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Author Topic: 1984 Uh-Huh Article  (Read 7849 times)
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« on: March 06, 2011, 10:18:44 pm »

Uh-huh, John Cougar Mellencamp fights and wins his way

By Gary Graff
Knight-Ridder Newspapers
March 27, 1984

OK, John, let's hear about it; you're 34 years old now, a full-gown adult by most standards. So how come you still sing a song called "I Fight Authority?"

Someone might say, 'John, aren't you a bit too old to be fighting authority?' " John Cougar Mellencamp admitted. "Well, no. I've been doing it since I was little, and I've always come out grinning. You gotta recognize up front it's a losing battle, but you gotta do it."

Granted, the tag line to the song, a rocker from Mellencamp's latest album, "Uh-Huh," is "authority always wins." The thing is, Mellencamp has fought an awful lot of authority during the past six months, and he's won every battle.

The first was over his name. During 1982 they called him John Cougar as an album ("American Fool") and two singles ("Jack and Diane," "Hurts So Good") dominated radio, earned him a Grammy nomination and, with more than 3 million copies sold, was the year's biggest-selling album. But he was born Mellencamp, a product of solid, working-class Dutch stock in Seymour, Ind. Cougar was tagged on by his first manager, Tony DeFries, who didn't consult Mellencamp about the change.

The deception always bothered Mellencamp, and he used his newly acquired stardom to force his record company to let him retain his real surname.

"I got to the point where (Cougar) didn't mean anything to me at all," he explained. "My friends just kind of said, 'When are you going to get rid of that stupid Cougar name?'

"The record company didn't like it much. They said, 'You've been going for 10 years as John Cougar, then all of a sudden you want to drop it?' I can understand their point. I think next time I'll come up with a completely different name."

Battle No. 2 was to redefine the standard rock 'n' roll ethic of releasing an album, then touring for three or four months. Cougar waited more than a year to release "Uh-Huh," and he's waited about five months to hit a roadful of small venues and secondary markets in the United States, hardly the normal cycle for a major talent.

And finally, he's just about won an ongoing battle with critics whose kindest comments have been to call him a Bruce Springsteen clone. On "Uh-Huh," Mellencamp started the songs in his head and filtered them through his heart, giving them plenty of punch without the sophomoric exuberance of previous hits like "Hurts So Good" or "I Need a Lover."

"I didn't really know that that was my intention," he said. "Let's face it; John Cougar has and never will try to be an intellectual-type songwriter. I never was never in high school, never in college. When I meet people on the street, I say things very simply.'

"I write a lot of songs I'd never put on record. I don't think people would like them, so why make records if nobody's gonna hear them? What's the use of dealing with the record company if it's not going to be worth it? You gotta hope people who are out there will like it, and then it's worth it to me, that's the fun of making records. It's not the girls backstage or the drugs or anything like that."

Then he paused to contemplate the rock 'n' roll blasphemy he's just uttered. "Y'know," he said, "somebody's going to read that comment and say, 'What a pompous ass!' I never understood what (John) Lennon meant when he said he'd rather stay home and bake bread and be with his family. I kinda understand his point now."

In case you're wondering, this is a radical change from the self-titled "American Fool" of 1982, the Cougar who talked about how great the girls on tour were, how he loved to rock 'n' roll, how he cherished the jacket a biker gave him in San Francisco. That was a bit of an act, as if John Cougar Mellencamp was playing a part called John Cougar.

Success accounts for part of the change. When you earn a couple million bucks for your record company, you can start calling a few shots. But "Uh-Huh" was a factor, too, a mature display of songwriting depth that gave Mellencamp the courage to take the disguise off his intelligent, if brash, personality.

"Overall, 'Uh-Huh' is the best record I've ever made, front to back," Mellencamp said. "There were a lot of good songs on 'American Fool,' but there was a lot of crap I'm still embarrassed with. They put it on the radio, and inside I'm saying, 'Don't play that!'

"I don't want to have to run out on the stage and say, 'Is everybody having a good time! You wanna rock 'n' roll!' I want to be able to walk out with an acoustic guitar if I want and sing 'Blowing in the Wind.' The most ridiculous thing to me is the encore how embarrassing! You run off stage and you know damn well you're going to run right back on.

"The awful thing about playing live for me is after the show, when I have to talk to all these people who tell me how good I am. To me that whole thing is just so unbelievable. And embarrassing."

To that end, Mellencamp is not just limiting his public appearances. He's looking for young artists to produce and guide into the industry, and he hopes to help them avoid the embarrassment and hype he has experienced.

"I've always got my ears open," he said. "People want to bring people up too fast that's what happened to me. I was some dumb kid from Indiana, didn't know how to write a song, but they put an album out, hyped the hell out of me and threw me out for the critics and the fans to clean my bones.

"New acts are just like fighters. You gotta bring them up slowly, just let them learn and develop the craft, don't go for the million-seller on the very first album.

"There are more important things in the world than making money, making records and playing tours, though my agent doesn't think so. If I'm not going to have a good time doing it, I don't want to do it."
« Last Edit: March 06, 2011, 10:27:24 pm by walktall2010 » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2011, 11:34:31 pm »

Thanks for posting another great article.

It was interesting to note how much of what John said was important to him all the way back in 1984 has really come to be with his last two albums.   I'm glad he never stopped moving toward the music he's doing now.  I've seen him many times but I've never seen him seem to be enjoying performing as much as on this tour.

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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2011, 08:29:44 am »

Great article and shows the direction that JM's career was heading way back then and the way he is finally getting to do shows the way he wants to, that is to play the songs he loves the way he wants to and not to have to do an encore if he doesnt want to at least he tells his audience thats the end Im not coming back and has the house lights put up so we know he's not coming back. By the way he's still fighting authority!
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