This is often believed to be about the Vietnam War, as it referred to a "jungle" and was released in 1970. The fact that previous CCR songs such as "Who'll Stop the Rain?" and "Fortunate Son" were protests of the Vietnam War added to this theory. In response, John Fogerty said: "I think a lot of people thought that because of the times, but I was talking about America and the proliferation of guns, registered and otherwise. I'm a hunter and I'm not antigun, but I just thought that people were so gun-happy - and there were so many guns uncontrolled that it really was dangerous, and it's even worse now. It's interesting that it has taken 20-odd years to get a movement on that position."
This position is best demonstrated in this lyric:
200 million guns are loaded
Satan cries, "Take aim!"
This opens with jungle sound effects created by, according to Stu Cook, "lots of backwards recorded guitar and piano."
Speaking about the musical influence on this song, John Fogerty said: "There were so many more people I'd never heard of - like Charlie Patton (an early Delta bluesman). I'm ashamed to admit that, but he wasn't commercially accessible, I guess. I read about him, and about a month or two later, I realized there were recordings of his music. To me, that was like if Moses had left behind a DAT with the Dead Sea Scrolls or something! 'You mean you can hear him?! Oh my God!' And then when I did hear Patton, he sounded like Howlin' Wolf, who was a big influence on me. When I did 'Run Through the Jungle,' I was being Howlin' Wolf, and Howlin' Wolf knew Charlie Patton!"
The line, "Devil's on the loose" ("They told me, 'Don't go walking slow 'cause Devil's on the loose'") was taken from music journalist Phil Elwood, who misinterpreted the line "doubles on kazoo" from the song "Down on the Corner
" ("Willy goes into a dance and doubles on kazoo"). Fogerty saw this misquoted lyric in the newspaper and loved it, so he thanked Phil and used it for "Run through the Jungle."
Former CCR executive Saul Zaentz claimed that the song "The Old Man Down The Road
," which Fogerty released as a solo artist, was too similar to this song, and even took him to court. It was perhaps the first time an artist was sued for plagiarizing himself. Fogerty won that case, but Zaentz also sued him for his song "Zanz Kant Danz," professing that it was an attack on him. Zaentz won that case and Fogerty not only had to pay a fine, but also had to change the song's name to "Vanz Kant Danz."
This was released as the B-side to the single for "Up Around the Bend
," which was issued in April and quickly went gold. Most artists didn't use songs that could be standalone singles as B-sides, but if you bought a CCR single, you often got two hit songs - another example is "Travelin' Band
" and "Who'll Stop The Rain?
," which were paired on the same single.
John Fogerty played the harmonica part. Like the vocals on "Down on the Corner," he recorded it after recording the actual song and dubbed it in, because it went from harmonica to vocals so quickly and he couldn't remove the harmonica from his mouth fast enough. John also played harmonica on his solo effort The Wall (not to be confused with the Pink Floyd album).
The Gun Club covered this for their album Miami, although with different lyrics because vocalist and band leader Jerry Pierce couldn't understand what John Fogerty was singing. He took some lyrics from black slavery songs, a Willie Brown song and personal experience (a heroin overdose is mentioned). They first performed it at a friend's birthday party before they were persuaded to include it on the album.
Besides Gun Club, this has been covered by Bruce Springsteen, Georgia Satellites, 8 Eyed Spy, Los Lobos and Killdozer.
Tom Fogerty: "My all-time favorite Creedence tune... It's like a little movie in itself with all the sound effects. It never changes key, but it holds your interest the whole time. It's like a musician's dream. It never changes key, yet you get the illusion it does."
This song has appeared in the following movies:
Air America (1990)
My Girl (1991)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Radio Arrow (1998)
Tropic Thunder (2008)
And these TV series:
Entourage (The Scene - 2004)
Supernatural ("Sin City" - 2007, "Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire" - 2015)
Hawaii Five-0 ("Kahu" - 2012)