple of worship. Everyone knows they were a great band, and that John Fogery was 95 percent of it — note perfect guitar player and arranger with a crystalline understanding of rock and roll; spare, emotive harmonica man; that astounding voice, straight out of the voodoo swamps of Berkeley; and one of the best songwriters on the planet.

Obviously he had an excellent band but second guitarist Tom Fogerty (his brother) and bassist Stu Cook were replaceable. Something I always understood, though, is that the very under recognized Doug Clifford was an absolutely perfect drummer. For that band. Not saying he was the best among all drummers. But CCR would not have been what they were without his instincts for every beat, fill and space.

CCR may well have another half a dozen songs I would consider “perfect,” if I gave them that intense scrutiny. They probably have the highest percentage of really good to great songs, and the fewest clunkers, of any band I can think of. But let’s look at “Run Through the Jungle,” from their fifth album,“Cosmo’s Factory” (with one of the worst covers ever).

Lyrics are certainly important. But I’ve always said, great words can rest well in a poem, a great song requires first and foremost great music. “RTTJ” has that from dramatic opening to fiery finish.

It opens with tortured instruments, underpinned but sharp, sustained and foreboding, actually guitars and piano recorded backwards. The guitar keeps a rhythm throughout, with the drums, that replicates the pace of the fastest you could run through a jungle, slogging for your life. Narration about the devil and 200M loaded guns (“Satan cries, ‘Take aim!’”) fits the music’s paranoia perfectly. Listen to the percussion — doesn’t need volume or speed to be in charge, but sets the mood perfectly. It ends with what sounds like rockets screaming in.

BUT NO, NOT NAM

The video of it I saw on youtube used Viet Nam war scenes. Really good editing, starting with some far-off lightning bolts that match the music. Many thought, because of the title, and lyrics, this was another CCR anti-war song vis-a-vis Viet Nam, because they did a few of those. (Fogerty never really wrote a love song for CCR.) Musically it feels like the turbulent chaos of war, especially at night. But as I listened anew and checked the lyrics I thought, wait a minute, this isn’t about Nam, this is about America. Then in 1970 and today.

Was I reading too much into it, 50 years after the fact? I found an interview by Fogerty from 2016: “The thing I wanted to talk about was gun control and the proliferation of guns… I remember reading around that time that there was one gun for every man, woman and child in America, which I found staggering. So somewhere in the song I said, ‘200 million guns are loaded.’ I just thought it was disturbing, that it was such a jungle for our citizens, just to walk around in, in our own country…”

If you update 200 million guns to now more than 435M, bingo. US population in 1970: just a shade over 200M. Now, 330M. So it’s worse, much worse now. More guns have gone into private hands since 1991 than existed when Fogerty wrote the song. Nearly 50 percent of all American households have a gun in residence, making America by far the most heavily armed civilian population in the world.

Our innocents are being brutally gunned down every week, it’s insane, and John Fogerty tried to warn us half a century ago. The jungle is only thicker and darker.

NICOLE RECOMMENDS:

TAKE A WALK WITH ELLEN REID’S “SOUNDWALK” — As someone who loves to go for walks, and has done exponentially more of that this past year, I was very excited to learn about Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Ellen Reid’s latest project SOUNDWALK, presented by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance (CAP UCLA) and featuring performances by the Kronos Quartet.

SOUNDWALK is a GPS-enabled work of interactive art, tailor-made for walking around trails at Griffith Park (though the project has since expanded to include other locations). Once you have downloaded the free SOUNDWALK app on your phone and downloaded the Griffith Park interactive walk, you will begin to hear music that changes based on your location within the park.

“The project is meant to be a peaceful contemplation,” says Reid. “It’s meant to connect you to nature, it’s meant to connect you to yourself through moving, and get you off your screen.”

I must have walked for at least a couple of hours, and deeply appreciated the calming effect it had on me, allowing me to be present in a new way. There are a few Easter eggs you can find, which I will leave for you to discover on your own, but the great thing about this project is that there is no wrong way to use it. Whether it’s for 10 minutes or several hours or over multiple days, SOUNDWALK will be a special accompaniment to your journey.

For more detailed instructions on how to download and use the app, visit: https://www.ellenreidsoundwalk.com/faq

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com