Forty summers ago, my parents ended their desperately unhappy marriage and I moved to Columbus, Ohio, with my father to embark on a new life. So I suppose it's not surprising that I remember so vividly all of the songs that were playing on the radio in those summer months as every aspect of my existence was undergoing a complete and much-sought-after overhaul.
At the top of that list is Creedence Clearwater Revival's phantasmagoric cover version of Suzie Q, written by Louisianans Dale Hawkins and Rock Hall sideman inductee James Burton. I've never been a big fan of the later CCR rockabilly fare, which always seemed so watered down to me compared to their early work, but in their debut effort, Suzie Q achieved a certain raw, spooky, mesmerizing quality that had the epic proportions corresponding to the sea change in my life at that time.
According to Bad Moon Rising: the Unauthorized History of Creedence Clearwater Revival by Hank Bordowitz, the band realized that to break out, the original swamp rock creation that Hawkins recorded in 1957 needed to make good use of a psychedelic vibe that would get it lots of play on KMPX, San Francisco's major progressive rock station of the day.
John Fogerty's searing guitar combined with liberal use of feedback, the pounding drums and other special effects of the arrangement accomplished that goal in spades. I would go so far as to say CCR never achieved anything that was better than this song.
Interestingly, Fogerty also mentions in the book that using others' material at the outset made it easier to perfect the musicianship he was striving for with the band - he wasn't bogged down with the ego issues that would have accompanied putting his own stuff out there. Which is curious when I think about it, because the other song of CCR's that I most revere is another cover, Screamin' Jay Hawkins' I Put A Spell on You.