Music Monday: Midnight Special

I did not know anything about Credence Clearwater Revival (or “CCR” as they are affectionately known) until I took a road trip a few years ago with my sister. We had, as the only CDs that were acceptable to all members of the van (my sister, her husband, myself, and their 4 children), two CCR greatest hits albums and one album which we only ever listened to one song from. We drove to Seattle. And then back. With only this music.

And it was awesome. Unlike the U2 album that sustained my class and I for 2 weeks in Africa, I can actually listen to CCR songs. When I do, I am immediately transported back into that 15 passenger van, singing at the top of my lungs along with lyrics that were iffy.

Part of what we did while listening to CCR (over and over and over) was speculate on what the lyrics were and what they might mean (“let the midnight special shine it’s ever loving light on me”?!). It would be another 3 years before my sister and I discovered that “chooglin” is the sound that an original VW bug makes. My sister still calls me to ask what certain lyrics are (since I know how to use teh Intarwebs); most recently, we discussed the meaning of “I went down Virginia, Seekin’ shelter from the storm. Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow.” Our conclusion? Drugs. (Interestingly, that video appears to have been beset by the selfsame cause that inflicted the lyrics.)

But, oddball lyrics aside (“a giant doing cartwheels, a statue wearin’ high heels”), I love singing along to these at the top of my lungs. This is not my favorite, but it’s hard to choose one. And it’s one with good memories of trying to figure out what the lines were…

It’s like a gospel song—you can’t help singing along, whether or not you know the lyrics (whether or not it’s even possible to). It comes from deep in CCR’s soul & returns to deep inside yours, forces you to tap your feet, crank the volume, and all of a sudden you’re seeing Miss Rosie (piece of paper in her hand) and doin’ right in Texas. Maybe even clapping; or at least wailing on your air drums.

(My favorite lyrics are “down on the corner, out in the street, livin’ in a boat house’ll play ya, give a nipple, grab your feet!” that song includes “rooster hits the wacko”, something about “a nutface”, and “the devil’s only zoo”. Seriously, listen to that song and see if you can discern English in it!)


  1. Even today, whenever a CCR song comes on the radio, the volume gets cranked up several notches.

    By the way, did you know that so many people think that the key lyric in “Bad Moon Rising” is, “There’s a bathroom on the right,” rather than “There’s a bad moon on the rise”, that John Fogerty has taken to sometimes singing the “bathroom” lyric rather than the correct lyric in concert? Something about that just tickles the hell out of me.

  2. Roy

    I can’t tell if you’re serious about the Down on the Corner lyrics, but those are great!

    It might be because of where my family are from or because I’ve been listening to them for so long, but I don’t usually have too much trouble discerning most CCR lyrics. They’re definitely one of the all time greats. I associate them with some really great times in my life. It’s funny, because we listened to them the most on car trips, as well. Mostly to visit family. Great times.

    What’s interesting to me is how much variety of subject and emotion you can go through listening to CCR. Stuff like “Lookin’ out My Back Door” and “Down on the Corner” make you want to tap your feet and get down a little bit, but something like “Someday Never Comes” is sad and tragic. Then you’ve got political songs like “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, about Vietnam and the impact on the common person.

    Anyway, at the risk of telling you what you already know: Down on the Corner is from the Album “Willy and the Poor Boys”, and is about a four-man band made up of Willy, Blinky, Rooster, and Poorboy.

    The chorus goes:
    “Down on the Corner, out in the street,
    Willy and the Poorboys are playin’
    Bring a nickle, tap your feet.”

    The second verse is:

    “Rooster hits the washboard, and people just gotta smile.
    Blinky thumps the gut bass and solos for a while.
    Poorboy twangs the rhythm out on his kalamazoo.
    Willy goes into a dance, and doubles on kazoo.”

  3. “I went down Virginia, Seekin’ shelter from the storm. Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow.”

    Yeah, I’m guessing it’s sexual. Perhaps that’s just me. 😀

  4. Elaine: LOL! I’ve long since suspected that they don’t care much what the lyrics are, so long as they sound good musically/rhythmically.

    Jonathan Blake: you know, that could be! I always guessed “Virginia” was a state.

  5. They’re seriously one of the most underrated bands ever in terms of enjoyability. I didn’t know anything about them till I looked up “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” after it got stuck in my head from watching The Big Lebowski too many times. Since then I’ve never looked back and managed to gather most of their back catalogue. Funnily enough loads of folk over here assume, for some reason, that they’re a right-wing redneck kind of band so I take great pleasure in playing “Fortunate Son” for them 🙂

  6. Cannonball Jones—I actually usually take Fortunate Son as proof that they’re a right-wing redneck kind of band (obvious pot use and references notwithstanding)…

    Chandelle, that’s an awesome quote: “Just makes you feel good. And a little bit like getting stoned.”

  7. Andrew Hathorn

    After looking up what the midnight special even was, it “originated among prisoners in the American South. The title comes from the refrain which refers to the passenger train Midnight Special and its “ever-loving light” (sometimes “ever-living light”).” I originally thought of since there is no food on the table it meant that the narrator had a job that he barely makes enough money to live on and if he asked for a raise that he ever so badly needed, “the man” (his boss) would probably fire him and hire someone else without hesitation. After I see the insight I realize that this guy is hoping the midnight train will come and he can make his escape, and there is no food on the table because he is in a jail cell.

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