Q&A with Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, achieved fame as the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, released the lost home-studio album, Magic Window

"I want to give them something positive to think about. Music is art. Art is in the eye or ear in this case, of the beholder. We’ve seen it in our shows with Revisited and in the old days with Revival, music that pounds you in the chest, its rock and roll after all, not opera, it’s something powerful and something that makes your heart beat, something that excites you, something that makes you think, but you don’t know that you’re thinking, sparks your imagination, takes you away from your everyday worries or job, or whatever it might be, it takes you to a place that is your own spot."

Doug "Cosmo" Clifford:

Magic Window & Music Medicine

Doug Clifford achieved fame as the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band he put together with his friends Stu Cook, John Fogerty and Tom Fogerty. They were in junior high school when they started playing and achieved worldwide success after signing with Fantasy Records in 1967. Although best known as a drummer, Clifford sang harmony vocals and contributed songs to the Creedence catalogue. He’s been singing, writing songs and making music for as long as he can remember. After a lifetime on the road – ten years with Creedence Clearwater Revival and its predecessors and 25 years with Creedence Clearwater Revisited – the band he put together with bassist Stu Cook to perform live tunes from the Creedence catalogue – he’s ready to again make his mark as a singer and songwriter. Doug released in April 2020, the recently re-discovered solo album “Magic Window” was recorded in 1985 at Clifford’s Lake Tahoe home with the help of engineer/guitarist Russell DaShiell, bassist Chris Solberg and rhythm guitarist Rob Polomsky.               Doug "Cosmo" Clifford / Photo by Wendy Brynford-Jones

Some of those projects included producing albums for Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados, playing in Steve Miller’s band and then joining Stu Cook to play Creedence hits with Creedence Clearwater Revisited.  They have performed worldwide for 25 years, amassing many fans and crossing multiple generations to bring the wonderful CCR hits to people.  They released an RIAA certified platinum live album. Last year, while cleaning out his garage, Clifford found the Magic Window masters. The songs on Magic Window took shape organically, over several years. When it was time to record, Clifford invited three friends to his home studio for the freewheeling sessions. Russell DaShiell played lead and rhythm guitars, synthesizer and sang harmonies. Chris Solberg contributed bass and keyboards and Rob Polomsky added rhythm guitar to several tracks. People may be surprised by the power and presence of Clifford’s lead vocals, but he’s been singing all of his life.

Interview by Michael Limnios          (Transcription by Katerina Lefkidou)

Special Thanks: Wendy Brynford-Jones (Conqueroo PR) and Doug "Cosmo" Clifford

Too many experiences, too many experiences in music. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience?

Doug: I think to be truly yourself, especially in the music side of it, there’s a lot of things that you can play but if it’s not something you’re passionate about you probably ought to look it for something that is.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of your music from country rock, to blues, to swamp, to southern rock to folk and beyond?

Doug: The lines are very basic. It’s roots American music and all those things you just mentioned are all just that. Blues are both real and urban blues, the urban blues usually being black music, real generally country music. They were white man’s blues, black man’s blues if you will. And then rock’ n roll is a combination of those blues getting together with a good solid beat. Jazz is the opposite of that where it’s free for the most part, real jazz anyway. Time signatures, time doesn’t matter. It’s mostly solo, after solo, after solo, whereas maybe rock ‘n roll and blues would be more strict in playing a four or 6/8 t time or a four beats to the bar playing more structured; verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out. (laughing)

This new album has a lot of your songs. You make your mark as a songwriter. I would like to ask you, where does your creative drive come from?

Doug: My drive is just music. And in these times, troubled times that we’re at, music is my medicine. I lean on it a lot, when I was very young and buying rock n’ roll records before I started playing drums it was that music, that I went to when I was going through my parents’ divorce and all the things that a 15year old kid goes through, it was the music that I would go to, rock n’ roll music. That’s pretty much it, it’s just like my heartbeat, a part of me that lives with me all the time, I’m not playing all the time, but it’s playing in the back of my head or in my heart, somewhere.

What do you miss most nowadays from the past?

