Episode 209: Little Johnny Cougar Mellencamp

Episode 209: Little Johnny Cougar Mellencamp
Pat and his High School friend Jim Shultz were both born in a small town. One of them is in medical sales, the other is an American Fool and together they R.O.C.K. down memory lane to discuss Jim's favorite artist of all-time John Mellencamp.
From July 16, 2015

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Kyle thinks the sunglasses that Pat wears are lady sunglasses. But Pat saw another guy wearing the exact same pair. Is Kyle mistaken? Not according to Kyle. Pat's girlie glasses are not important, though, because we have a guest in-studio. It's his childhood friend Jim Shultz! They are here to discuss the career of John Mellencamp and his many names. Pat and Jim met in 9th grade in 1979. Jim is a very big Mellencamp fan and he wants to remind Pat how good Mellencamp can be.
00:05:00 Jim and Pat have a mix of hits and deep cuts. Jim is also a lot more prepared than other co-hosts. He ties with Mike for the most prepared, then it's April, then Christy, and then stupid disorganized Murray is dead last. Jim's seen Mellencamp about a dozen times, including a few times with Pat. He's not always the friendliest guy on stage when it comes to fan interaction.
00:10:00 The only time Jim was disappointed at a show was when Mellencamp opened a concert as part of some sort of double-bill. He was very annoyed, he didn't talk to the audience, and there just wasn't any feel to the whole thing. Older rockers are cranky in general. Springsteen seems to not be one of the cranky ones; he always likes to make his shows fun. But no matter how cranky Mellencamp might be, the music always brings Jim back to his youth.
00:15:00 Neither Jim or Pat have songs from Mellencamp's debut album Chestnut Street Incident because it's out of print, but they do have songs from his second album A Biography. Pat plays the opening track "Born Reckless". Jim plays a song that was re-released on Mellencamp's third album and became a hit single called "I Need a Lover". Jim saw Mellencamp on his recent tour and he played the song acoustically.
00:20:00 The fourth album, Nothin' Matters and What If It Did, is next on the docket. Pat has two songs from the album. The first is called "Ain't Even Done with the Night". The second is called "This Time". Pat very much enjoys these songs, while Jim enjoys another song on the album called "To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)."
00:25:00 Mellencamp's fifth album, American Fool is a ten out of ten from Pat. It also has the classic Mellencamp band lineup: Kenny Aronoff on drums and Larry Crane and Mike Wanchic on guitar. Jim picks the song "Hand to Hold on To", while Pat picks the song "Thundering Hearts".
00:30:00 American Fool was a very big album for Mellencamp; it was also the last one where he just went by the name John Cougar. His manager made him use the name. These early albums are also a lot shorter. Mellencamp's next album, Uh-Huh also had hits, but it was not as iconic as American Fool. It was also recorded in 29 days.
00:35:00 Jim plays the big hit from Uh-Huh, "Pink Houses". It's an anthem for the whole crowd to sing along to (although Pat is not a fan of when the crowd sings the song for the performer). Mellencamp was also over MTV around this time with music videos. Yet, he was still very much a Grumpy Gus. Why? Jim surmises that Mellencamp's dream of being a musician is different than we think.
00:40:00 Artists evolve: some of them keep craving the spotlight, while others get sick of it. Some artists like Springsteen change it up from time to time by doing big albums (The River) and then small albums (Nebraska). Mellencamp was on the small label Riva when he started and he just kept getting more and more popular. Then he exploded with Scarecrow, a super huge album. Pat likes the deep cuts just as much as the hits.
00:45:00 Jim plays a song from Scarecrow called "Between a Laugh and a Tear". Pat plays a deep cut called "Justice and Independence '85". Pat then plays the worst song on the album, according to him, called "Grandma's Theme", which is just Mellencamp's grandmother singing a ditty.
Now Mellencamp can pretty much do what he wants. On his next album The Lonesome Jubilee, he adds a few more musicians including a fiddler and an accordionist. Jim plays one of the big singles from the album called "Cherry Bomb".
