Dec 032012

Keep on chooglin’!

Periodically, Mr. Moderator likes to use a vocabulary term that I don’t fully understand: “chooglin’.” In my best, earnest Honors English Student way, I’ve been doing research and trying to understand this term. I’ve been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song, “Keep On Chooglin’.” I’ve been looking on the web. I’ve been cross referencing musicology sources. I have been trying to overlook the definition included in the Urban Dictionary.

So…I’m understanding it like this: a rhythm like a train, a steady shuffling beat, a sexual swagger. But listening to the songs included in the WFMU list of other choogglin’ music, I’m left with even more questions. Is the emphasis on the 1 and 3 beats, or the 2 and 4? Does the tempo matter? Is this music that makes you want to shake your hips (Charlie Rich style)? There are certain songs that have a sort of train-tempo that I’m a complete sucker for (“Yin and Yang the Flower Pot Man” by Love and Rockets, “Snail Head” by Throwing Muses), but are THEY chooglin?

Help me, dear members of the Hall, to understand this term.


  15 Responses to “Chooglin’?”

  1. To me, chooglin’ is a fatalistic form of the boogie. Whereas the boogie promises release and salvation, the choogle is a nose-to-the-grindstone shuffle that promises, at best, the ability to keep on keeping on. My workload this fall has required me to choogle. I don’t ask why. I don’t ask when. I keep on chooglin’ and take solace in the fact that I’m ending each week further along from the point where I started.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, let me add to the deafening chorus of yea-sayers on your laser-sharp definition of “chooglin’.” I see no reason to take this discussion a single word further. You win again.

  3. Thanks, and as anyone who’s choogled knows, it’s a Pyrrhic victory.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    So, if I’m hearing you correctly, Mod, chooglin’ doesn’t depend on tempo, 1/3 vs. 2/4 emphasis, etc. etc that you managed to avoid in my gutsy questioning, but instead is a STATE OF MIND?

    Could you please post some additional tracks or photos that demonstrate this concept? Or are you saying that chooglin’ is relative and what is a nice, solid boogie to you may be a nose-to-the-grindstone shuffle to me?

    The philosophical quandary this puts me in is mind blowing.

  5. I don’t think the phrase represents a tempo or a beat emphasis so much as just capturing Mod’s idea of keep on keepin on. Or like Keep on Trucking.

    That said, I hear a beat like Elvis’s Midnight Train in my ear if I had to pick a Chooglin type beat. 2/4 certainly more than 1/3. I don’t think that many rock songs emphasis the 1 or 3. You get a heavy hit on the 1 with a waltz or with a Reggae beat, but most rock does the 2/4 thang. I think of a beat done mostly on the snare drum. The opening of Ballroom Blitz comes to my mind too.

  6. No, it’s not relative. Chooglin’ is chooglin’, something deeper than a solid boogie. I’m not sure that any musical example is necessary beside CCR’s “Keep on Chooglin’.” There’s a reason it goes on for, like, 14 minutes. It’s the Book of Chooglin’. One needs no more to understand what it’s all about. It probably explains Fogerty Syndrome better than any other song in the band’s canon.

    Maybe Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” was a precursor of chooglin’, but Berry couldn’t make the commitment to that feeling that Fogerty would.

    Chickenfrank’s identification of the 2/4 beat and the intro to “Ballroom Blitz” both get at the root of the rhythm, but Sweet’s song loses interest in adhering to the principles of chooglin’ in no time.

    The Stones dabbled in both proto- and post-chooglin’, the latter exhibited in the long instrumental break in “Midnight Rambler.”

    The Doors verged on chooglin’ in the long instrumental passage of “LA Woman,” but Morrison couldn’t commit, eventually ditching it for his patented voodoo poetry. They danced around the flame but only CCR shoved their faces into it. There’s no poetry to chooglin’.

    Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” hints at chooglin’, as does just about any great Canned Heat song, but none of those songs really dig in the way CCR’s chooglin’ songs do.

    Captain Beefheart’s “Bat-Chain Puller” is the end of the line in chooglin’, The Large Glass of the style. The guitar break at the 1:58 mark turns the choogle in on itself and fractures. Still, it does nothing that hasn’t already been suggested by the Book of Chooglin’.

    Shit, watch the concentration it takes the 4 members of CCR to play this “simple” song:

    Even the camera crew gets in on the chooglin’. Look at the way the audience starts dancing. Had the genre extended any further than this one song live performances probably would have been outlawed in some states.

    Just watching this I want to get on my haunches and thrust my head to the rhythm.

  7. Oh my god, try watching this entire 40-minute performance of CCR from 1970. This is distilled chooglin’ rock ‘n roll at its best, with no bullshit theatrics. I wish saturnismine was here so I could tell him, “Fuck your MC5 bullshit!” (And I would say that to him with nothing but love.)

    Prime-time CCR in this concert footage kicks the collective ass of the Stooges, MC5, Stiff Little Fingers, Black Flag, and any other band I might think of entering into a Rock ‘n Roll Steel Cage Match. It was to produce music like this that settlers came to America and claimed the land for themselves.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks Mod. I bow my head in shame. Mr. Royale just gave me a “Yup, I agree with Mod” talk so I had to rethink things.

    Since we here at RTH are all about the love and the community, I can admit to all of you that I’m experiencing that “everyone belongs to the club except me” feeling, in that I don’t have experience in playing in a band and speaking ‘band’ talk. I was thinking chooglin’ was more like a musicology term, like “schezo” or “rondo” or some such thing, which I have more familiarity with. I guess the term is looser, sort of like the music it describes. I shall ponder these musical examples to get a greater feeling for the chooglin’ experience.

  9. Does any major artist have gear that is more visually incompatible with their sound than Fogerty? A Rickenbacker and Kustom amps? I would have thought that he played the same guitar that he started with, one that his Grandpappy whittled from a tree felled by lightning at the very moment that John was born.

    Also, I have never seen high hats that big before. Drummers, care to add some insight here?

  10. I can’t find video of it, but when Fogerty was hitting the talk show circuit during his big comeback in the 90s, he was asked by either Dave or Conan (I’m remembering it as a Letterman question), “What, exactly, IS, “chooglin’?” He responded, haltingly, “I haven’t the faintest idea…”, which, of course, got a big laugh. He just made it up. It sounded right, so he used it. Still, I think it’s safe to say that the members of Love & Rockets and Throwing Muses have never, and most likely will never, “choogle”.

  11. Too funny! Everyone is not hanging out without you. You are going to find lots of examples of just plain made up rock terms on this site. Hell, you’ve made up a bunch of your own that get used now. I trust lots of “real” musicians just make up terms like all of us, too. Bittman confirmed that with his Letterman comment. Chooglin can be whatever you want it to be.

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Chickenfrank, your words are balm for my soul.

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    Ha!!! Does that mean REM was chooglin’ at times? On those early albums, I could never understand half of what Stipe was saying.

  14. ladymisskirroyale

    Those look like modified crash cymbals, I’m thinkin’. Made he created them himself in Lousiana: they were…born on the bayou.

  15. bostonhistorian

    T. Rex’s “Chariot Choogle” has no chooglin’ in it at all. It’s bait and switch at its worst.

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