Doug: Hm, youth. (laughing) I was pretty much a physical specimen back in the day, I worked out every day, I rode a bicycle around instead of driving a car most of the time, playing drums was very physical for me. Now it’s a different type of physicality, it’s more of a martial arts approach to it, where I don’t have to wind up and snatch a cymbal. Very fast with the snap of my wrists, so I can still have the power that is necessary to play this music, but I don’t have to expend so much energy doing it.

"It (Love) means many things. There are many types of love and that’s the great thing. Creedence didn’t do many love songs so I’m making up for the ones that we didn’t do. (laughing) But love comes in all forms, there’s the love of music, there’s the love of your children and your spouse, there’s the love of nature, there’s so many things. But it’s all about coming from the heart and appreciating something, whether it be a beautiful sunset or watching your grand kids have another birthday, or whatever. Passion. Love is good, we need more of it." (Doug "Cosmo" Clifford / Photo by Wendy Brynford-Jones)

What is the impact of your generation musically on the socio-cultural implications?

I think it’s very large. A lot of what was happening historically in America, when rock n’ roll was born and started going into its peak in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was a hard time, there was some great music, great bands but there were huge social changes. There was the women's’ movement, there was segregation was coming to an end and that’s very powerful stuff, the Vietnam war, were people were being drafted and sent to die from the comforts to a life padded cell, we didn’t think that was fair. Now that it’s all volunteer, I think the army life’s at better too, the guys are there, because they volunteered to be there. There was a lot of shall we say, cultural differences coming to bear all at once.

Your album titled "Magic Window". What is "magic", what does magic mean to you?

Doug: Well magic’s all around, you can find it just about anywhere. To me that record is magic, just by literally having lost it for so many years, I put it away and forgetting that I have it. I recorded it in my house at beautiful lake Tahoe, an alpine lake, between California and Nevada. And it’s beautiful, my house was 1,000 feet above the lake so I had a magnificent view and when I looked out the window, it was like a magic window...just stare out and lose yourself in the beauty that was there. It was a good place to work and create.

What were the reasons that made California to be the center, the Mecca of music research and experiments?

Doug: I live in Nevada, I lived in California. I think the West Coast was kind of a dream place, everybody wanted to live there, people came from everywhere and during World War II, there was a shipyard, where they built ships and repaired them for the war, so the naval force that came, a lot of people came from the South and they brought their music with them. And that was a huge effect on what we were gonna end up doing in country music. Not the pop type country music that’s out there today, the real white man’s blues if you will. And once people came out here the weather was terrific and it was young and growing, it wasn’t so populated and it was kind of a dream place, so a lot of people stayed in California. So with great weather and a lot of interesting cultural things happening, it became kind of the film capital of the world, where there is film, there’s music, it sort of follows too. New York also, I would say the coasts is where a lot of things were happening, a lot of things were developing in the middle of the country and that was the real country music that made its way out and lot of people, myself and the other guys in the band listened to country music with an eager ear for something that was quite different but it became part of our work, part of our music.

How do you want your songs and music to affect people?

Doug: I want to give them something positive to think about. Music is art. Art is in the eye or ear in this case, of the beholder. We’ve seen it in our shows with Revisited and in the old days with Revival, music that pounds you in the chest, its rock and roll after all, not opera, it’s something powerful and something that makes your heart beat, something that excites you, something that makes you think, but you don’t know that you’re thinking, sparks your imagination, takes you away from your everyday worries or job, or whatever it might be, it takes you to a place that is your own spot.

"The lines are very basic. It’s roots American music and all those things you just mentioned are all just that. Blues are both real and urban blues, the urban blues usually being black music, real generally country music. They were white man’s blues, black man’s blues if you will. And then rock’ n roll is a combination of those blues getting together with a good solid beat. Jazz is the opposite of that where it’s free for the most part, real jazz anyway." (Photo: Doug "Cosmo" Clifford)

You said: “Music has always been a medicine and a meditation for me.” What have you learned for yourself from music?