00:50:00 Mellencamp is firing on all cylinders with his band. Pat plays another big song from the album, "Paper in Fire". Jim's friends teased him for listening to Mellencamp around this time because it seemed Mellencamp was going country, but Jim defended him as not being country, but rock. What are Kyle's opinions on the songs so far? They're okay, if not a little generic.
00:55:00 After Lonesome Jubilee, Mellencamp put out Big Daddy, a smaller album without big singles. There was a bit of a desire from the man to not be a pop singer. Jim plays a song called "Theo and Weird Henry". Pat plays a song called "Martha Say". It's not an album for Mellencamp rookies to start with. It's much more low key and understated. Jim puts it in his top five.
01:00:00 The next album Whenever We Wanted is not only Mellencamp's first album as just "John Mellencamp," it's also Pat's favorite Mellencamp album. He plays the title track "Whenever We Wanted". It is a very rockin' song. Jim plays a song called "Melting Pot". The song is not the kind of Mellencamp that one would expect to hear. Pat plays another song from the album called "Crazy Ones".
01:05:00 Pat plays one more song from the album called "I Ain't Ever Satisfied".
Human Wheels is the next album to come out and it is an intro for the next decade of Mellencamp music. Jim plays the title track "Human Wheels". It's still the same band from the heyday of the 80s.
01:10:00 Pat's first pick for the album is "What If I Came Knocking", which showcases how good a singer Mellencamp can be. The other pick that Pat plays is called "Suzanne and the Jewels".
Mercury Records complained that Human Wheels didn't fit "the format," so Mellencamp recorded Dance Naked in 14 days to shove a pop record in the company's face. Pat really likes it. These albums are a little uneven, but there are still some solid songs and the band is tight. Jim plays an acoustic song called "Another Sunny Day 12/25".
01:15:00 Pat's song from Dance Naked is called "Brothers". Can Jim sing? No he cannot. That's why he took shop in high school and not chorus. Pat took metal shop in high school and it was a very scary time; a lot of soldering with no eyewear and creepy kids who might be in their 20s.
01:20:00 The next album Mr. Happy Go Lucky is the first with Mellencamp producing under the name "Little Bastard." It's also the first album after his heart attack in 1994. Jim plays the song "Circling Around the Moon". This is an arty album for the hardcore fans to enjoy. I imagine after almost dying because of smoking 80 cigarettes a day, a pop album is the last thing on your mind.
01:25:00 At this point, Mellencamp didn't care about being a rockstar; he just wanted to make music and paint. Pat plays a song from the album called "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)". Pat compliments the descriptive lyrics.
01:30:00 Pat plays another song called "Just Another Day". Like Big Daddy, the album is very different than what you expect a Mellencamp album to be.
Finishing up with Mercury, Mellencamp moved to Columbia Records and put out his second self-titled album. Pat plays "I'm Not Running Anymore". This is the first album without Kenny Aronoff and you can hear it. Drumming is a weak link on the album. It's not one of Jim's favorites.
01:35:00 Mellencamp was certainly on the downside of a big peak when he put out his next album Cuttin' Heads. It's another of Jim's lesser favorites. Pat plays "Peaceful World". This was a different direction for Mellencamp, and Jim didn't like it. Pat plays another song called "Worn Out Nervous Condition".
01:40:00 Before going any further, Jim wants to make note of an unreleased song that was put on the greatest hits album The Best That I Could Do: 1978-1988. It's called "Without Expression". To Jim, the song salvaged the '95-'97 years.
After Cuttin' Heads, Mellencamp released Trouble No More, a blues covers album. Jim likes it, Pat hates it. Jim plays "Down in the Bottom". Jim isn't a big fan of the New Orleans style, but he likes a bit of this.
01:45:00 Pat is not a fan of the next two albums, Freedom's Road and Life, Death, Love and Freedom. Off the former, Jim plays "Someday". It's very political. Mellencamp was not picking up new fans with this stuff, while he was also losing old fans. He was becoming more and more acoustic. Off the latter album, Jim plays "Longest Days". It's getting harder and harder to find the gems.
