Positive vibes and pure rock and roll pour from “Magic Window” by the great Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, founding member and drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival. After 35 long years, these “lost tapes” emerged from the dark and have been made available to the public. “Magic Window” replicates both the original CCR vibe and the mid 80s while still sounding thoroughly modern.
Cosmo was kind enough to chat with TCM about the new album, his remarkable career and the state of music in today’s pandemic. “Magic Window” is available everywhere. For anybody who grew up listening to one of America’s greatest rock and roll bands, it’s a must listen. Check out the album “Magic Window” HERE. For more information on Doug “Cosmo Clifford visit: https://dougcosmoclifford.com/
Cameron Campbell: The album “Magic Window” is out into the world. I would love to ask about the process of recording it. What was your intent when you recorded these tracks back then?
Doug “Cosmo” Clifford: Well, this was 1985. I was trying to put together a demo to become a singer/songwriter. So every time I would write a song, I would have enough to do a session and record it in master quality. That way if someone wanted to hear the song or pitch the song, you could present it in its best format. I had a studio in my house; a sixteen track studio. It made it very handy to record. So that is what I did. It looked like I was going to get a deal and then that didn’t happen. I was sort of disgusted.
Also, a project came up in the town I was living in Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe, a beautiful area and there was a very severe drought. I had a biological background and a fire fighting background, so I created a program called “Neighbors for Defensible Space”. The Defensible Space is cleaning up fuels around houses. It became pretty complicated on how far you need to clean and how you cleaned. I felt that it was something where I could save a lot of lives and a lot of habitat. So I got caught up in that. I did that for several years and it was deemed the #1 program of its type in the nation by the Department of Agriculture. So they sent a bunch of guys from Washington up here every week. I would give them the tours and show them the process. So I kind of lost track of what I was doing for a while. Then I got involved in another band and forgot about “Magic Window” (laughs).
CC: That is an incredible jump from the music world and playing shows to focusing on environmental endeavours. I would not have expected it! But it sounds like you did a fantastic and important thing.
DC: Oh thank you. It was a very necessary thing. People were ignorant of a working forest. Certainly, a healthy natural forest has fire. Fire acts as a cleansing device, if you will. But in a natural forest Mother Nature doesn’t allow the fuels to get cataclysmic. The problems we were having with homes bordering wildlands is just that people don’t understand fire. The fires were suppressed. When that happens the fuels just drop down over the years and pile up. If they aren’t removed by the burning process, it is the reason for the cataclysmic fires you have now. Those fuels are stacked up over the years and should have been removed by low level, low intensity fires, natural fires.
CC: That is a great cause right there. I hate to steer back to ‘85, but I am curious what you were listening to when you were recording “Magic Window”? What types of things were influencing you?
DC: MTV was the new rage and it was changing a lot of the industry. So I was like anybody else, tuned into the tunes on MTV. It was a variety of acts and it was totally different because you got to see the band present their songs in a live or semi-live type of environment. I was always listening to that and, as always, classic rock. I was also just listening to what we were doing. We were making our own music. So we had to pay attention to what we were building.
CC: Any favorite tracks off the album?
DC: Yeah, actually quite a few. I like “Magic Window”, the title track. That one is a rocker; it has some spookiness to it. “My window is my magic screen!”. It has a spooky voice, a little bit like what Pink Floyd was doing but with no English accent (laughs). So having some fun with that!
“Born on the South Side” is the style that John (Fogerty) wrote from my past. I thought I should at least have one of those on there. After all, I’m the drummer from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
On this project I’m the artist. I’m singer/songwriter, producer, arranger and drummer. It created a whole different world for me. The key for me were the vocals, I needed to work on them and I did.
When you have your own studio you can spend as much time as you want and not have to look over your shoulder and see what the clock is doing. When you had a session it was 10:00am-8:00pm and when it hit 8:00pm you had to pack up and go
CC: Listening to the album, I could definitely hear the CCR vibes and “Magic Window” is a fantastic opener. The whole thing was great for me because it felt almost like a time capsule. You capture that time in your studio perfectly.
