“Back then long time ago when grass was green. Woke up in a daze. Arrived like strangers in the night.
Fab – long time ago when we was fab. Fab – back when income tax was all we had”
When We Was Fab music and lyrics by George Harrison
Just as the sun rises in the East, bands break up. It’s a fact of life. Rivalries, jealousies, egos, long rides in cramped vans, and the passage of time all act like tectonic plates clashing and grinding and leading to gaping fissures that cannot be mended. And so, The Beatles, Cream, Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and countless others have cracked under the pressures and pitfalls of fame and fortune. Some have managed to forge truces after their heydays have passed, hoping to cash in on the heady combination of nostalgia and swelling bank accounts of their prosperous Baby-boomer-turned AARP-member fans.
But some breakups are so rife with vitriol that they are irredeemable. So it was with Creedence Clearwater Revivial, the 1960s stars founded by John Fogerty and his brother Tom. Despite a string of top 10 classics including Proud Mary, Heard It Through The Grapevine, Fortunate Son, and Who”ll Stop The Rain, CCR imploded in a burst of acrimony fueled in part by leader John Fogerty and his feud with record mogul Saul Zaentz over song rights and royalties. So bitter was Fogerty that when he released his smash solo comeback record “Centerfield” in 1985 after a 9-year hiatus, it included the song “Zanz Can’t Dance” with the lyric: “Zanz can’t dance but he’ll steal your money.” Things got so bad that Fogerty was eventually sued for plagiarizing his own music by Zaentz’s label Fantasy Records.
Now, the tables have turned with Fogerty in the position of plaintiff in litigation with his former CCR band mates. A few years back, Fogerty sued to block them from performing as Creedence Clearwater Revisited.” That suit eventually settled: Fogerty agreed to let them use that name, but only if both band mates were part of the band, and then only if they shared a cut of their ticket and merchandise sales with Mr. Fogerty.
Now, that détente has unraveled as “Revisited” hit the road with just one former “Revival” member, and without paying the money they owe Fogerty. As reported today in IP 360, Fogerty suit asks for an injunction to stop Revisited from using the Creedence Clearwater name at two upcoming California shows. He also asks for the money he’s owed since his ex-mates stopped payments a few years ago.
So once again, John Fogerty is singing the blues for an audience of 1 judge and 12 jurors. His legal woes illustrate the inherent tension between law and music–Fogerty followed the playbook by inking a contract that was supposed to control who, when, where, and how his former band mates could use the band name that Fogerty propelled to fame with his signature lead vocals. But when one party strays from the terms of the deal, the only recourse is lawyers and lawsuits, which can sometimes cost more in fees, time, and trouble than the lawsuit is worth.
But it’s not just about money. It’s about reputation and principle. And so, like the iconic steamer Proud Mary, John Fogerty keeps on turning the big wheel–this time, however, it’s the wheel of justice.