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Author Topic: Grammy Q&A Report  (Read 20137 times)
sharonc
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« on: August 19, 2010, 09:46:44 am »

Review by Patricia - Mellencamp.com Community Member farfelp
An evening with John Mellencamp
8/17/10 Grammy Museum at LA Live.


First and foremost thank you mellencamp.com and the Grammy Museum for a unique and most enjoyable evening.  With all of  the current tour listings are out of reach for me I greatly appreciated this opportunity. With the help of two mellenheads and my daughter, I was able to make the trip to LA for what proved to be a memorable experience.
 
The Grammy Museum is part of the new LA LIVE entertainment center by the Staples Center. While I did not get to spend much time at the museum this trip I do intend to go back and would encourage all music lovers to do so. There are really nice hotels within walking distance and many restaurants all in the same block, as well as a variety of live entertainment options. I was impressed with what the city has done in this area of town.
 
The Grammy Museum had a few ground rules that were stated several times, including no cell phones, photos, recordings etc. which I chose to honor – so no pictures. In this intimate setting I found it very distracting when someone did pull out a cell phone for pictures, so I completely understand their request. The museum staff said the entire event will be in their archives and that they would put selections on their website over time. The intent is to have a series of these in the archives. This was a 200-seat venue so there were no “bad seats”. The seating was not assigned and as we waited in line we were told that press and museum members would enter first so I figured we’d be in the back – but we ended up in row 3. Considering there was less than 10 feet between row one and the small stage which was only slightly raised our seats were wonderful!  There were three mellencamp.com winners besides me, Rich sat behind me (next to the Boston Globe reporter), Peggy (hope I got it right) who I’ve met before sat in row 2 just in front of us, and we met the other winner while waiting in line.  There was an aisle about one row behind Rich, then more seating – Elaine and the boys sat in the front row of that second section directly behind us. John directed attention to “Henry” (T-Bone Burnett) a couple of times, who was in the audience as was his agent. Those are the notables I know of. There were quite a few media people present.
 
Bob Santelli, who is executive director of the museum spoke for a moment about the Grammy Museum, it’s direction and goals.  He then introduced John to a standing ovation (of course!) John was in his typical attire of late – Levis, work shirt, black shoes, white T, and seemed very at ease.
 
First was an interview of John by Santelli who noted that his questions came from the perspective of a music industry writer and professional as well as that of a long time fan. He told John that he was on the top of the list of artists they wanted to host for these events. Bob thanked John for his participation with "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" and asked if he was nervous performing in front of the President. John said that Bob (Dylan) was very nervous,  but that he had done it before and was not particularly so.  He went on to tell the story of performing  for President Clinton for the first time and walking out without thinking twice about his guitar and then having an’ uh-oh’ moment realizing it was the one with “Fuck racism” written on it and seeing President Clinton and others reading it from the audience. Back in his dressing room, he was told the President wanted to see him.  During this visit – staff were coming in to tell the President that they were getting calls about the writing on the guitar and asking what should they do about it. Clinton thought for a moment and said, “Tell them they misread it.”
 
Of course there was a focus on the new record. What I appreciated hearing most was John’s comments that no, this was not some attempt at a ‘throw back’ record but rather a group of musicians wanting to capture a moment of their own and how those moments are mostly missing from the current music scene. He described each recording location in detail as well as some of the difficulties with the set up such as having to take down curtains and cover up carpeted floors in the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio to be as authentic as they could in recreating the setting Robert Johnson recorded in, as well as  talking a bit about Johnson. He explained the history of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, GA having been part of the underground railroad.
 
The conversation also hit on his start and the early years at several points. He relayed again his teenage experiences with racism when his band mate was made to wait outside the bars during breaks due to his race, and said it even got into a fistfight once. He talked about going to New York to both check out the art schools and how ‘by the way he had a demo tape in hand.’  
John was humble as always saying he was “just a barroom singer” “he didn’t know how to write songs” and going through the process of learning that, that his first records were “awful” and similar comments that we have heard him say over the years. He spoke a bit about being tagged ‘Cougar’ and how being so young and dealing with an older record exec he felt powerless in some of those decisions. At times he downplayed his talent and success so much that the audience had to disagree! What was unusual and nice to hear is that he also said that after practice practice practice practice – his band became the best in America and how for a time in the 80s and 90s no one could top them – a statement to which his agent agreed.
 
John talked about the drudgery of being under a contract with the expectation of making a record every 18 months and for how a time it got to a point where he just didn’t care. For example he didn’t tour at all in support of Big Daddy  - and when the boys were little and he and Elaine just stayed home for two years and raised babies. He said this was one of the most enjoyable times for him and you could tell it was a period in his life that he truly cherishes.
 
