Doug Clifford’s latest single, “For All The Money In The World,” proves that while he does have some songs deep in the vault, he’s not planning on leaving them there forever. Thank goodness.
It’s new, but it’s not. It’s old, but it’s not. It’s good, but it’s… well, it’s actually great. Doug Clifford’s new single, “For All The Money In The World,” is a stellar example of how some things just get better with age. Music, art, and talent take time to develop, and even if said ‘time’ doesn’t mean 35 years, it doesn’t mean the wait wasn’t worth it’s aging to perfection. Things take time… like the release of good music, the witnessing of dreams coming to life, and the eventual partnerships between friends.
The Clifford/Wright project is an eighties rock masterpiece that is far too timeless for its own good. Regardless of it being shelved for not ten, not twenty, but 35 years, it feels contemporary, relatable, and accessible. Truly, not a note is out of line and each song marks the importance of thought-out musicality. It’s lead single, “For All The Money In The World,” drops tomorrow, but we are thrilled to be premiering it today exclusively for The Aquarian readers and Doug Clifford fans.
“For All The Money In The World” is a chic and dynamic track with layers of vocals and instrumentation stabilizing each other wonderfully. It’s so simply rock and roll without being brash in any way. Soft rock as a descriptor doesn’t do this song justice, but rather melodic rock with a skillful, masterful edge. Clifford himself was strategic in choosing it as a single, even with having decades to think about which song would set the tone for this record. While the multi-talented, experienced musician appreciates this song for many reasons (“It’s a shuffle – and I love shuffles”) and wanted it to lead For All The Money In The World, it’s not too indicative of the style of the entire LP. He explains to us that the songs are “played mostly by the same guys,” but that worked well into his idea that “rock and roll has many sides.”
“I don’t know if there are any [songs] that are really right in your face. There are some high energy songs, but they don’t come in with a sledgehammer, and others are just harmonious fun.”
While this new single fits that bill, the drummer reflects on the song and project’s evolution. “‘For All The Money In The World’ has a very nice uptempo groove and it’s a love song, as well. Steve Wright and I had a really good writing situation going back then. All the songs are co-written by the two of us. I miss him. He passed away in 2017. There’s a little of everything in this record, though, and it is to be sure to differentiate the point. It’s a rock and roll album, that’s for sure, but it covers many different genres within the rock and roll wonder.” Because of the various hats this style of music can wear, even in 2021, Doug Clifford admits that he is a “firm believer that rock and roll will never die.” With songs like this one out in the world reminding every music lover that resonating rock exists in both a new and old sense, we believe that, too.
We noted right out of the gate with this single that it’s power rock meets melodic rock meets folk pop. All of this is evident, as expressed by the artist and the audience. It’s mesmerizing to see such a blend and experience it firsthand, but that’s due to the love that the artist himself has for these styles, songs, and sounds.
“I myself am a big fan of the blues,” Clifford says. “In fact, when I was teaching myself how to play drums, I used to play them along with what I was listening to on the radio station 60 years ago. I think it was KWBR back then. At the time, Top 40 was certainly a lot wider than it is today. Radio now seems to be small pieces of the pie to each musical measurement. It’s more specific, but back then you could listen to an orchestra play the opening to one of the great movies of all time, and then the next up would be Little Richard. It had added quite a span of talent in the mainstream. All those Top 40 songs were all hits because of the talent. Therefore, I was learning to play drums by listening to hit records of all kinds. What the drummers were playing was very, very critical to their style, so that was basically how I learned to play. I was supposed to be doing my homework and I had my books out and a little brass lamp and the radio on, but I would listen to them, listen to the songs. No books, just me sitting to try and emulate whatever the guys were playing.”