Doug: You never stop learning in life. I’ll be 75 in a couple of days and there’s new things to learn every day, that is actually a very good thing. That’s not true for everyone. The scene that we’re going through, right now where we stop everything and telling people to stay in their houses and this is the 21st century, it’s sort of medieval, almost. You learn that the best way to overcome something like this is to join together. We’re a divided nation, right now, we’re dealing with long term issues of race and other problems and now everybody is the same, nobody has the magic pill for this, and we’re finding that the best weapon is to stay away from people which is pretty interesting, and we should wash our hands all the time, which is another thing we should do anyway, personal hygiene can save you a lot of grief. It’s a habit from traveling, in airports, I always wash my hands with extra soap and that’s another thing I’ve learned along the way.

You have met so many great musicians and great personalities. Which meetings have been the most important for you?

Doug: I would say the most important and probably the one that affected my playing is Al Jackson Jr. From the Booker T.& MG's. He was murdered many years ago unfortunately. I was always a fan of his, I would listen to him play and listening to them play as a unit. They were the house band for Stax records so they made all those records. People just think if you say Booker T.& the MGs, they think “Green Onions”, well they did do that, but that’s probably very small in comparison to all the singers, and by being there in the studio with these great talents, Steve Cropper and Booker T. did a lot of song-writing, “Dock of the Bay” was Steve Cropper as a co-writer on “Try a little tenderness” all of these great songs, not only did they play great, but they were great writers , they didn’t get the credit,  try and make it without those guys. I ran into Booker T. three months ago, I went to a show that night, I hadn’t seen him in a long time, he’s got a book out, turns to find out that he lives thirty minutes from where I live in Nevada, I didn’t know that.

You talk about Booker T., so Al Jackson and Donald “Duck” Dunn was a trademark, like you with Stu. What characterizes your rhythmic section Cosmo and Stu Cook?

Doug: Well we started playing together when we were thirteen and of course Stu was playing piano at the time, the bass was in his left hand, we were an instrumental trio, but it was inevitable that he would make the that switch to bass, we couldn’t have a rock n’ roll band without a bass guitar so, we had just started playing together and working things out, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, practice, practice, we were always thinking about what we could do and here were are, we’re fifty three years later and they’re still playing our records so, I guess we did something right.

"Well they say that rock n’ roll is dead, well I don’t believe that. There’s a competition from hip hop and rap but there will always be rock and roll fans out there. That’s what I hope will never change that good rock n’ roll will always be there." (Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969 / Photo by Basul Parik)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine. Where and why would you really want to go with a time machine?

Doug: (laughing) There’s a lot of talk about going to Mars, these days, everybody’s looking at going to Mars. I don’t think I want to go there, it’s almost like somebody’s already been there. But how about Saturn? And cruise around on some of the rings of Saturn? (laughing) That would mean that maybe I would be 100 years ahead, but I want to get on the rings of Saturn and take a ride in my time machine.

What moment changed your life and your career the most? What’s been the highlights and the worst times?

Doug: Well certainly the birth of my children and grandchildren, are probably the highest of highs, then professionally I think having our dream come true and being number one in the world in record sales, and that was pretty good and there’s another thing that happened at the end of our career, being inducted into the Hall of Fame and then finding out moments before we were supposed to play, that we weren’t going to be allowed to play. That was a very very crushing down for me and for Stu.

Too many studio sessions, too many gigs. What do you prefer, what are the differences between a live and a studio session?

Doug: There’s a huge difference in you know, there’s the energy that you get from an audience. We have three generations of fans so the only people, the only fans are the older fans and that’s something that always surprises me and we put our energy out and they send it back twofold and wow, there’s nothing like it. Then there’s the downside of that. Travelling. Travelling is awful, it wears you out, does things to your body, your body is saying “what are you doing to me?” (laughing). Then there’s the recording sessions which are in one place, there’s no travelling involved and you’re going after a creation that need certain elements of it to make it whole and that’s the challenge there, and especially if you’re the song writer. I wrote all the songs on our Magic Window or I co-wrote some. Three songs I did by myself and the others would co-write. Great guys to work with and that’s the beauty of co-writing is they have something I don’t have and I have something they don’t have, let’s get together and see what we can come up with. That’s always fun. What are we going to come up with and try and write a song. That’s really the difference. One’s more scientific I suppose than the other. The live is wild, crazy, you’re screaming and your heart’s pounding a hundred and twenty beats a minute and you look and see all these people have fun, they love what you do and we love them as well. And I’d say the studio, little different, you’re trying to achieve a mark, you’ve rehearsed, I don’t go into sessions, unless I’ve rehearsed, have an idea where this thing’s going. That can change in the studio, but usually the change isn’t very much. But hopefully there’s is a change, if it’s for a better change.

