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Author Topic: 1997 New York Daily News Article  (Read 4055 times)
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« on: May 08, 2011, 12:26:53 am »



Wednesday, April 9th 1997

AFTER JOHN MELLENCAMP'S heart attack two years ago, he changed his diet. He wrote songs that look at life in a different way.

"It changes you," he says. "It's got to."

But even a premature glimpse of the Pearly Gates doesn't change everything. Mellencamp, 45, still smokes, for instance. ("Not as much. More than I should.") And he still thinks the music business pretty much stinks.

"There's not a lot of artistic development any more," he says. "A record company puts out 50 records a year, figures a few of them will be hits and forgets about the rest. That's why very few of the artists from the '90s are going to be around in 2000. Look at the Spin Doctors. They seemed to be heading somewhere, then one record doesn't sell and it's like they're forgotten."

That's not a knock on the band, he says, just a business that tosses its young onto the pavement like used candy wrappers. "It's a good thing it wasn't this bad in the '80s," he says. "Or I wouldn't be here."

Fortunately for Mellencamp, he has had enough hits that he can hang around whether the business loves him or not. On Saturday, he comes to town to start a four-night run at The Theater, part of a national tour behind his "Mr. Happy Go Lucky" album.

That album has sold more than 500,000 copies, a solid enough performance. It's below his level of the 1980s, when four consecutive albums sold at least 3 million. But as Mellencamp suggests, these are not friendly times in the music business for veteran rockers. Bob Seger's last record was largely ignored. Bruce Springsteen is playing solo acoustic. Pearl Jam and Van Halen's last records didn't match the ones before. Artists like U2 and Aerosmith are having to work real hard to sell their new discs.

"Mr. Happy Go Lucky" quite deliberately doesn't repeat Mellencamp's earlier work. It's rooted in rock and uses his old band anchored by drummer Kenny Aronoff, but it was produced by club mixer Junior Vasquez and the result will never be confused with "The Authority Song."

The first single, "Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)," was a good-sized radio hit, too though not as big as Mellencamp figures it could have become had the record company given it a little extra push.

That's the biz.

"I look at guys 10 years older than I am, like Bob Dylan or Neil Young, and I don't know how they do it," he says. "They're still better than three-quarters of everything out there, but they can't get the support. So Dylan plays 250 dates a year. I couldn't do that. I don't want to do that."

In fact, Mellencamp says he had to be talked onto the road this time, and then it was appealing largely because he's playing theaters, not arenas. That's also good news for fans, though Mellencamp has taken some flak for the ticket prices, which run up to $75.

To which he replies, sorry, but that's the market rate.

Mellencamp also still refuses to subsidize his show with corporate sponsors.

"I just turned down $500,000 from RC Cola," he says. "They wanted to tie into 'Pink Houses.' I just don't want to do it. When the song becomes an ad, to me personally, it's over. But I'm lucky I don't need that money. If I were just starting, I can see where it would be a tough call. So I wouldn't criticize someone else. It's just not something I want to do."

What he does want to do is showcase new songs and put a fresh twist on some old ones. "There's a rap in the middle of 'Jack and Diane' that will blow you away," he says.

But don't worry, fans, this isn't a hip-hop show. He'll also rock. "I'll play the hits, sure. Let's face it, that's why a lot of people come to the show. I look forward to some more than others, but that's okay. I think more of 'Jack and Diane' as a song now than I did when I wrote it, because I've seen the way it's touched people.

"Some of my own favorite songs haven't always been the biggest hits, anyway. I think 'Human Wheels' is the best song I ever wrote. But it wasn't a radio hit. I like 'Paper in Fire.' 'Jerry' from the new record is a great song. But you won't hear it on the radio.

"In 10 years, I could see myself not touring at all. I'd always make music, but it might be just for my friends.

"This business doesn't last. Anyone who assumes they'll always have a career in this business is a f---ing idiot.

"And I also appreciate the rest of my life more now. I used to walk around thinking, 'There's got to be more.' Until it occurred to me one day there isn't, that the trick is enjoying what's here now. I was looking for something that doesn't exist."

So does he have any advice for the rest of us?

"Yeah," he says. "If you have high cholesterol, take your medication. It could save your life."
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