Released on July 16, 1970, Cosmo’s Factory remarkably stood as Creedence Clearwater Revival’s fifth full-length in two years. The San Francisco Bay-bred swamp rockers were at the peak of a prolific streak, having released an unbelievable three Billboard Top Ten albums the year prior (outselling even the Beatles!) Even the album title–named after drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford’s nickname for the band’s practice space– nods to the group’s machine-like efficiency at pumping out hits. With Cosmo’s Factory, Creedence topped the album chart in the US for the second time, while they scored their first No. 1 in the UK, Canada and Australia, among other territories, firmly cementing their status as international rock stars.
Though they emerged in a place and time where trippy, psychedelic visions were the order of the day, CCR bucked contemporary trends and instead tapped into a rich, traditional seam of American music that connected to blues, country, rockabilly, gospel, folk and R&B. On Cosmo’s Factory in particular, the band experiments with a diverse, Americana-rooted sonic palette: There’s the folk-tinged “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” blues rocker “Run Through the Jungle,” the seven-minute-long psychedelic jam “Ramble Tamble,” a rockabilly rendition of “Ooby Dooby” and the twangy shuffle “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” a nod to the “Bakersfield Sound” of West Coast country artists like Buck Owens. They even paid tribute to the Detroit soul sound, transforming Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” into a spirited, 11-minute-long jam.
Successful as it was at the time of its release, Cosmo’s Factory has only grown in stature and commercial viability throughout the years. It eventually sold over four million copies, and track-listing-wise, it appears to be a greatest hits collection — “Who”ll Stop the Rain,” “Run Through the Jungle,” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” have all became staples of the Great American Songbook, as emblematic of American culture as baseball or apple pie. “Long as I Can See the Light,” “Travelin’ Band” and “Up Around the Bend,” too, were Top Ten hits that remain popular to this day. After two more years and two more albums, Creedence Clearwater Revival would disband, but their legacy remains towering. Cosmo’s Factory – widely considered to be their finest album–has a lot to do with that.
It’s fascinating to read how Cosmo’s Factory was received at the time of its original release and compare that to the legendary stature they’ve attained since. The critic’s praise now comes across amusingly understated, e.g. “‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door' . . . is good car music, great for summer and will probably be commercially successful.”
A track-by-track exploration that provides extensive historical context for those who weren’t lucky enough to be around in Creedence’s heyday (or for nostalgic longtime fans looking to take a trip down memory lane).
In which reviews editor Jeremy D. Larson makes the argument that Creedence’s lesser-known jam “Ramble Tamble” has–consciously or not–influenced some of the best moments in indie rock. (More on this underappreciated gem below.)
DEEP CUTS WE LOVE…
"Ramble Tamble" - The sprawling album opener, marks a daring group willing to buck expectations despite their popularity as a singles band. This seven-minute rocker starts in a style reminiscent of the early Sun Records sessions CCR often mined for inspiration. Then, around the two-minute mark, it downshifts into a more leisurely midtempo, building to a gloriously spastic psych-rock guitar breakdown that lasts another two and a half minutes before reprising the introductory section. One of the best opening tracks in the history of rock.
"Travelin’ Band" - This song was the lead single off Cosmo’s Factory, but is less remembered today than cuts like “Run Through the Jungle” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” Still, this is an enormously fun, breakneck rocker with a blaring horn section, a rollicking bassline and a very respectable imitation of Little Richard’s vocal stylings. Three tracks in, it demonstrates how Creedence’s sonic palette was broadening as they solidified their swamp rock sound – John even plays sax on this track.
"My Baby Left Me" - It was originally by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, a Delta blues musician prominent in the 1940s. It gained further exposure thanks to covers, including an Elvis Presley hit B-side from 1956–another Sun Records cut, and the version Creedence’s rockabilly rendition clearly references. At a 2012 performance, John even went so far as to assert, "This record may be the reason that I play guitar.”
DID YOU KNOW?
- Cosmo’s Factory is the band’s bestselling LP besides the essential 1976 greatest hits compilation Chronicle.
- John Fogerty experimented with playing new instruments on Cosmo’s Factory, like saxophone, piano and dobro (a type of resonator acoustic guitar popular in blues music).
- “Run Through the Jungle” was Tom Fogerty’s all-time favorite CCR recording: ‘It’s like a little movie in itself with all the sound effects. It never changes key, but it holds your interest the whole time. It’s like a musician’s dream. It never changes key, yet you get the illusion it does.’
- Early pressings of the album contain a 3-second dropout on the left stereo channel during "Before You Accuse Me" and an earlier mix of "Travelin' Band" with John Fogerty's first solo mixed behind the horn section.
- The final verse of “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” with its references to music, large crowds, rain and crowds trying to keep warm, was inspired by the band’s experience at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Listen to Cosmo’s Factory in its entirety on your preferred streaming platform or purchase on wax below.
Words: Katherine McCollough