Creedence Week No 4: Who'll Stop the Rain


In Cuban crimewriter Leonardo Padura’s novel “Havana Red” the lead character says of John Fogerty ‘s voice in Creedence Clearwater Revival:

“He sings…as if he were ….God.”

And this is the track by CCR that exemplifies it the most, and for my money, the best track they ever cut. Turn up the volume before it starts, so you can get the full impact of the opening chords:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIPan-rEQJA

The intro has something timeless, inevitable yet epic, about it that sends a shiver up my spine even before he starts singing, and then, in a voice that seems to call across the ages like a world-weary old testament prophet from out in the wilderness, John Fogerty utters the words:

“Long as I remember the rain been coming down,”

and right away you know he’s saying FOREVER – whatever he means by rain has been happening forever!

Normally I’d try to pick out lines that emphasise this or that, but this is just so devastating, you should read the words as you listen:

Long as I remember

the rain been coming down

clouds of mystery pourin'

confusion on the ground.

Good men through the ages

trying to find the sun

and I wonder still I wonder

who'll stop the rain.

I went down Virginia

seeking shelter from the storm

caught up in the fable

I watched the tower grow

five year plans and new deals

wrapped in golden chains

and I wonder still I wonder

who'll stop the rain.

Heard the singers playing

how we cheered for more

the crowd had rushed together

trying to keep warm

still the rain kept pouring

falling on my ears

and I wonder still I wonder

who'll stop the rain.

Now play it again, it gets better second time and then the more you play it.

This is apocalyptic, stuffed with seemingly mythical and biblical references: “clouds of mystery” ,”caught up in the fable I watched the tower grow”, “wrapped in golden chains” “put me through the ages”, with even the simple lines delivered as if they were a portent of final, final doom even down to the simple chord phrasing in the instrumental middle eight, redolent with hopelessness and futile effort: “good men through the ages trying to find the sun” “seeking shelter from the storm” and “trying to keep warm”.

And yet…..and yet, instead of being depressing this is one of the most moving and envigorating pieces of music of the sixties / seventies, brimming with a sense of hope, and new birth. As if it is the seeking itself and the “trying to find the sun“ that redeems us.

Is it the almost nativity-like “five year plans and new deals wrapped in golden chains” with the “singers playing” that give the song its texture of contentment and wellbeing? Is he implying that the human spirit is indomitable, triumphing over the continuing relentlessness of life’s troubles (ie: the rain)? Okay, okay they say that this was inspired by Fogerty’s visit to Woodstock, but for me it transcends Woodstock into one of the most spiritual rock tunes of all time.

What does it mean? I’m not sure that it means anything.

Beyond the elemental idea that a combination of music, words and poetical images and phrasing can convey deep spiritual and sensual feelings that are beyond normal articulation.

And of course, that incredible, lonely, howling, yearning voice.