When asked how he got started painting, he told how his mother was a painter and how he used to think I took forever to make an oil painting because it took her so long to finish one, when in reality she would get the chance to paint for maybe 10 minutes then have to stop to take care of something for the kids. He indicated that when he went to New York it could have been either or – he was just as interested in art or commercial art as music.
 
Another line of conversation I found very honest and interesting was John relaying a conversation with T-Bone about how he had the misfortune (or fortune!) of being a rock star and as he nears 59 the question of how would he now continue to make music, meaning a desire to make “music with dignity.” It is an interesting question and one most artists aren’t around long enough to address. I so appreciated John sharing this. We all question ourselves at times, but not everyone is willing to admit that! In line with this he talked about how he is not the same guy who wrote “Hurts so Good.”
 
A humorous moment was John talking about Speck and how at the moment he is not taking his guitar playing seriously because he has discovered girls – but he hasn’t quite got it yet how guitars and girls go together.
 
Some of the questions had multiple parts and in one case John started talking, got off on a tangent, then had to stop and ask what the question was. There were several that went the way of John talking and not necessarily answering the question in full. But it was all good conversation to hear.
 
He talked a bit about President Bush’s “No School Left Behind” and how that was a bunch of shit, and about the state of education. He said he was asked to do something to help the schools and he refused in this particular instance because if I understood correctly - it was some people who had voted for Bush’s deal who were doing the asking and he felt they should clean up their own mess.
 
John expressed some of his fears regarding the internet such as how easy it would be for someone with ill-intent to mess with our power systems, banking etc. and in another vein how it is destroying the book industry, movie industry, and music industry. He mentioned how T-Bone had shown him the difference in quality and sound of an original recording verses the iTunes version (which lacked the warmth and quality the artist’s intent) using the Beatles as an example.
 
He discussed changes in music over generations, how the big band era was every bit as important and ‘big’ in its heyday as rock music is now. He said that while he was proud to be part of it, Rock too would pass.  In making this point, he challenged the audience to name 5 names out of the hundreds in big band music (which had mellenhead Rich just about jumping out of his seat with dozens in mind.)
 
This was followed by a brief audience question and answer period. While we were in line, the Grammy staff told us all of the questions would be recorded for the archives and so to ask good ones. So (and sorry if this was you) but I was really disappointed in the first question being what did John think of Willie’s haircut. (John said he didn’t know he had gotten one, but his sister must have had something to do with it. ) Also someone asked how long he would play with Bob Dylan the next night – would it be for at least an hour. (John said yes).  What a wasted opportunity! Better questions followed. One being did John’s grandmother know she was being recorded for Grandma’s song (the answer was, “Yes”) and for John to talk about what she meant to him. John described growing up in her care and how she told him every day that he “was the luckiest boy in the world.”
 
What I thought was the best question came from one of the mellencamp.com winners. She asked if there were locations where John would have liked to record for the new record, but couldn’t. He said yes and described difficulties with the property owner just not being cooperative.
 
He was asked how he got past being “Cougar” – and I believe he said, “clumsily”.
 
He was asked who was the one person living or dead with whom he had not performed that he would like to – and he answered “Bob Dylan”   I think meaning that Dylan was the one person for whom he had that kind of desire to play with since we know he has played with Bob already/currently.
 
He was asked who he felt was not in the hall of fame that should be – he did not name names but said there were so many singers and songwriters who should have been nominated before he was. The audience member asked about someone specific – I believe it was Mick Jones of Foreigner. To me this seemed a little awkward for John. He said he knew Mick, he was a nice guy (or something like that) that he liked the first two albums well enough. He never directly answered  - he kind of shrugged his shoulders and left it at that.
 
There was a question about the organization of Farm aid, what had John learned from it and if I remember right that questioner tried to tie in the unions. Anyway, it was a little too much for one question. Part of John’s answer was that when two people rub together only two things can happen – something good, or something bad.
 
Next was a short performance. Andy York played on two songs, the rest were just John. He started with “Save Some Time to Dream.” I have heard this song plenty of times – but hearing it live, so close and with John’s voice sounding so clear and strong pretty much had me in tears. . . and just then he messed up and was trying not to laugh. When he messed up again I knew the “F-bomb” would follow and by then I was laughing. You could say I was *Between a laugh and a tear*  John was smiling afterwards and said he had been singing that song for two years and how many times did he just mess up?  
 
He asked for Andy to come out and fix his amp, which was kind of funny too. Other songs he sang (all acoustic and not in order) were Cherry Bomb, Small Town, Don’t Need This Body (Andy is so good on this one!) and Thinking About You (Also with Andy). A nice mix of new and old! I hope I didn’t leave one out.
 
