John Fogerty: A 'Garden' Of Mixed Messages

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John Fogerty's cover of Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" is so rich in context, it's almost impossible to tell what he's thinking. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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John Fogerty

John Fogerty's cover of Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" is so rich in context, it's almost impossible to tell what he's thinking.

courtesy of the artist

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Garden Party"
  • Artist: John Fogerty featuring Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit
  • CD: Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again
  • Genre: Country-Rock

At first blush, the idea of John Fogerty recording a version of Rick Nelson's "Garden Party" couldn't be more straightforward: the godfather of roots-rock covering a country-rock classic. But both the singer and the song come with thorny histories, and the intertwinement of the two sends contradictions flying almost faster than they can be counted.

Nelson, of course, wrote "Garden Party" about his refusal to become a jukebox mannequin who spits out ossified memories from a time long gone. It's easy to see why the song appealed to Fogerty, who took Nelson's perspective to its extreme by avoiding playing his Creedence Clearwater Revival material for years out of reluctance to generate royalties for those who controlled the copyrights. And, like Nelson, Fogerty's popular comeback (1985's Centerfield) would, in part, address those very issues, though Fogerty spat his vitriol toward the businessmen, rather than the fans.

But if Fogerty shared with Nelson the basic sentiment at the core of "Garden Party," the circumstances under which he sings it couldn't be more different. Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, which consists entirely of covers that mostly predate Fogerty's solo career (he also revisits one of his own songs) follows on the heels of 2007's Revival, where Fogerty for all intents and purposes buried the hatchet and fully embraced the past that he'd spent decades actively fighting. Which makes this an odd time for him to choose to sing about not wanting to revisit the past, as well as an odd album on which to sing it. Even without adding the extra layer of guests Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmidt (whose own complex attitudes toward The Eagles are well-documented), it's so texturally rich in context that it's almost impossible to tell what Fogerty's thinking.

Then again, there's always the simple mantra at the heart of the song: "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." Maybe "Garden Party" is the sound of Fogerty taking those words to heart. Having recently abandoned his longstanding feud with his own legacy, maybe he figures that it's time to do exactly what he wants. Even if that means covering a song that seems to contradict exactly what he's doing by covering it in the first place.

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