Don’t get the 76-year-old wrong, though, this was all beneficial to who he is today and all the emotive, exciting success he had. “Being a self-taught musician, I didn’t have certain technical skills to play exactly what they were playing, but as it turned out, that was a good thing. I took the main objective of what the parts were that the drummer was playing and then got the feeling that it created in the song. I was capturing feeling. I am a feel player today. I’m not a very technical guy – and I like it. The first beat that is playing is from my heart everytime, especially on ‘For All The Money In The World.’”
“Music is a great communicator. There’s nothing like feeling something and gravitating soulfully into the gist of whatever it is you’re working with. Feeling through your ears and your eyes sends it to your heart, and that does the work most of the time to understand and connect. Then you can focus on the technical, which people will pay attention to, but maybe not as much as what they get feeling wise from the music.” As a blues fan, it’s hard to overlook the intricate crafting within that. Yet, many of those artists are slick in evoking heart through the beats and notes themselves. “I love the New Orleans side of music, but that’s technical, so you do have to focus on it. I love it, though, and I am grateful to be able to do something that I have truly loved my whole life for a career. Being 80% feeling, about, and 20% technical, has worked in my favor and turned into a lifetime career that I love and connect to.”
Doug Clifford connects with music every time he gets behind a drum set or sits down in a studio. He also tethers himself to who he is working with at the time. For the Clifford/Wright project, it was Steve Wright, the late, great musician with an eye for rhythm and a background in the Greg Kihn Band. Together, they applied emotions, surely, and technicality, of course, into this cosmetic piece of music. Maybe it was their respective adoration for being an artist or their shared appreciation for crafting memorable tunes, but their shared adolescence gave them a leg up when it came to being truly on the same mellifluous, rock and roll page.
Building off on another came with a sense of peace and an element of ease between their individual talents and collaborative, one-on-one style of artistry. “Steve and I got together young. We lived in the same town and his brother went to the same high school that I did. He was a year younger than John [Fogherty] and Stu [Cook] and I –he was actually going to be in the band. He played the guitar and almost fit in with Creedence Clearwater Revival as it was starting. We were just an instrumental trio at that time. He was kind of a minimal guitar guy, but had a bad streak. He got in fights all the time in school and we were playing in some pretty rough places in those days, so the last thing we needed was to go do a show at this suspicious area venue and then have Steve go have a fight with a guy in the lot, so he didn’t make it. He, of course, went on to be the bass player for the Greg Kihn band and actually co-wrote their hit, ‘Jeopardy.’ That’s just how we started.”
“Then we became friends later and jammed together as an exercise. I knew he could write, so we started writing as an exercise. Then it was an album. All the songs on this upcoming album are co-written. Most of it is 90% music from his side, 10% lyrics, and mine is 90% lyric and 10% music. A lot of what I did musically was just to play – we’d be jamming and we really liked it. We put all the ideas out on the floor and would play the idea into what I call a note taker. Then we would take those notes, and a lot of the times we didn’t have a melody for that… at least, certainly for the verses. For example, ‘For All The Money In the World,’ that was a home run. It was a shuffle and it had a singing chorus and it was about love.”
As a duo, Doug Clifford and Steve Wright were able to mess around playfully, but still professionally. The outcome was this record, dropping in August, and this single, premiering today. If only all jam sessions and friendships created such stellar music… there would probably be world peace! Not actually, but with as much infatuation for creating as these two, anything and everything seems effortless. No frills, no outside pressure, and no obtrusive voices. “For All The Money In The World” is an exclusive release for us to be sharing and it, as expressed to Clifford himself, was found by us to be “enticing, but timeless, and simple, but effective.”
“That’s our formula no matter who I’m working with,” the musician states in response. “My first solo album, my work with other guys, I had wrote four of 10 songs. Whereas with Steve, on this second album, he was very close to me, so I could see him on a daily basis. He would have little guitar licks in mind that he would bring in without any more thoughts and I would say to him that that is something that I can certainly fit a song around. It is so important to make a piece of music that you can listen to in any situation and at any time. That wasn’t the goal, that was the mindset. 35 years later this holds up? It is the vision to have within yourself and your creative partners like Steve was to me.”