DC: You can definitely hear the synth and the tom that were all the rage back then. But at the same time it sounds fresh and new. I have been hearing those drums come back in some of those pop songs that are being played. It makes me think that you’ll be able to grab bell bottom pants and wear them and make them relevant again in time. I also like “Don’t Leave Me Alone Tonight”, it could be a potential hit! And “Just Another Girl” same thing. I like “Don’t Let Go”. There is just a lot of really good rock and roll on the album!
CC: Now, the promo material I reviewed prior to this conversation claims that the album was discovered in your garage after 35 years. Is this urban legend? Or did you actually stumble back on to it?
DC: Well, it wasn’t really a stumbling. It was more of a fumbling. Fumbling and stumbling (laughs). I was in my studio in the upstairs of my house, doing a little spring cleaning. While I was looking through stuff, I opened a drawer and there were tapes. It wasn’t a small reel. It was a big aluminum master tape. I didn’t know what was on it. I looked for the box, saw what was on that and I thought ‘ya’know, I know I have a bunch of these things somewhere.“
I knew it would have to be down in the garage because it is a cool climate for storage of tape. So I went down to the place where I had all this music and, lo and behold, there were about 8 or 10 of these reels.
I did a lot of different recordings. Two different bands; two different singers besides myself. So there is a lot of additional stuff that I will eventually release. I have one with Bobby Whitlock singing (Derek and the Dominoes). We had a project in the Bay Area back in ‘78.
I have other recordings with Steve Wright from The Greg Kihn Band, and helped co-write their hit “Jeopardy”. I have always recorded those songs that I am a writer or co-writer on. It is a publishing thing really. You would record these songs in the best possible light. That way if you wanted to hear a song and have someone understand the song you could. You wouldn’t have to say now here would be a solo or maybe some organ. You give someone a finished master and say: ‘Listen to this!’
So this was very much a publishing project at the time. But at the same time, I think it is a good record. I’m really surprised about how good it was! I hadn’t heard it for 35 years and thought ‘Holy cow! What do we have here? (laughs).
CC: Well, I hope the rest of it comes out! It would be incredible to hear those things. Now that “Magic Window” is out, what are your plans for the album? Are you going to tour it?
DC: I won’t be touring. I just finished 25 years of touring with Creedence Clearwater Revisited. That band had Stu Cook, the original bass player of Creedence Clearwater Revival. We were the original rhythm section and we put Revisited together in ‘95. Our last tour wrapped up right before the pandemic. So as all the concerts were cancelled around the world, we had just finished. The timing was pretty good there.
CC: I actually had the privilege of sitting in the audience last time you guys came through Minnesota with Revisited. It was billed as the last go around. You’re confirming that now. What does the ending of that era mean to you?
DC: Well, it means a lot of things. It means I’m getting older (laughs). It is a privilege and a high to play rock and roll and especially to play that catalog of songs that we all wrote. To go out and play it for 25 years and bring the live aspect of Creedence back. Nobody was playing these songs, John Fogerty included. He refused to play them. So we said: ‘Well, people are requesting it. We hear it every day! If we can find the guys to fill in what’s missing, we will go with it.’
Our first lead guitarist was Elliot Easton of The Cars, who is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He actually learned guitar by listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival. He knew every note of every song. He was a natural. Just a great player. We have gone through a few singers, three guitar players, but always kept it sounding real for 25 years.
I will miss the audience. That is the pay off there. You got to go out in front of a crowd that loved what you were doing and feel a lot of love. Then we send it back and it goes back and forth. It is a very unique and powerful thing to be able to do that. Also, to realize that we affected millions of peoples’ lives in a positive way around the world, including three generations of fans. That is a pretty rare thing in the pop area.
CC: Sitting at that Revisited show was a rush for me. I’m 25, but as long as I can remember I have listened to you guys. You talk about the three generations of people, because CCR music definitely transcends generations. It is like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. I know sitting at the show, I saw three different generations of all these families singing along. How does it make you feel when you see your music get passed down like that?
