‘Magic Window’ opens new view of Creedence artist

Doug Clifford sings, drums, writes and produces on his album “Magic Window.”
Photo by Brent Clifford

A “Magic Window” has been discovered in Cosmo’s Lake Tahoe factory.

Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford recently retrieved about 100 songs that were recorded  in 1985 at his Incline Village studio. Ten tracks make up the album, “Magic Window,” released on April 24. Clifford sings lead and co-wrote all of the tunes. The album was co-produced with Russell DaShiell, who lived in a studio atop Clifford’s garage.

“I’m not just a drummer in a band anymore,” Clifford told Tahoe Onstage. “I have a lot of stuff sitting in the can waiting to come out, but ‘Magic Window,’ in my opinion, is my best musical project in my career.

“I was the drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival and that’s cool, don’t get me wrong, I’m not downplaying that. But I was the drummer. On these projects, I am the singer-songwriter-producer. I am wearing many, many hats and have more responsibility and I like it.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival had a short but spectacular run, disbanding in 1972. Its litany of classic rock songs is still played on radio and in movies. “Cosmo’s Factory” was the name of the band’s East Bay rehearsal hall and the title of its fifth and greatest selling album.

Clifford, 75, lived 18.5 years at Incline Village. After he and CCR bassist Stu Cook started Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, Clifford moved to the other side of the mountain into the Montreux community in Reno, where it was easier in wintertime to make it to the airport.

Clifford spends winters in Arizona and he just returned to Reno last weekend.

“Magic Window” offers a view of Incline Village in the 1980s when rock stars were abundant, especially on Tyner Way, including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, David Coverdale, Mike Love, Michael Bruce and Cook, CCR’s bass player.

Musician Robbie “Gade” Polomsky has performed around the lake more than 40 years. During the rock star heyday was joined onstage at venues such as Legends at Incline Village and River Ranch in Tahoe City for impromptu appearances by Neal Schon, Dave Mason and four times by Jimmy Page. He teamed with the former CCR drummer for private shows for Clifford’s affluent friends.

“When I moved here, I met Doug and it was almost like meeting the Beatles,” Polomsky said. “Doug and Charlie Watts are the best in the pocket, lay down the groove rock drummers in the world.”

Polomsky was the co-writer on four of the songs on “Magic Window.” DaShiell, who played guitar and synthesizer, co-wrote one and two were helped penned by keyboard player-bassist Chris Solberg, best known for playing with Santana in the 1970s and ‘80s, and studio sessions with Chris Isaak and Greg Kihn.

“I will only write with one other person,” Clifford said. “You get three and then it’s by committee.

“Robbie comes in and he’s always got a lick or a little hook and either it moves me or it doesn’t., and I just take it where I feel it. Once I’ve got the map for what is going to be then I write the lyrical part and sometimes write a melody or something for a chorus or a verse. Robbie is really easy to work with.”

After CCR broke up, its rhythm section of Cook and Clifford played in the Don Harrison Band along DaShiell, a session player for artists such as Bo Diddley, John Sebastian, Phil Everly and Danny O’Keefe. DaShiell also oversaw the music for the television program “In Living Color.”

“Russell had his own project and needed a place to stay,” Clifford said. “He lived in the 1,000 square-foot studio with a kitchen and bathroom. It was a real good working situation and it was good to have a guy who was talented and someone I trusted.

“Chris Solberg was a younger guy from the Bay Area, the side I was from. A younger guy and a very talented musician. He plays bass and keyboards on the album.”

Polomsky co-wrote the title track, inspired by the view of Lake Tahoe, as well as Clifford’s semi-autobiographical “Born on the South Side,” an obvious celebration of the CCR sound.

“Don’t Leave Me Alone Tonight” is a “Strawberry Fields” flavored standout track on the record, and one reason is that it’s a love song. Think about it: Creedence never did any love songs, and Polomsky says the word “love” is not even mentioned in any CCR tune.

“There are a lot of nice songs in there with good, positive messages,” Clifford said. “It’s perfect for what’s happening in the real world and one of the main reasons I wanted to put it out. Share my music with the world because the messages are good. A lot of love songs. Creedence never did any love songs. So, I made up for lost time on that. I am proud of it and I hope people will take a chance to listen to it.”

-Tim Parsons

Related story: “Cosmo” Clifford got his nickname at a toga party.

  • Doug Clifford
  • ‘Magic Window’
  • Release: April 24, 2020 (digital only)
  • Purchase: LINK
Robbie “Gade” Polomsky performs at Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay every sunny afternoon this summer.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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