Archive for John Mellancamp

Great Rock Albums of 1985: John Cougar Mellencamp- Scarecrow

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2018 by 80smetalman

With both heavy metal and synth pop polarizing a lot of musical tastes in 1985, many people claimed that they just wanted to hear some straight forward, old time rock and roll. For a lot of these people, the “Scarecrow” album from John Cougar Mellencamp gave them just that. I can’t really disagree with that thought. While I was firmly seated in the heavy metal camp back then, I still appreciated the no frills rock the album provided. It’s probably why the album made it to number two on the album charts.

For the singles enthusiasts, “Scarecrow” netted five of them, all of which got inside the top thirty. This provides further evidence that many Americans wanted this type of straight forward rock. Because that is basically what the album is full of, eleven good no frills rock tunes. Okay, maybe the second track doesn’t qualify as such but the other ten for sure. The singles “Small Town,” “Lonely Ol’ Night” and “R.O.CK. in the USA” are still remembered and enjoyed today. All three are good steady rock tunes. Less remembered however, is my personal favourite, “Rain on the Scarecrow.” This dark song highlights the tragedy of American farmers at the time as many of them were going bankrupt and having their farms repossessed by the banks. I’m tempted to go into a political rant here but I’ll desist. What “Rain on the Scarecrow” did do for me was make me take John seriously as a song writer.

Not being one to judge an album by its singles, I can safely say that the rest of the album holds up well. Even though “Justice and Independence 85” and “Minutes to Memories” were never released as singles, they still made it onto the Hot Tracks Chart and I can see why. Furthermore, John’s more topical songwriting features in the former of the two and continues with “Face of a Nation” where he sings about the poverty and homelessness that was happening in the mid 1980s at the time. What I conclude here is that John Cougar Mellencamp’s more developed songwriting combined with straight forward rock, which a lot of Americans were craving for at the time, combined to make “Scarecrow” probably his best album at the time.

Track Listing:

  1. Rain on the Scarecrow
  2. Grandma’s Theme (In the Baggage Coach Ahead)
  3. Small Town
  4. Minutes to Memories
  5. Lonely Ol’¬† Night
  6. The Face of the Nation
  7. Justice and Independence ’85
  8. Between and Laugh and a Tear
  9. Rumbleseat
  10. You Gotta Stand for Somethin’
  11. R.O.C.K. in the USA

John Cougar Mellencamp

John Mellencamp- guitar, lead vocals, harmonica on Small Town

Larry Crane- guitars, backing vocals

Kenny Aranoff- drums, percussion, tambourine, backing vocals

Mike Wanchic- electric guitar, backing vocals

Toby Myers- bass, backing vocals

John Cascella- keyboards

Rickie Lee Jones- vocals on “Between a Laugh and a Tear”

Sarah Flint- backing vocals on “R.O.CK. in the USA”

Laura Mellemcamp (John’s Grandmother)- lead vocal on “Grandma’s Theme”

Mimi Mapes- backing vocals on “Minutes to Midnight”

A. Jack Wilkins- saxophone on “Justice and Independence 85”

Richard Fanning- trumpet on “Justice and Independence 85”

In a 1985 that seemed to be polarizing musically, it was a relief to many that there could be straight forward rock around at the time. Not only would John Cougar Mellencamp release a top album, he would go on to arrange a benefit concert to help America’s bankrupt farmers but that’s a story for another time.

Next post: My Christmas Top Ten Revisited

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Great Rock Albums of 1982: John Cougar- American Fool

Posted in 1980s, Music, Rock, television, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by 80smetalman

220px-JC_American_Fool

Before anyone starts putting their hands up in a Arnold Horshak moment to tell that his name is now John Mellancamp, let me just say that as far as I’m concerned, in 1982, he was simply John Cougar. I remember watching a tv interview with him and he explained the reason behind the name change. Simply, he was advised by his agent that Mellancamp wasn’t a rock and roll name. Therefore, he took on the name Cougar in order to sound more hard rock. It was only when he achieved commercial success that he retook his real surname and then eventually dropped the Cougar all together but that story is for some time down the future.

Arnold Horshak from the TV show Welcome Back Kotter

Arnold Horshak from the TV show Welcome Back Kotter

“American Fool” was the commercial breakthrough album for John Cougar featuring the hit singles “Hurt So Good,” my second favourite song of his and the more known “Jack And Diane,” which got so much air play at the time that I got tired of hearing it. It would be at least another decade and a half before I finally could enjoy that song again.

Keeping with the trend in 1982, those two songs lead off the album but fortunately, like many of the albums covered so far from 1982, the rest of the album has more behind it. The songs on the album all have the vibe of straight forward no nonsense rock and roll that Cougar said he was trying to achieve. I have to agree, while “American Fool” isn’t a head banger, there is some good guitar hard rock to go around. In fact, I must say that after a renewed listen, I’m quite impressed with some of the guitar work on it. Sure, there’s no blood curdling solos but the guitars do enhance the feel good factor. One of those albums you listen to while driving in the car or sitting on the front step with a beer in hand, though I wouldn’t recommend it this time of year. Tracks that really impress me were “Danger List” and “Can You Take It” but needless to say, the other tracks are worth a listen as well. John Cougar livened up those summer months of that year when I was actually in the States.

Track Listing:

1. Hurt So Good

2. Jack and Diane

3. Hand to Hold On To

4. Danger List

5. Can You Take It

6. Thundering Hearts

7. China Girl

8. Close Enough

9. Weakest Moments

10. American Fool

John Cougar

John Cougar

John Cougar- lead vocals

Larry Krane- guitar, backing vocals

Mike Wanchic- guitar, backing vocals

Kenny Aronoff- drums

George ‘Chocolate’ Perry- bass

Mick Ronson- guitar, backing vocals

Robert ‘Ferd’ Frank- bass, backing vocals

Eric Rosser- keyboards

David Parman- backing vocals

I think that “American Fool” came at a perfect time when you could play straight forward rock without being catagorised into something else. I have met people a couple of years after this album who considered John Cougar to be heavy metal. No way, but it is enjoyable good rock.

Next post: The Jam- The Gift

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