DC: It is an honor and a privilege to be in that position, to transcend the generations, to pass the test of time. I thank my lucky stars everyday.
But it was time. The road beats you up. For that hour and a half of glory you have that 22 and a half hours of shit (laughs), well travel. The friendly skies aren’t always that friendly and the roads are bumpy and I have a bad back. Most drummers that I know that have played 50 years have a problem with their back, it is just part of the deal. I also have Parkinsons coming on, so I wanted to get out while I was on my top form.
Plus, I have a lot of grandkids. I have missed a lot of birthdays, so I have a lot of birthdays to make up and time to spend with them. It is also nice to walk off the stage and say: ‘Well that was a great 25 years with Revisited.’ Then immediately say I have an album in my hand that is stirring and it is out now. You can download it now (laughs) and it is all pretty amazing.
CC: You definitely left the stage with a bang and on your own terms. However, now that the Revisited chapter comes to a close, what are you getting up to in your spare time? Any hobbies?
DC: I don’t really have any hobbies. I’m working on the record; I’m talking to you today. On my 75th birthday, I did a two and a half hour podcast. So I am just promoting this record so we can get some airplay and give it more exposure. That’s the name of the game really.
Music is more than a hobby, it is my whole life. Now I am going from the performance side to the creative side. All the songs out I have written or at least co-written on. I have all the copyrights (laughs). They are my babies so to speak. They really are like your children only they never talk back (laughs). They just send out cool vibes.
CC: I read in a recent interview that you got the nickname “Cosmo” from the “oldest hippie in the room” at a Fraternity Toga Party. Do you think that hippie had any idea that the nickname he gave you would stick with you as long as it has? Or that CCR’s biggest album carried the name? Is there anything you’d like to say about him or to him today?
DC: Oh! (laughs) His name was Phil and he was from North Beach in San Francisco. He actually ended up becoming a college professor at one of the California state schools. He always had some far out hippie vibe. I haven’t seen him in decades but I don’t think he would have a clue that he had tagged me with a life long name.
All the band members called me either Cos or Cosmo, including Stu Cook, who I have known since the 7th grade. That’s the nickname and that is who I am! We got “Cosmo’s Factory” which was our most successful album ever. I always tell people that they named it after me but that’s really not the case. It is because of the music inside of it and our headquarters was Cosmo’s Factory. I’m proud of that. It’s all part of the lore of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
CC: Is there anything you liked to add about “Magic Window” and future musical ventures?
DC: Just to spread the word about “Magic Window”. It’s a destiny story. It was destined to be played after 35 years of imprisonment in a storage locker (laughs).
It’s good music and music right now is medicine. And we need as much medicine as we can get living in these strange times. I thought about not putting it out because of the pandemic. But then I said, ‘wait a minute, music for me is medicine and meditation’. Even when I was 13 and going through my parents divorce, I always would go to my records and listen to the music.
When you’re up, there is music for that. When you’re down, there is music for that. And when you’re in between, there is music for that. It is a template for life. So I am throwing this (Magic Window) out there with some positive energy on the record. I just hope people enjoy. ‘Cause it is a really good way to avoid the crap going on these days.
CC: That is an incredibly strong positive message to put out there. As a musician I have to agree that playing and listening to music definitely does something to you that most other things in life can’t fill. How do you feel about all the musicians dealing with the pandemic? Do you have any message you’d like to send them?
DC: If everybody could play music, it would just be uneventful. Even if you’re really good, and able to make a living out of it, especially now. There are so many bands that don’t have the records. They use the internet to promote their shows and make a living by playing shows. That probably won’t be fully back for a long time.
It really is a shame. And the real irony is that music is a great escape. It is really good for your soul. It’s a cleansing and a meditation and right now we need it more than ever. Now, the live aspect of it is gone, for all intents and purposes. So be patient. Keep the day job. But always practice your instrument.