Pumped A Lot Of Pane

Some people hear “Pumped a lot of pain” and they think this song is about shooting heroin, while others hear “pumped a lot of tang” and they think of poontang, a slang term for female vagina, or otherwise called pootietang and they think this song is about a prostitute.  John Fogerty bought a small notebook back in the fall of 1967, so he could keep a list of song-title ideas.  His first entry was “Proud Mary”, which he didn’t really know what it meant, but he liked how these two words sounded together.  In the beginning, ‘Proud Mary’ had nothing to do with a riverboat, as John Fogerty envisioned it to be the story of a woman who works as a maid for rich people.  Proud Mary would get take the bus every morning and go to work holding her family together, and then she would go home.

Stu Cook the bass guitarist first introduced the riverboat aspect of the song.  The group was watching the television show Maverick and Stu made the statement, “Hey riverboat, blow your bell.”  Maverick was a TV Western that aired from 1957-1962 and he was a high-stakes riverboat gambler.  John seemed to think that the boat had something to do with the song that had been brewing in his mind for quite some time, waiting to take conscious shape.  When he wrote the music, he made the first few chords evoke a riverboat paddlewheel going around.  Thus, ‘Proud Mary’ went from being a cleanup lady to a boat.

John was living with his wife and their newborn son, while he was still in the Army Reserve and because he saw on the news that people were dying there every day, he was concerned about being sent to Vietnam.  One day in the early summer of ‘68, an oversize envelope showed up on the steps of his apartment building that contained his honorable discharge.  John was elated to be a civilian again.  He picked up his Rickenbacker guitar and began playing a song intro which he had been working on.  The chord riff was based on the opening to Beethoven’s ‘Fifth Symphony’, a song that everyone recognizes from its first four notes “da-da-da-DUM”, with the DUM note being held longer than the first three da’s.  Fogerty thought it would sound better with the emphasis on the first note, which is how he arrived at “DUM-da-da-da”, preferring hitting the first chord hard for emphasis, not the fourth.

The song came together as Fogerty picked up his guitar and started strumming.  He came up with, “Left a good job in the city” and then several other good lines came out immediately.  He had the chord changes, the minor chord where it says, “Big wheel keep on turnin’/Proud Mary keep on burnin’’ (or ‘boinin’) using his funky pronunciation that he got from channeling Wilson Pickett and Howlin’ Wolf.  By the time he hit “Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river”, he knew that he had written his best song.  John had always loved Mark Twain’s writing and the music of Stephen Foster (‘Camptown Races’, ‘Swanee River’ and ‘My Old Kentucky Home’), so he wrote lyrics about a riverboat.  The line “rollin’ on the river” was influenced by a movie that he saw about two riverboats racing.  His rhythm chords gave the song a boat-like motion and he finished most of it in two hours.  Then he found the song title ‘Proud Mary’ in his notebook.

This was the first of five singles by Creedence that went to #2 on the US chart, reaching #8 in the UK and it is interesting that CCR has the most #2 songs without ever having a #1.  ‘Proud Mary’ came out in 1969 on the debut Creedence Clearwater Revival album Bayou Country.  When CCR recorded this song, John Fogerty wasn’t happy with the harmony vocals, so he recorded them himself and overdubbed them onto the track.  This caused further tension in his already-tenuous relationship with his bandmates.  The group split up in 1972.  John Fogerty was the lead guitar, harmonica, lead vocals with his brother Tom Fogerty playing rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Stu Cooke played bass, backing vocals, keyboards and Doug Clifford played drums, bass.

This song contains three short verses that tell a story about a guy who leaves a good job in the city, that he was not satisfied with, because he was working for the man.  He doesn’t look back, or lose any sleep worrying that he is making a mistake.  He bounces around doing some menial jobs, like being a dishwasher in Memphis and pumping gas in New Orleans.  His life changes dramatically once he gets to see the good side of the city, while he is hitching a ride on a river boat queen.  Most people determine the good side of a city by which side has lower crime rates and that makes the bad side of the city the area that has the higher crime rate.  Many people don’t want to live in a concrete jungle without any trees preferring a neighborhood with single family homes.  The good side of the city could be the area that has less graffiti, but in this song the good side of the city is seen at a distance, while sailing away from it on the river.  The good side of the city is where you are able to have a simpler life.

John comes up with the line, “If you come down to the river, Bet you gonna find some people who live.”  Living away from the public on a river is a lifestyle choice, because you are still close to the city where you can get to restaurants and do other things, but you are saving money by not paying rent or having a mortgage.  It maybe a bit cramped, but chores are no longer chores, they become genuinely enjoyable.  People that live on the river, usually take it easy, they do not just snooze their lives away, they bask in the simplicity of a easier life.  They don’t have to worry because they have no money, as the other people living on the river don’t have any money either.  They consider themselves rich with the inner peace that life on the river gives them, they are happy and happy to give what they have to their friends who need their help.  This song is about dropping out of the grind associated with city life and living on a river boat, rolling down the river of life, a metaphor for life’s journey.

Creedence Clearwater Revival was from El Cerrito, California which forms part of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Despite popular belief, John Fogerty was not writing this song from experience.  When John Fogerty wrote ‘Proud Mary’, he didn’t clean a lot of plates in Memphis, or ever hitch a ride on a riverboat queen, as he hadn’t ventured further east than Montana. After the song was recorded, he took a trip to Memphis, so he could finally see the Mississippi River.

Since steamboats were originally powered by burning wood, some people have a different take on the song lyrics, which I disagree with.  In the early days, people on the river made money by cutting and selling wood to the river boats.  This wood was green, so it did not burn well, thus an accelerant was needed to make it burn.  A barrel of lard was kept in the engine room and every log was dipped in it before being tossed into the firebox.  The largest maker of lard was a company named “Proud Mary” based out of Chicago.  This is why people say that ‘Proud Mary’ is about lard and not about a steamboat, they say that Proud Mary was necessary to keep on burnin’.  I doubt that John knew any of this when he was writing this song.

This song was a #4 hit in the US for Ike & Tina Turner in 1971, and it was always a highlight of their live shows.  The line, “Pumped a lot of pane down in New Orleans” refers to propane, because he had a job pumping gas.  Ike and Tina changed ‘pane’ to ‘tane’, being short for octane.  This created a lot of confusion over what was being pumped “pane” or “tane.”  Fogerty said that he loved Ike and Tina’s energetic version and that he knew exactly what “tane” meant.  In 1993, CCR was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  John Fogerty refused to perform with Cook and Clifford.  The pair were barred from the stage, while Fogerty played with an all-star band that included Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson.

Left a good job in the city
Workin’ for the man ev’ry night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleepin’
Worryin’ ‘bout the way things might have been

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis
Pumped a lot of pane down in New Orleans
But I never saw the good side of the city
‘Til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ‘cause you have [if you got] no money
People on the river are happy to give

Big wheel keep on turnin’
Proud Mary keep on burnin’
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river

Written for FOWC with Fandango – Snooze, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Public and for Ragtag Community – Bask.

11 thoughts on “Pumped A Lot Of Pane

      1. Same old.. I’m a bit under the weather too.. I hope you recover soon and kick ass… So Enjoy the weekends Jim go down on a long drive. Just Enjoy my friend… Be happy…

        Liked by 1 person

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