Creedence Week No 3: Down on the Corner


Besides being a great track, “Down on the Corner” is the opener for Creedence’s fourth album “Willy and the Poorboys” and the cover was one of those which just made you want to buy it to have it for your own.

Creedence are standing out front of the Duck Dee Market singing in the street playing to a few random black kids in a scene redolent of the thirties depression. They are set up as a classic street ”jug” band with John Fogerty on harmonica, older brother Tom on guitar, and Stu Cook and Doug Clifford on gut bucket, and washboard respectively. In keeping with the ethos of their previous music, Fogerty is emphasising that he wants to go back to basics, deliberately parodying the concept of the Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely

Hearts Club Band”, producing an imaginary album made by an imaginary band: Willy and the Poorboys - but also making an artistic statement. He’s saying: “here we have no psychedelia, no drug references, no special production techniques, no double tracking, no tapes played backwards, no backing orchestra – just four musicians playing good ol’ rock and street music.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clJb4zx0o1o

This is about as happy and mellow as John Fogerty gets. One of the things that made Fogerty sound so incredibly genuine to a young Englishman like myself was his swampy vocal – I couldn’t understand a lot of what he was saying and often got it wrong, to great effect.

The last line of the chorus is

Willy and the Poorboys are playing

Bring a nickel, tap your feet

but I thought it was

Willy and the Poorboys are playing

bringing people happy feet.

Because that’s just what they are doing. Right from the opening syncopation on the symbols (I guess), and then the rest of the street drumset, bass and lead guitar picking that shuffling irresistible rhythm, your feet can’t keep still. And he’s right, it’s great music to unwind to, and where would you be most wound up? In court of course -

Early in the evenin' just about supper time,

over by the courthouse they're starting to unwind.

Four kids on the corner trying to bring you up.

Willy picks a tune out and he blows it on the harp.

I also thought

"Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo"

was

"Willy goes into a trance, the devil’s on the loose"

which went with the idea that these poor kids on the corner put on a terrific show. Which is the point: whatever the cares of the world, whoever you are rich or poor, a tune’s a tune, and good dancing and music is the best therapy.

You don't need a penny just to hang around,

but if you've got a nickel, won't you lay your money down?

Over on the corner there's a happy noise.

People come from all around to watch the magic boy.

The music is the message. I defy you to listen to this with the volume up without moving.

See what I mean?