Why John Fogerty Stumbled Through ‘Eye of the Zombie’
After a decade out of the spotlight, John Fogerty returned to rock ’n’ roll stardom in 1985. His first LP in 10 years, Centerfield, topped the Billboard album charts while launching a bunch of hit singles and showing Creedence Clearwater Revival fans that the hiatus hadn’t impaired is ability to make great music.
But on the heels of such a long break – due, at least partially, to record business entanglements – it was a surprise when Fogerty announced another new album to be released. Eye of the Zombie would hit stores on Oct. 1, 1986.
“Eye of the Zombie is more like, well okay, now I’m back to work, there’s a continuing flow,” Fogerty told Australian TV in ’86. “And this is like the next project in line. It’s more like I’m at work.”
Fogerty was back at work, although the nature of that work had changed. Zombie would be the first of his solo albums to be made with a backing band (not just John overdubbing everything himself in the studio). It would also embrace the trends of the moment. The album is rife with slick, ’80s production, including compressed guitars, drum machines and synthesizers.
“It’s not a conscious effort, or anything, to change inasmuch it’s just me allowing myself to reflect what I’ve been listening to,” Fogerty told Good Morning America just before the album was released. “You’re a product of your environment. You just … pick up things that you like and incorporate them in your art.”
Although the singer-songwriter claimed it wasn't "a huge departure,” fans weren’t so sure. The pop-funk of “Wasn’t That a Woman” and the synthetic instrumental “Goin’ Back Home” were miles away from swampy Creedence or Fogerty’s rootsy solo work. Perhaps less appealing was the ugly nature of the lyrics, which focused on terrorism (“Eye of the Zombie”), the military industrial complex (“Violence Is Golden”), conflict-obsessed media (“Headlines”) and rock star sell-outs (“Soda Pop”).
“What happened after Centerfield, that album basically opened the door and let out all that anguish that I had felt up until that time,” Fogerty told Pitchfork in 2007. “That’s why Eye of the Zombie is not so good. … I can clearly see it was because once Centerfield came out and hit the top of the charts, it was like all those pains came out of you as if to say: you see? You see how bad it was? I could see the penitentiary that I’d been staying in. A bunch of bad crap came out, and it’s on Eye of the Zombie.”
It’s understandable why Fogerty was enveloped in such nastiness. In the midst of launching Zombie, he was sued by his old record label for plagiarizing Creedence Clearwater Revival (essentially, himself) on Centerfield’s “The Old Man Down the Road” (John eventually won). And while touring and doing press for his new album, Fogerty felt constant pressure to play the old CCR tunes – something that he refused to do because the act conjured up bitter feelings of the old days. Or, as Fogerty ruefully put it, “The comeback begins, the nightmare continues…”
Whether the result of lawsuits, writer’s block or disappointing sales for Eye of the Zombie (which featured a minor hit with the title track, but failed to come close to Centerfield’s success), Fogerty took another decade-long hiatus from recording. He wouldn’t make another record until 1997’s Blue Moon Swamp. A few years later, he would rescue the Zombie song “Change in the Weather” by recutting it for 2009’s The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again.
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