The audience was so appreciative and you could tell all were really listening to every note. Outside of toes tapping along – everyone was so absorbed in the music – it was really quiet. So very different from a concert crowd, and such a special opportunity to have!
 
As I listened in this setting with the sparse stage in a small room with John singing so close, I could imagine what it must have been like to be at the recording locations for No Better Than This – a music moment of my own!
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 03:14:46 pm by sharonc » Logged
jakesmom204
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2010, 10:16:55 am »

Thank you Patricia for that wonderful review, you had me right there with you!  What an amazing opportunity and more examples of why I just love the human being that John Mellencamp is, his honesty, spirit and compassion.  Thank you for sharing!
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walktall2010
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2010, 10:42:04 am »

Awesome review, Patricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out. Somebody should tell John that he wasn't married to Elaine when "Big Daddy" came out. In fact, he didn't marry her until a year after "Whenever We Wanted"  was released and didn't even meet her until the "Get a Leg Up" video shoot in 1991. Also, Hud and Speck weren't born until after "Human Wheels." He's really bad with dates and things like that and always has been, but he's still entertaining as hell. Thanks again for the great review.
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2010, 11:22:34 am »

Patricia, thank you so much for this awesome review !  I don't know how you remembered everthing, but you did a awesome job .... what a night to remember, so glad that you won this opportunity !  Thank you again for sharing ......  really enjoyed it !!

Debbie   Smiley
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farfelp
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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2010, 11:24:25 am »

Glad you liked it. Reading back now I feel like I left out a lot, but perhaps it is just best to go with what stood out first!

I can't believe I left out the baptism story. I know it is posted in another article here, but it was the first time I had heard it.

And yes, there were a few times where John was getting jumbled about dates, etc. At one point he said "Where's Elaine? Ask her."  (She had been standing over by the side aisle but had moved to her seat so John wasn't seeing her right away.)

I am right there with him when it comes to dates, and was thinking that at the time - I don't have difficulty remembering things that have happened in my life buy putting them on a timeline isn't the easiest.
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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2010, 11:30:56 am »

John never said anything to indicate he was married to Elaine when BD came out. He talked about not wanting to do anything to promote the album, and he took time off to paint.

He spoke of the heart attack and taking forced time off then when talking about he and Elaine both not working and knowing what was on TV and the boys were little, but I don't think he made reference the time period. I think he spoke of both things at the same time, though, so it might have sounded like he meant that.


Awesome review, Patricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out. Somebody should tell John that he wasn't married to Elaine when "Big Daddy" came out. In fact, he didn't marry her until a year after "Whenever We Wanted"  was released and didn't even meet her until the "Get a Leg Up" video shoot in 1991. Also, Hud and Speck weren't born until after "Human Wheels." He's really bad with dates and things like that and always has been, but he's still entertaining as hell. Thanks again for the great review.
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littlesusie39
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2010, 11:36:45 am »

Thank you for the excellent article! Sounds like it was a very wonderful opportunity for you all!
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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2010, 12:12:13 pm »

Thanks for the report, Far! Excellent, indeed.
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2010, 01:11:42 pm »

great job patricia.  what an amazing experience you all had!
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farfelp
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« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2010, 01:16:58 pm »

That is right, Lori. I think my wording is bad there as I was just going from memory and trying to hit as many topics as I could remember. I didn't think about the timing myself as I was writing, I was more focused on just trying to get as much as I could on paper since everyone was asking, and the part about taking care of the kids really struck me.

So I guess I should give the same qualification to the readers here that I gave to Sharon/Tony - I did not take notes, this is just my best recollection after travelling home, and it is not the same order as the conversation during the event. There was a lot to cover so hopefully between everyone we will cover it pretty well!

Had I known you were there, I would have said hello!



John never said anything to indicate he was married to Elaine when BD came out. He talked about not wanting to do anything to promote the album, and he took time off to paint.

He spoke of the heart attack and taking forced time off then when talking about he and Elaine both not working and knowing what was on TV and the boys were little, but I don't think he made reference the time period. I think he spoke of both things at the same time, though, so it might have sounded like he meant that.


Awesome review, Patricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out. Somebody should tell John that he wasn't married to Elaine when "Big Daddy" came out. In fact, he didn't marry her until a year after "Whenever We Wanted"  was released and didn't even meet her until the "Get a Leg Up" video shoot in 1991. Also, Hud and Speck weren't born until after "Human Wheels." He's really bad with dates and things like that and always has been, but he's still entertaining as hell. Thanks again for the great review.