"My drive is just music. And in these times, troubled times that we’re at, music is my medicine. I lean on it a lot, when I was very young and buying rock n’ roll records before I started playing drums it was that music, that I went to when I was going through my parents’ divorce and all the things that a 15year old kid goes through, it was the music that I would go to, rock n’ roll music." (Photo: Doug "Cosmo" Clifford)

From ‘60s to nowadays, what are your hopes and what are your fears for the future of the music?

Doug: Well they say that rock n’ roll is dead, well I don’t believe that. There’s a competition from hip hop and rap but there will always be rock and roll fans out there. That’s what I hope will never change that good rock n’ roll will always be there.

And if you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be, what would you like to change?

Doug: That’s a tough question. More of it? (laughing) That’s the first thing that comes to mind, I’d like to hear more music, maybe something new could come out of that, from generations that are to come, I’m sure surprised that there isn’t more social commentary over the last years in America for sure and then now, I’m sure there will be a lot of music about what’s happening now. We’re in a tragedy, so the world will tell us.

The track list of your new album, a lot of your tracks have the word “love”. What does love mean to you?

Doug: It means many things. There are many types of love and that’s the great thing. Creedence didn’t do many love songs so I’m making up for the ones that we didn’t do. (laughing) But love comes in all forms, there’s the love of music, there’s the love of your children and your spouse, there’s the love of nature, there’s so many things. But it’s all about coming from the heart and appreciating something, whether it be a beautiful sunset or watching your grand kids have another birthday, or whatever. Passion. Love is good, we need more of it.

What was the best advice anyone’s ever given you and you keep it like a moto of your life?

Doug: Well I would have to say that it would be Al Jackson Jr. And he became a mentor for me and a good friend. He asked me at one point. He never took we just talked about music and growing and it was really great. He said what are your goals and I said “I want to be a metronome.” He says: “Why do you want to be a metronome?” I said “I want to be perfect.” He says “A metronome is a machine. You're a person.” Sometimes there’s an energy in a song that maybe when you’re going from a verse to a chorus or from a chorus to a solo, the little excitement you know? The heart beats a couple of beats faster. You don’t speed up at, you move the changes. Because there is something happening musically, and just the same, perfect is really boring. We are humans and that’s the best thing. And that applies to anything really, drumming, living life, raising kids, we are humans, we are not machines.

"I think to be truly yourself, especially in the music side of it, there’s a lot of things that you can play but if it’s not something you’re passionate about you probably ought to look it for something that is." (Dog Clifford / Photo by Wendy Brynford-Jones)

My last question is about what was the funniest memory you have all these years, what is the most funny memory you have laughing before you sleep?

Doug: Laughing... Well I’ve made them laugh, I was sort of the clown, in the band. There was a lot of tension a lot of times. I would do things. We were in the Wall? Fest at the hotel. I think we were going to do the end show on a show at the peak of our careers. And there was a very big tea garden inside the hotel. But it was very stuffy, upper class, nose in the air, they would come for tea and of course I had long hair and a beard and wore funny clothes and we were at the top of the stairs and there were two flights that were going down and they were too wide. So, I’m walking up and I knew a little bit about tumbling gymnastics, so I could do things. So, we got up at the stairs all four of us and then I yell, I scream “Ahhh” and they turn and look and I roll down the stairs, I’d seen a stuntman do it in a movie, all the way to the bottom. And when I got to the bottom, I did a kick and I landed flat on my back and I snapped my legs and I came up and landed on my feet. And then I put my hands together like I’m brushing myself off, and then I walked out of the building.  And people kept their mouths open, all of their mouths were open. That was one of the funniest things. Also seeing Ed Sullivan really drunk after a show, he got all the cue cards wrong. And that was a very funny moment as well.

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