Almost eight months, to the day, after Creedence Clearwater Revival played the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair, they were in Rotterdam, Holland, to play the opening night of a two-week tour of Europe – it was April 1970.
In America, they had already scored with five Top 3 singles on the Hot 100, with ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Green River’ and ‘Travelin’ Band’, all peaking at No.2, while, ‘Down On the Corner’ got to No.3. As CCR crossed the Atlantic to start their tour, their new single, ‘Up Around The Bend’ was being pressed ready for release; the day after their European tour ended it took the Billboard charts by storm. It was the highest new entry of the week at No.48, although it eventually could only make No.4 on the Hot 100.
Creedence Clearwater Revival were officially the most popular band in America, displacing The Beatles by selling more records during 1969 than any other artist. But how would Europe take to them.
They knew that Europe, as a whole, liked their music. All five of their US hits singles had been popular right across the Continent, with ‘Bad Moon Rising’ topping the UK charts; even in France where very few American groups cracked the bestseller list, CCR had top 20 hits.
Interviewed by Britain’s New Musical Express John Fogerty was asked why it was such a quick tour with little time off to see anything, to which he replied: “We planned it purposely that way, so we can just get a feel of what’s going on, which is what we had to do in this country. We really know absolutely nothing about what’s going on there. We don’t know where to play or what’s happening musically. It’s mostly like a quick tour, kind of an education for us. We’re playing only the safe places; I suppose you’d say. The accepted ones. Other than that, I don’t want to give you that old press release hooey about it’s so wonderful to be playing for our fans! Of course, that’s true, but people always make that an end in itself. Obviously we want to see the people who have been buying our records and that kind of thing. Also, we’ve never been there and we want to see what it’s like. It’s kind of half career and half wanting to go, because it’s something we’ve never seen before. We’re all kind of naturally curious.”
The night after playing their first European show in Rotterdam they played the Grughalle in Essen on 12 April, followed by two back-to-back nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall, with Booker T and the MGs as the support band, starting on the 14th. Their set was typical of most night’s on the European trip, star opening with ‘Born on the Bayou’ and following it with: ‘Green River’, ‘Tombstone Shadow’, ‘Travelin Band’, ‘Fortunate Son’, ‘Commotion’, a cover of Lead Belly’s ‘Midnight Special’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Night Time is the Right Time’, ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ and ‘Keep on Chooglin’. Throughout the tour John Fogerty played his Gibson ES-175 Les Paul Custom – the one he dubbed “Black Beauty” – and on some numbers he switched to his Rickenbacker-325. Fans have lauded their shows in London as among the best they ever played.
Two nights later it was the Tennishalle (The Royal Tennis Hall), Stockholm, where according to one eyewitness, “The concert was absolutely heated: the audience jumped on the chairs, sang along and screamed.”
From Sweden it was off to the KB-Hallen, Copenhagen, Denmark, three nights later, followed by the Sportpalast in Berlin on the 22nd with the last gig of the tour taking place two nights later at the famous, Olympia Theatre in Paris.
While John Fogerty was in Europe he told one reporter that, “Right now I’m where I’ve wanted to be since I was seven years old. But we’ve still just scratched the surface. There is so much untapped sound and so many songs waiting to be written. We’ve studied hard what went before. Only the future can tell us how well we learnt.”
What John, and the rest of the group, along with their many fans, could not know was that when they returned to Europe, nearly 18 months later, Creedence Clearwater Revival would be a three-piece band – John’s brother, Tom had quit the band in late 1970.
Despite some tension within the band, ‘Sweet Hitch-Hiker’ was a top 10 hit on the Hot 100 in the summer of 1971. Come 1 September 1971 and they were back in Europe for a second tour, this one beginning in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, where they “Blew an outrageously precise set of loud bitchy rock ‘n’ roll,” according to Britain’s Melody Maker. Their set was similar to the one they played on their previous tour, with ‘Keep On Chooglin’ as its climax. If there was any complaint from the press it was that they were only on stage for an hour.
If their first tour had allowed them little time off, this one gave the band more time between gigs and their second date was not until 10 September. It was in Amsterdam’s, Concertgebouw, where they did two shows, followed by two more at the Kongresshalle, Frankfurt, Germany, three nights later. According to one concertgoer, “The concert started with ‘Born on the Bayou’ and contained all their great hits including ‘Sweet Hitch-Hiker’ which was the Hit-single at that time. Also, Stu performed ‘Door to Door’. Like I think every CCR concert it all ended with ‘Keep on Chooglin’.”
Then it was the Deutschlandhalle, Berlin on the 15th, the Ernst Merck Halle in Hamburg, two nights later, where again the Melody Maker reported on their show, saying, “It was ten times better than Manchester.”
From Germany it was across to Denmark for a return to the KB-Hallen in Copenhagen on 19 September, then another return engagement, this time at the Tennishallen in Stockholm on the 21st. On 24 September they played at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium, and then it was back to the UK for two back-to-back nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 27 and 28 September.
In 2013, looking back on his visit to London, John said, “To go to the Royal Albert Hall and do very well, and to hear people say such nice things, it was incredible. We were accepted by the very people we admired. I think I remember reading something John Lennon said: ‘I love Creedence’.”