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(Credit: Heinrich Klaffs)

Music

The film that inspired a Creedence Clearwater Revival Halloween classic

@TomTaylorFO

From the real-life horrors of ‘Fortune Son’ to the rather more mythical; Creedence Clearwater Revival have ventured to all quarters of in their all-too-brief lifespan as a band. The cult heroes of the counterculture added a blue-collar beauty to the groovy peace and love movement of the era. With some terrific musicianship to go with their grounded introspection and John Fogerty possessing a voice that could stir honey into tea from a thousand paces, they reside among the greatest bands of the era, which is some pretty awesome company to be in, dude.

The bristling energy to their music and its zeitgeist capture ways has meant that their tracks have been used in movies more than a few times. Take, for instance, the first-pumping garden gazing meditation of ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’ in the iconic and magnificent The Big Lebowski. However, one song more than any other has been used in a slew of spooky movies – the Halloween classic ‘Bad Moon Rising’.

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As it happens, the song itself was, in turn, inspired by a movie, and one far more obscure than the ones it has featured in at that! It was spawned after frontman John Fogerty watched The Devil and Daniel Webster, a little-known fantasy flick from 1941. And no, it has nothing to do with the outstanding outsider music documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

The movie is pretty much a classic rehashing of Faust and the devil. Occasionally referred to be the title All That Money Can Buy, the plotline for the film reads: “A nineteenth-century New Hampshire farmer makes a pact with Satan for economic success, then enlists famed orator Daniel Webster to extract him from his contract.”

The film may have since drifted towards such obscurity that for some reason it has dual names, but it certainly made a lasting impression on Fogerty, and his bank balance will be glad of it too as royalties roll in year on year. There is a dark and stormy ending and that is very much the mood that Creedence Clearwater Revival captures in the composition. As Fogerty told Rolling Stone regarding the link between the film and the song, “[it’s about] the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us.”

Fortunately, he went about this foretold doom with a bit more festive levity than some of Bob Dylan’s masterful but rather more stern-faced takes on the subject. As a result, the track triumphs not only in enlisting the stormy atmosphere but also crafting a foot-stomping good time of it, befitting of any Halloween party. 

There is an infamous literary line that the vibe of the song teeters joyfully close to. Edward Bulwer-Lytton opens his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, with: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Not only is that a 58-word opening line but it was deemed so kitsch and on the nose in the worst possible way that it actually spawned an award for the worst opening lines.

Nevertheless, there is something charmingly brilliant about ‘Bad Moon Rising’ chucking in the classic vibe of howls in the dark night. In short, it lands on the nose in the best possible way and it has transcended generations, bringing cheer each spooky season as a result, all thanks to a long-forgotten movie. The lesson: dearly beleaguered farmers don’t get any ideas or you could end up in big trouble while a gravel-voiced rock band profit from your greedy misfortunes decades later.