Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 78):"LOOKIN' OUT MY BACK DOOR" (1970), Creedence Clearwater Revival

Just back from DE, where I’m from, for the annual visit that always puts me in mind of “where I once belonged.” Since there was lots of family time, today’s song is one that takes me back to childhood and a band we all knew and liked: Creedence Clearwater Revival. I could’ve picked the first song I knew by them, “Bad Moon Rising,” or its B-side, which is one of my favorites and which I may get to another time; or I could’ve picked the song that really impressed itself on me, “Up Around the Bend,” or what is probably my favorite song of theirs, the other A side of today’s song. But, because this is Spring Break, I feel that “Lookin' Out My Back Door” captures the mood best.

It’s the most countrified song by CCR up to that point, even dropping a reference to “On a dinosaur Vic’trola / Listening to Buck Owens,” who at that time was one of the hosts of Hee-Haw. Country music notwithstanding, some in the listening public found ever-present drug references in the song: “take a ride on a flying spoon,” well, what else need we say, to say nothing of “Giants doing cartwheels / Statues wearing high heels.” Just what is this boy on? Then there’s those “tambourines and elephants”—tambourines, as Pynchon’s Richard M. Schlubb well knows, being instruments of subversion. And don’t get me started on that big hookah-like trunk of the elephant, symbol of India and who knows what mind-altering substances.

Stu Cook, Doug Clifford, John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty
While that’s all as may be, the song is still completely disarming. “Just got home from Illinois / Locked the front door, oh boy!”—sure, someone of a certain frame of mind might wonder why he has locked the front door and why he’s so obsessed with his “backdoor,” but, y’know, when this song came out I was 11 and I’m just not going to go there. This song always put me in mind of the spring and summer days with the backdoor open (and the front too for that matter), so that a breeze could go right through the house. Looking out the backdoor was looking into the back yard, a place set-off from the rest of the neighborhood and a space for all kinds of “happy creatures” to disport themselves as they like.

CCR was one of the great radio bands of my childhood, and my older sister had the hots for singer and songwriter extraordinaire John Fogerty there for a while. He wore a big mop of hair that most of us kids aspired to, and managed, so long as we could avoid the barber, aka “Pops Chopper.” It wasn’t about letting the freak flag fly so much as it was about looking like all the cute musicians the girls liked and we admired.

Musically, this song seems designed as a sing-along, something everyone can join in on, especially those pleasure-spreading “doo doo doo”s, and that chugging rhythm and strummed gee-tar helps sell it too. One of the best feel-good songs around, capturing the bliss (look at how happy everyone in the video is) of setting down all the shit and simply, truly, finally, relaxing. “Bother me tomorrow, today I’ll buy no sorrow.”

We had the 45, and eventually we had the album Cosmo’s Factory, which I recently picked up as a reissue on vinyl. Have to say it was one of my favorite records, in 1970 or 1971, and it sounds just as good to my ears now. And it was the record I put on this morning to welcome me “back to where I once belonged,” in a different way (i.e., where was I?). CCR is the Americana of my day; indeed, a “wondrous apparition” this far down the road.


Andrew Shields said...

"I'm a back door man ..." being Jim Morrison's more emphatic version (channeling Willie Dixon) of what you hint at here but then drop.

Donald Brown said...

Yeah I'm not really hinting, I'm just kidding. But don't forget "Whole Lotta Love": "I wanna be your backdoor man."