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Author Topic: 1988 Australia Feature  (Read 6941 times)
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« on: January 05, 2014, 10:31:04 pm »

Cougar: inspiration replaces arrogance

The Canberra Times
April 17, 1988

OVER the space of 10 years John Cougar Mellencamp has developed into one of the most inspiring and relevant rock 'n roll performers in the history of the genre, with a voice that often speaks as loudly as those of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

Mellencamp, who is mid-way through his second tour of Australia, has created especially on his Scarecrow and Lonesome Jubilee albums some of the most enduring and passionate American rock 'n roll.

All of which is a long way from the prattish kid who first visited Australia in the late seventies with a hit single, "I Need A Lover," a lot of arrogance, and not much else.

Recalling the Mellencamp of that period, it's hard to imagine someone who's turned into one of the most powerful voices of the '80s.

"There's two sides to every record, right?," Mellencamp said recently, recalling the early days of his performing career. "It was all pretty silly. I was 22 years old, a kid from Indiana with no visible talent. I could barely sing and I had only written a few, real rough songs, and this guy got me a record deal.

"So here I am making this record with no experience of any sort, and I was fortunate enough to be able to do what I wanted to do, and no matter how awful it "was, I was allowed to continue and have the luxury of growing up in public. He got me started."

The "he" Mellencamp refers to is Tony DeFries, a prominent overseas manager who had worked with David Bowie at the start of his career. DeFries convinced Mellencamp to call himself Johnny Cougar and saw him as the missing link between Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. A neat enough idea but neither DeFries nor Mellencamp knew how to carry it off.

"But DeFries's ego was way out of proportion," recalled Mellencamp, whose ego was no smaller in those days.

"He thought he'd invented rock 'n roll, he thought he was Colonel Parker, he thought he'd made David Bowie, he'd made Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople, and he thought he was gonna make me. His ego was completely off-base still is."

After separating himself from DeFries, Mellencamp made another less-than-inspired move, teaming up with Billy Gaff, one-time manager of Rod Stewart. Gaff convinced Mellencamp to live in London around the time that the punk rock explosion first occurred.

"Fads come and go," Mellencamp said. "And the punk thing turned out to be something that, no matter how good the intentions were in the beginning... well, some things just turn out to be only fashion. I understand the merit of what went on, because I'd felt that way myself.

"In 1971, me and my guitarist, Larry Crane, were in a band together called Trash. We were absolutely the worst band in the world. Trash did "Search And Destroy," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," all the most garagey stuff, so then to see the Sex Pistols do "I Wanna Be Your Dog"... well, hang on, we did that five years ago!

"But, to quote The MCS, 'You can either be the problem or the solution.' It doesn't take much of a person to stand in the back row and throw stones. You might as well try and hit something.

"That was my main complaint about The Clash. They had no vision, they just self destructed. I always liked those guys when they got up on TV and shot off their mouths, but they should have grown into what U2 is. They could have had dignity, but for some reason they wouldn't let it happen."

In 1988, Mellencamp's attitude is still very much in line with that of the 1977 school of punks, except that his anger is more focused. Mellencamp knows his targets and homes in on them with remarkable precision and intensity.

But these days Mellencamp rarely does this by mouthing off. He refuses most interview offers, preferring the classic position of letting his records and live performances do the talking.

AND IN concert is where Mellencamp is most awesome. The man, and his extraordinary live band, are as exciting as live rock 'n roll gets in the '80s, putting on a show that's closest comparison is Springsteen and The E Street Band.

There's one moment in each of his shows that says something fundamental about Mellencamp's attitude. Like most big-league artists, there's a point where he drags someone from the front rows on stage to sing along on a chorus but unlike Springsteen, U2, et al, Mellencamp doesn't seek out the prettiest girl in the front row, he always grabs your archetypal overweight, pimply boy. A small thing, maybe, but something that speaks volumes about his attitudes. Mellencamp's music is gritty, down-to-earth, and made for the ordinary person.

John Cougar Mellencamp a hero for the common person? That's as good a description as any.

And, trust me, to miss Mellencamp in concert is to have passed by the opportunity to see rock 'n roll at its zenith. The final Sydney dates of the tour are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at the Entertainment Centre.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2014, 12:03:45 am by walktall2010 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2014, 11:44:20 pm »

Great article.  I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to see John perform live on several occasions.  A terrific performer.  Like wine, artists like John keep getting better and better.

I'm ROCK-in' In The USA
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2014, 10:57:28 am »

Rock and Roll @ it's zenith!   absolutely......looking forward to what 2014 will bring,
if you have not seen John and his excellent band of so!
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