Okay, let’s go ahead and address the big ol’ elephant in the room. Why am I putting a synth-heavy new wave remake of Credence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising into the Jukebox Hero Hymnal instead of the original version, you know, the classic recording which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and appears at No. 29 on Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong’s list of favorite rock, pop, and R&B singles of all time? Simple, really, because this is ostensibly a blog about bad movies and The Reels’ version of Bad Moon Rising is the one that appears on the soundtrack of Howling III: The Marsupials, that’s why? When CCR’s version shows up in a movie about Australian werewolves with kangaroo-like pouches, maybe I’ll change my mind, but until then, it’s The Reels.
But why include the song at all? Well, because when singer/songwriter John Fogerty wrote the tune, he had a bit more on his mind than just your everyday doom and gloom. In a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, Fogerty explained how he came up with the lyrics to Bad Moon Rising.
“I got the imagery from an old movie called The Devil and Daniel Webster. Basically, Daniel Webster makes a deal with Mr. Scratch, the devil. It was supposed to be apocryphal. At one point in the movie, there was a huge hurricane. Everybody's crops and houses are destroyed. Boom. Right next door is the guy's field who made the deal with the devil, and his corn is still straight up, six feet. That image was in my mind. I went, ‘Holy mackerel!’ My song wasn't about Mr. Scratch, and it wasn't about the deal. It was about the apocalypse that was going to be visited upon us. It wasn't until the band was learning the song that I realized the dichotomy. Here you got this song with all these hurricanes and blowing and raging ruin and all that, but it's [snaps fingers] ‘I see a bad moon rising.’ It's a happy-sounding tune, right? It didn't bother me at the time.”
But apparently it bothers him now, which is another reason for including The Reels’ take on Bad Moon Rising rather than CCR’s, because the music in the Aussie version better matches the lyrics’ somber apocalyptic imagery. I mean, let’s face it, Fogerty didn’t exactly pen a feel good diddy here…
Hope you got your things together.
Hope you are quite prepared to die.
Looks like we're in for nasty weather.
One eye is taken for an eye.
Well don't go around tonight,
Well it's bound to take your life,
There's a bad moon on the rise.
Yow, pretty harsh. Still it has to be admitted, the Bible does occasionally use such apocalyptic language, most famously in the book of Revelation where it hints there will one day be a final cosmic upheaval that ends the universe as we know it. More sobering, though, is when it gets personal, such as in the opening chapter of 2 Thessalonians wherein St. Paul states bluntly that when those end times finally come, it will be perfectly just for the Lord to inflict “punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.” Yeah, we don’t really like those parts of the Bible too much, do we? We’d rather hear the happy stuff.
In a lecture Avery Cardinal Dulles delivered at Fordham University, he noted…
“Today a kind of thoughtless optimism is the more prevalent error. Quite apart from what theologians teach, popular piety has become saccharine. Unable to grasp the rationale for eternal punishment, many Christians take it almost for granted that everyone, or practically everyone, must be saved. The Mass for the Dead has turned into a Mass of the Resurrection, which sometimes seems to celebrate not so much the resurrection of the Lord as the salvation of the deceased, without any reference to sin and punishment. More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in hell (cf. Matthew 10:28)… Yes, Jesus came to save all. Yes, supernatural grace is on tap for all who desire it. But such grace must be freely drawn down. It is drawn down by regular confession, regular reception of the Eucharist, and perseverance in prayer. Mortification, volunteer work, Bible reading, and evangelization should be added for good measure. One should also take risks on occasion in order to bear Christian witness. There are no free rides to Heaven. Life is combat — every day, every month, every year.”
Given that, it’s entirely appropriate to sing about a bit of Biblical doom and gloom every now and then, just as an occasional reminder that there are consequences to our actions (or lack thereof). For my tastes, if I’m going to do so, I’d prefer it to be in the manner of The Reels’ lugubrious take on Fogerty’s lyrics. I understand, though, that such a double whammy of morbidity might be too much for some folks to stomach. Ah well, for them, there’s always the original, happier sounding version…
…which, if you ask me, still doesn’t go as well with movies about Australian werewolves with kangaroo-like pouches as The Reels’ version does.