The #1 Albums: “Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Detail from the cover of “Green River” (Fantasy Records)


And now, a list of songs:

  • “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone
  • “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe
  • “Love Theme From ‘Romeo & Juliet’” by Henry Mancini
  • “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies
  • “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross

That’s three very good records (Sly, Simon & Garfunkel, Diana), one that’s polarizing (“Sugar Sugar,” which I adore but others do not), and two that scarcely rate a footnote in pop history (Roe, Mancini). What they have in common is this: they are the singles that barred the way to #1 for five singles by Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” “Travelin’ Band”/”Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” in 1969 and 1970.

That Creedence never had a #1 single is one of rock’s most famous factoids. (In addition to all the #2s, they hit the top 10 four other times, and hit #11 once.) They did, however, manage to top the album chart. Green River hit #1 on October 4, 1969, and stayed there four weeks.

Released in August, Green River was CCR’s second release of the year, after the top-10 Bayou Country, which had come out in January. It’s a tighter album than Bayou Country and, as Allmusic.com notes, a darker one. “Bad Moon Rising,” jolly party anthem though it became, contains the line “hope you are quite prepared to die.” There’s the frantic “Commotion,” as well as “Tombstone Shadow” and “Sinister Purpose,” which are what you’d expect them to be based on their titles. And on “Lodi”—which may be one of the five greatest things CCR ever did, and for this band that’s really sayin’ something—the singer is trapped in a place he doesn’t want to be, with little hope for release. But even on “Bad Moon” and “Lodi,” the music behind the lyrics feels so good that it’s easy to miss the meaning of what John Fogerty is saying.

CCR would wait only three months before releasing Willy and the Poor Boys in November 1969. That year of work is Beatlesque in terms of quantity and quality over a short period of time. And they will be heard from again in this feature. So will the band for whom that adjective was coined, in our next installment.

Here’s “Tombstone Shadow,” live and blazing in 1970.