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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2010, 01:39:46 pm »

Sorry, Patricia! I hope I didn't give the impression I was criticizing you! I didn't take notes either. I wish I had. I was surprised at what I recalled, though I couldn't recall exact questions. You recalled more details than I did.

I was the moron who stood up and asked the question about the guitar player (Marc Ribot) whose name I mispronounced.


That is right, Lori. I think my wording is bad there as I was just going from memory and trying to hit as many topics as I could remember. I didn't think about the timing myself as I was writing, I was more focused on just trying to get as much as I could on paper since everyone was asking, and the part about taking care of the kids really struck me.

So I guess I should give the same qualification to the readers here that I gave to Sharon/Tony - I did not take notes, this is just my best recollection after travelling home, and it is not the same order as the conversation during the event. There was a lot to cover so hopefully between everyone we will cover it pretty well!

Had I known you were there, I would have said hello!



John never said anything to indicate he was married to Elaine when BD came out. He talked about not wanting to do anything to promote the album, and he took time off to paint.

He spoke of the heart attack and taking forced time off then when talking about he and Elaine both not working and knowing what was on TV and the boys were little, but I don't think he made reference the time period. I think he spoke of both things at the same time, though, so it might have sounded like he meant that.


Awesome review, Patricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out. Somebody should tell John that he wasn't married to Elaine when "Big Daddy" came out. In fact, he didn't marry her until a year after "Whenever We Wanted"  was released and didn't even meet her until the "Get a Leg Up" video shoot in 1991. Also, Hud and Speck weren't born until after "Human Wheels." He's really bad with dates and things like that and always has been, but he's still entertaining as hell. Thanks again for the great review.

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farfelp
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« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2010, 03:04:54 pm »

Nope didn't take it that way Smiley  just covering my butt in case something else comes up. lol! I hate how sometimes on these message boards things sound more serious than we mean them to be.


I had a question ready but by the time i decided that i "might" have guts to ask it, they were on the last one. So good for you! I do remember your question now, I didn't quite catch all of them, a couple of them were hard for me to hear.




Sorry, Patricia! I hope I didn't give the impression I was criticizing you! I didn't take notes either. I wish I had. I was surprised at what I recalled, though I couldn't recall exact questions. You recalled more details than I did.

I was the moron who stood up and asked the question about the guitar player (Marc Ribot) whose name I mispronounced.


That is right, Lori. I think my wording is bad there as I was just going from memory and trying to hit as many topics as I could remember. I didn't think about the timing myself as I was writing, I was more focused on just trying to get as much as I could on paper since everyone was asking, and the part about taking care of the kids really struck me.

So I guess I should give the same qualification to the readers here that I gave to Sharon/Tony - I did not take notes, this is just my best recollection after travelling home, and it is not the same order as the conversation during the event. There was a lot to cover so hopefully between everyone we will cover it pretty well!

Had I known you were there, I would have said hello!



John never said anything to indicate he was married to Elaine when BD came out. He talked about not wanting to do anything to promote the album, and he took time off to paint.

He spoke of the heart attack and taking forced time off then when talking about he and Elaine both not working and knowing what was on TV and the boys were little, but I don't think he made reference the time period. I think he spoke of both things at the same time, though, so it might have sounded like he meant that.


Awesome review, Patricia. Thanks so much for taking the time to write that out. Somebody should tell John that he wasn't married to Elaine when "Big Daddy" came out. In fact, he didn't marry her until a year after "Whenever We Wanted"  was released and didn't even meet her until the "Get a Leg Up" video shoot in 1991. Also, Hud and Speck weren't born until after "Human Wheels." He's really bad with dates and things like that and always has been, but he's still entertaining as hell. Thanks again for the great review.

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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2010, 03:35:52 pm »

My heart was pounding almost outside of my chest. I coudln't believe I asked, and then I was sorry I did. John couldn't hear me, so I had to ask twice, and I had to stand up. Mortifying! LOL

Nope didn't take it that way Smiley  just covering my butt in case something else comes up. lol! I hate how sometimes on these message boards things sound more serious than we mean them to be.


I had a question ready but by the time i decided that i "might" have guts to ask it, they were on the last one. So good for you! I do remember your question now, I didn't quite catch all of them, a couple of them were hard for me to hear.


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« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2010, 10:01:16 pm »

Thank you so much for sharing your experience!  You did such a great job conveying what the evening was like and I could really envision the scenes you were describing.  Intimate events like this really are gifts to be able to be part of, so again thanks for your great descriptions of all the different moments. 
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2010, 07:22:37 am »

Thanks so much for such a great review.  Your efforts are very much appreciated by those of us who don't have a hope in hell of attending such a wonderful event.

Thanks again. 
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