01:50:00 With the 2010 album No Better Than This, Pat doesn't think Mellencamp gives a shit anymore. Pat is certainly not a fan. He plays two songs from the album, "Easter Eve" and "No Better Than This". The songs are all downers for Pat. Mellencamp was trying to sound like Hank Williams in the 50s and it does not work.
01:55:00 We get to the last album on our list, Plain Spoken. Jim doesn't think the album is that bad, while Pat didn't buy because he was so disappointed with the previous albums. Jim feels like Mellencamp is honing in on the sound that he wants with this album. Pat plays the song "Troubled Man". Mellencamp's big heartland rock peak phase may be over, but this new mellower version might pick up some new fans.
02:00:00 Thank you very much to Jim for being on the show. If anyone could be the Yin to Pat's Yang when it comes to John Mellencamp, it's certainly him. Pat takes us out with the big hit from American Fool, the song "Jack & Diane".
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:15:00 Born Reckless A Biography Johnny Cougar Pat
00:15:00 I Need a Lover A Biography Johnny Cougar Jim
00:20:00 Ain’t Even Done with the Night Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did John Cougar Pat
00:20:00 This Time Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did John Cougar Pat
00:25:00 Hand to Hold on To American Fool John Cougar Jim
00:25:00 Thundering Hearts American Fool John Cougar Pat
00:35:00 Pink Houses Uh-Huh John Cougar Mellencamp Jim
00:45:00 Between a Laugh and a Tear Scarecrow John Cougar Mellencamp Jim
00:45:00 Justice and Independence ‘85 Scarecrow John Cougar Mellencamp Pat
00:45:00 Grandma’s Theme Scarecrow John Cougar Mellencamp Pat
00:45:00 Cherry Bomb The Lonesome Jubilee John Cougar Mellencamp Jim
00:50:00 Paper in Fire The Lonesome Jubilee John Cougar Mellencamp Pat
00:55:00 Theo and Weird Henry Big Daddy John Cougar Mellencamp Jim
00:55:00 Martha Say Big Daddy John Cougar Mellencamp Pat
01:00:00 Whenever We Wanted Whenever We Wanted John Mellencamp Pat
01:00:00 Melting Pot Whenever We Wanted John Mellencamp Jim
01:05:00 Crazy Ones Whenever We Wanted John Mellencamp Pat
01:05:00 I Ain’t Ever Satisfied Whenever We Wanted John Mellencamp Pat
01:05:00 Human Wheels Human Wheels John Mellencamp Jim
01:10:00 What If I Came Knocking Human Wheels John Mellencamp Pat
01:10:00 Suzanne and the Jewels Human Wheels John Mellencamp Pat
01:10:00 Another Sunny Day 12/25 Dance Naked John Mellencamp Jim
01:15:00 Brothers Dance Naked John Mellencamp Pat
01:20:00 Circling Around the Moon Mr. Happy Go Lucky John Mellencamp Jim
01:25:00 Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) Mr. Happy Go Lucky John Mellencamp Pat
01:30:00 Just Another Day Mr. Happy Go Lucky John Mellencamp Pat
01:30:00 I’m Not Running Anymore John Mellencamp John Mellencamp Pat
01:35:00 Peaceful World Cuttin’ Heads John Mellencamp Pat
01:35:00 Worn Out Nervous Condition Cuttin’ Heads John Mellencamp Pat
01:40:00 Without Expression The Best That I Could Do: 1978—1988 John Mellencamp Jim
01:40:00 Down in the Bottom Trouble No More John Mellencamp Jim
01:45:00 Someday Freedom’s Road John Mellencamp Jim
01:45:00 Longest Days Life, Death, Love and Freedom John Mellencamp Jim
01:50:00 Easter Eve No Better Than This John Mellencamp Pat
01:50:00 No Better Than This No Better Than This John Mellencamp Pat
01:55:00 Troubled Man Plain Spoken John Mellencamp Pat
02:00:00 Jack & Diane American Fool John Cougar Pat