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Posted April 24, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford Digs Into His Vaults for ‘Magic Window’

Doug Clifford by Brent Clifford
Doug Clifford by Brent Clifford

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, was still in high school when CCR became a sensation after signing with Fantasy Records in 1967. Although best known as a drummer, Clifford sang harmony vocals and contributed songs to the Creedence catalog. 

Today he is releasing Magic Window, a solo album he recorded in 1985 and updated just this year. It’ll be available via CD Baby and all streaming platforms.

Clifford wrote the songs sitting at the piano in his Lake Tahoe, Nevada home. During his downtime, he’d gaze out at the lake and mountains and write, sometimes alone, sometimes with collaborators. 

He recorded the album with a little help from his friends. Russell DaShiell plays lead and rhythm guitars, synthesizer and sang harmonies. Chris Solberg contributes bass and keyboards and Rob Polomsky adds rhythm guitar to several tracks. 

We recently phoned him at his Reno home to talk about the album. 

You wrote the songs on this album from your Lake Tahoe home. What’s the story behind the place. When did you first purchase the house?
We moved up to lake in 1980. We had the house built. It was supposed to be a cabin for the family at large. On paper, it was 2500 square feet. Phase One was done at 4100 square feet. We had no plan on moving up there. We lived in the Bay Area, and the kids were in school there. But it was just a beautiful environment. We lived above the lake. I didn’t know that at the time, but that’s deep snow country. We had been having mild winters, and we drove up there in our Mercedes Benz with street tires during a mild winter, and we thought it was easy. We thought it would be no problem. Two winters later, it was the No. 1 winter for snowfall. Buildings were being crushed and it was a different world. But we went up there and loved it. We liked the people that lived there, and it’s a beautiful place.

How’d you decide to move there full-time?
I had wanted to move up there, but I knew my wife wouldn’t, and I would have to kid glove it. One day, we were chatting, and she said, “I wonder what the schools are like there.” I thought, “Oh, yes.” We talked to friends who lived up there and had kids in school, and long story short, we moved. We had a one-car garage. You were limited to what you could build with the square footage of ground cover. We were on one lot, and we had maxed it out. It was no problem. If people visited, they could park on the street. It was a cul-de-sac. Then, we realized we would need a three-car garage, and on top of that, we wanted a 1000-square foot studio. In the middle of building that, the big winter hit, and we not only had to stop but we had to shovel our roof twice. Our car disappeared. We had a car parked on the cul-de-sac. We forgot where it was. It got buried. The snowplows couldn’t get up there. That was 1982/1983. We got through that winter and finished the room. It’s 1000 square feet and looks out over the lake. You can see for 60 miles in any direction. It’s a magic window. 

You initially recorded the songs years ago. So how did you come back to them? 
Spring cleaning. I don’t live up there anymore. I live down in Reno in another big house. We have 1250 square feet of studio space. My wife is a painter. I have two-thirds of the space, and she has a third of it. I went downstairs when we were trying to get our garage in order. I found all these tapes. When I did these in the first place, they were demos and I was trying to get deals. I was going to people like Clive Davis, and when you go to Clive, you don’t go in there with a cassette.

I called a friend of mine who was an engineer. I asked him to put them on a reel-to-reel to see what was on them. Some were marked, and some weren’t. He said, “Let’s bake them.” I said, “What are you talking about? We don’t have any brownies around here.” There’s a technique where you bake the older tapes, and I had 10 master reels. I had some other stuff and songs I had written by myself. If there’s nobody around to write with, I get on the piano and play the three chords I know. It’s rock ’n’ roll, so who needs more than that. 

Are the other people who play on the album surprised it’s coming out so much later than when you intended?
Not really. I think they were happy that they sounded great. I stored them properly in a garage area where it’s sometimes 40 or 50 degrees. It’s never really hot. It’s a very dry climate and the perfect storage for tapes.

I think you had 100 songs. How did you pick the songs that made the cut? 
They were on a master reel. It looks like we were heading into doing an album [with these specific tracks], and I said, “Let’s finish the damn thing.” We remastered with George Horn, the remaster master in the Bay Area. I’ve known him for 50 years. Russell and I did a little tightening and added a little compression here and there. Russell [DaShiell] added some guitar things to songs that I thought needed some love. After that period of time, you’d think there would be more to do. The songs are simply and with Creedence, less is best. I come from that school and believe in it whole-heartedly, so we didn’t have to do much. 

There are quite a few love songs. 
Love songs are usually the biggest hits of all time. Creedence never did a single love song. In the songwriting process, a lot of the hooks inspired me, and I fell in love with the hooks and that was my frame of mind. Looking out the magic window, how could you not write a love song?

Are you able to stay creative while sheltering in place?
Right now, my focus is getting this album out. I’ve never seen anything like these times. It’s like a science fiction movie to me. I have a few lyrics on paper, but I don’t have a piano in this house here. I have an old keyboard, but I can’t find the power chord, and I’m not going to drive all over town going in and out of different places that I shouldn’t be going to.

What inspired “Born on the South Side”? Is that song autobiographical?
I am who I am. I was a drummer in [Creedence], and that was my job. In this band I’m an artist, so I thought I’d change the names to protect the innocent. Yes, to answer your question. This song is about where I came from. I love the track. I think people will hear it and identify with it. I know when I hear it, I go, “That’s us back in the ’60s and ’70s. The rest of the songs are ones that I would never think of having Creedence play. It’s not the same thing. This is my personal taste, if you will. That’s the kind of stuff I like to write. I have no problem singing love songs. I’m making up for the ones that Creedence never did.

Creedence Revisited was a huge success, wasn’t it? 
It’s been a terrific project. We had a five-year plan, and it ended up becoming 25 years. We’ve always been the underdogs, but we always landed on our feet. That’s part of our story. We’re survivors, and we have a positive attitude, and we look forward to what lies ahead. It was sure fun. We had some darn good ones in the project. I won’t miss the travel. Every drummer has a bad back.

Will you take the show on the road?
I’m planning not to do that. I’ve always been in shape, but I have a few nicks here and there. I’ve had some cancer and that took care of my thyroid and my singing voice. I’m working on that. If I start writing again, I’ll have to find a way to change keys in some tunes. I also have Parkinson’s, and I wanted to be able to play. I was able to finish our last tour. Stu and I are both tired of touring. He has grandchildren now, and I have five. 

Do you have a favorite song on this album? 
Yes, I do. I have ten of them. They’re all great. There’s a song “Don’t Leave Me Alone Tonight” that’s a hit, especially with what is going on in the world. I thought about not putting the record out because of the pandemic, but I said, “Wait a minute. Music lifts me when I’m down. It brings me joy. This is what I do.” We’re all staying home, and if you sit and watch the news every day, you’re going to be hanging from the tree screaming at the top of your lungs. Go to music.

I’m not a scientist. can’t find the magic cure, but I can find the magic window. I can put some music out there for people to enjoy. That’s my contribution. 

Do you think you’ll put out more music from your unreleased archives?
I have a treasure chest of songs that are all master quality songs. For the next wave, I got some stuff with [guitarist] Joe Satriani. I did a session with him. He’s from my hometown. I have some stuff with [guitarist] Greg Douglas. I’ve got some tunes still. We’ll see how this goes.

Photo: © Doug Clifford by Brent Clifford


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.