One-on-one artistry is underrated in the age of massive musical teams and songwriting camps. The Clifford/Wright project, which does feature the likes of the immensely talented guitarist Joe Satriani, for example, shows the modern world that simplicity is key, even for a genre known for robust soundscapes, fun collaborations, and edgy musicality.
From the start, though, Clifford’s career in the rock genre was based in clarity rather than complexity. The talent Creedence Clearwater Revival had is what makes them so legendary, so poignant, and directly noted as one of the forefathers of meaningful, Americana-tinted, singer-songwriter-based rock. This career of his, which is extensive and immersive, passion-filled and well-documented, is what dreams are made of. He is, though, a dreamer. Yes, Doug Clifford in all his drumming, classic rock, ruminative, talented glory, is a dreamer.
He tells us with honesty and hope lacing his voice, “I’m a dream believer, but the one thing that you have to understand as a dreamer, and within this music that Stu and John and I started when we were 13, was that you have to work toward your dream. All we wanted was to have our songs played on the radio. In this case, it’s been 53 years and they’ve been playing the same songs of ours. That is amazing. That is from dedicated and beloved work from us. It’s humbling to hear our songs to this day and know that it’s mine. I did that. We did that. My friends and I did that and it was the most meaningful part of my life. What could be more meaningful than knowing that we’ve affected millions of people’s lives in a positive way? Our music has made people feel good when they might not be feeling so good. You’re at a party and you’re happy to get up and dance to that, to our song, and it takes you there – to a place of joy. One thing, though, the reality of dreams, is that anyone can dream. If it’s a real dream, though, and you want it badly, you’re going to have to put everything you have into it. You have to invest your heart and soul into it and work.”
“It took Creedence 10 years before we had our first hit record and we stuck it out, playing the music that we wanted to play, whether or not it was something that somebody else wanted us to play or that might be the fad for a while that year or so. Record companies kept saying to us that we needed a gimmick. We kept saying, ‘How about a hit record? That could be our gimmick.’ That’s what we were putting on our side: the idea that our songs that we stuck to were going to be a hit. We were not going to go out some week and play some other kind of music, because it would be popular. That was not what we do, that is not what I still do, and it’s never what any of us wanted to do. We wanted to refine what we enjoyed listening to. We wanted to keep alive the sound we loved. We had to really put full attention into our dreams. That’s what everyone has to do. Stick it out, make the effort personal. A dream is important when you have invested all the time and I would say time…. and money, but we didn’t have any money back then and we still made it! [Laughs] You’re investing the most important thing you have – your heart – into your dream. Because of that, John and Stu and I can go to a grocery store or turn on our car radio and hear our songs, our dreamed-about hits, five decades laters. If you don’t dream hard enough, you can’t experience that humbling, grounding, heartwarming feeling that we expertly put into our music from the first moment we got together.”
These little, monumental, heart fluttering pieces of advice made Doug Clifford a household name, put him on the map as a drummer, helped him hone his craft, made his connections, and put him and his CCR bandmates on a path to be successful, grateful, iconic musicians. That is what got him here today, promoting a solo record once stored in his aptly dubbed Comso’s Vault and now inching its way closer to a widespread, global release after 35 years.
Steve Wright would be proud of these songs seeing the light of day and knowing the heart put into them with him and Clifford was not for nothing, but was actually for everything. It was for “For All The Money In The World.” It was for a rock resurgence. It was for the simply, thoughtfully crafted songs. It was for the return of collaborative, inclusive, uniting, melodic, and genuine music hitting the mainstream airwaves. Today is the day that begins thanks to Doug Clifford and his sincere words, marvelous talent, admiration for dreaming, and stripped down look at what musical musings can be.
DOUG CLIFFORD’S “FOR ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD” GOES LIVE ON ALL SERVICES TOMORROW! THE FULL CLIFFORD/WRIGHT PROJECT LP IS OUT AUGUST 27!