ebook Publishing & Review
Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty
Book To Film Review & Commentary
by TC Donivan
known amongst all the hoopla surrounding the incredibly successful
Of The Rings movies, is the fact that without
John Fogerty and
Clearwater Revival, these films would not have been made, or at least not
in their current form by the same filmmakers. It’s strange, but true
as the expression goes. Here’s the story.
the mid 1960s a young musician named John Fogerty was a stock boy in San
Francisco at a little known record label called
Fantasy Records. He
struck up a friendship with a salesman named
who agreed to produce
an album for Fogerty’s band, the then named Golliwogs, which included
his brother Tom Fogerty, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford,
who would become world famous as Creedence Clearwater Revival. The
resulting album spawned a pair of hits, Suzi Q and I Put A Spell On You,
both remakes of 1950s Rock classics. But the real jackpot was just around the
corner when Fogerty began writing a string of his own classic tunes that
would put CCR and Fantasy Records on the map while making Zaentz’s
the course of the next three years Fogerty’s songwriting pen
overflowed with unforgettable songs like Proud Mary, Born On The Bayou, Down On The
Corner, Fortunate Son, Run Through The Jungle, Who’ll Stop The Rain
and more. It should have been one of those cases where everyone got
rich, but according to Fogerty, one of them got richer than the others.
By this time Zaentz
had graduated from producer to owner of Fantasy as CCR became one of the
biggest bands in the world. The label, a small Jazz oriented outfit,
never found another act to match CCR. But that one group was more than
enough to turn Fantasy into a money making machine.
the 60s faded into the hazy cloud of hippie memories, the hit records
began to slow and CCR went the way of all of Rock’s classic
bands, except for the ever present, ever ancient Rolling Stones,
breaking up amid an abundance of over inflated egos and acrimonious
infighting. At the end of it all the members of CCR found themselves
embroiled in legal issues connected to Fantasy. A series of court
battles ensued. Fogerty, locked into a long
term contract, brokered a deal to get himself released from Fantasy by
giving up most of the rights to his own music. By
the time the smoke had cleared, the last man standing at Fantasy was
Saul Zaentz who had decided to take his money and invest in something
more dependable than Rock and Roll, a nice quiet business with fewer egos involved, the movie business.
1975 he co-produced and financed One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with
Michael Douglas, Director Milos Foreman and actor Jack Nicholson in turning Ken Kesey’s novel into an Academy Award Winning
Best Picture. Zaentz followed over the next twenty years with two more
Best Picture Oscars for Amadeus and The English Patient.
Little noticed at the time was Zaentz’s acquisition of the film rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In 1969 Professor Tolkien had sold the film rights to MGM and United Artists for a figure reported to be in the neighborhood of £10,000 . Zaentz later bought them from MGM. In 1978 he produced a mediocre animated version of the story which helped to dampen enthusiasm for a live action edition for some time to come. But Zaentz knew a good thing when he saw one and unlike most movie makers who would have unloaded the property for a few bucks, he continued to hold onto the rights.
After making The English Patient, (how on Earth did this win the Academy Award, Seinfeld's take on this pointless, ponderous self indulgent mess said it all), Zaentz retired from the movie making business. In the late 90s, obscure New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson convinced Zaentz that with the aid of modern special effects, he could bring Lord of the Rings to the big screen in proper fashion. The rest as they say is history. Ah but the money machine continues to roll for the Zaentz company.
In fact, one recent report stated that Zaentz’s company and
New Line Cinema have filed more than 1500 trademark applications
concerning Lord of the Rings. It might not be an exaggeration to say that
they’ve trademarked nearly everything in the books except ‘the’
and ‘and’. So just what are they up to these days besides marketing
every Hobbit knick knack under the sun?
Well, they recently sued a tiny pub in England which had been
using the name the Hobbit for a decade before the movies were even made.
Here's an excerpt from the UK MailOline Story:
So just what are they up to these days besides marketing every Hobbit knick knack under the sun? Well, they recently sued a tiny pub in England which had been using the name the Hobbit for a decade before the movies were even made. Here's an excerpt from the UK MailOline Story:
The U.S. firm's website says:
'Middle-earth Enterprises owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion
picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works
of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. 'We
have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise
based on these Tolkien works for more than thirty-five years.'
I guess that's what you call making the world safe for intellectual
I guess that's what you call making the world safe for intellectual property...
Oh yeah, and whatever happened to John Fogerty? Well, in 1985 when Fogerty made his comeback album, Centerfield, he include a song called Zanz Kant Danz. The first line of lyric in the song is; ‘Vanz can't dance, but he'll steal your money’. Zaentz sued Fogerty and the song title was subsequently changed to Vanz Kant Danz. Fogerty was also sued for plagiarizing himself as Fantasy’s lawyers claimed that The Old Man Down The Road from the same album, was basically Run Through The Jungle with new lyrics. As Fogerty did not own the rights to his own songs, they believed this was depriving Fantasy of much needed royalties. BTW, Fogerty won the lawsuit.
In 2005 Fogerty was quoted by the New York Times in regard to his former employer: "The way I view Saul Zaentz and his henchmen, shall I say - well, that probably gives it away," Mr. Fogerty said. "I still view them in the same light. If I was walking down the street and those rattlesnakes were walking towards me, I would give them a wide berth."
Oh and it does keep getting better. In 2008 the Tolkien Estate sued New Line Cinema, the company that made the LOTR movies, claiming they had been paid only $62,500 but were promised 7.5% of the $2.8 billion dollar gross. Zaentz also went to court with New Line. This is the exact statement from the Huffington Post:
Zaentz sued New Line, claiming the studio cheated him out of $20 million in royalties from the film trilogy, which he optioned to New Line for a percentage of the movies' profits. He and the film studio reached an out-of-court settlement a year later. Peter Jackson's production company also tangled with New Line in 2005 over profits from the films. A lawsuit was settled last year.
Do we detect a pattern here. Hmm, reminds me of an old George Harrison song.
So as we all sit back and enjoy Viggo Mortensen hacking and hewing away at hordes of Orcs, we should tip our hats to John Fogerty and say thank you. Maybe in the extended version of LOTR or the new Hobbit film, Frodo, or Bilbo can hum a few bars of The Road Goes Ever On to the tune of Playin' In A Travelin Band. Maybe give a nod to the lawyers too. Sounds appropriate to me.
Sources: Bad Moon Rising: The Unauthorized History of Creedence Clearwater Revival by Hank Bordowitz, London Evening Standard, UK MailOnline, Huffington Post and the New York Times
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Producer (Academy Award for Best Picture)
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