Pop Music Confession Time: I think John Cougar Mellencamp’s old songs get better and better every time I hear them.
Tangent: I know he’s John Mellencamp now, and I’ve heard he doesn’t much care for the “Cougar” name, but I’m an old dog and his old name was stuck in my head just now, and I include it here because I’m a pedantic completest.
Another tangent: I specify Mellencamp’s old songs, i.e. the songs he recorded in the 70s and 80s, because it turns out he’s been recording right up to the present day, but I didn’t know that until I googled his name as I was writing this drivel. Until just now, all the Mellencamp songs I knew about were pre-1984.
So when I say I think his old songs get better and better, I’m talking about Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. I don’t know how to account for this. I didn’t like his songs much when they were popular on the radio forty years ago. Truth to tell, I didn’t like his songs at all except for Jack & Diane, which was insanely popular in spite of the fact that nobody I knew liked it. I had to enjoy Jack & Diane in private; turning it up when it came on the car radio invited an instant egging.
Then, for many years, Jack & Diane was the only Mellencamp song I heard on the local oldies radio station, with maybe an occasional Hurts So Good thrown in every couple of weeks just to remind us of the Mellencamp That Was, same as they did with Elton John and Crocodile Rock. How many times have you wanted to kick a radio across the room in a Hulk rage, hollering “HE WROTE OTHER SONGS!”
And now, for maybe the past five, ten years, I’ve been turning up the old Mellencamp songs when they come on the car radio and belting out the tunes
Random Bit O’ Trivia: I learned to sing along with Jack & Diane in the age before the internet, when the only way I could learn the words was by listening to the song, usually through the tinny speaker of a cheap stereo set or, even worse, a car radio, then by comparing what I learned with what my friends learned and either accepting the mistakes they made or continuing to sing the mistakes I made. Now, forty years later, I can look up the words to any song, if I remember to, but very occasionally I will still just ask somebody, as I did recently when My Darling B and I were singing along to Jack & Diane. The line in question was: “Hold on to sixteen as long as you can / changes come along real soon, make you women and men.”
I turned to My Darling B and asked her, “What’s he say there? Because I always heard, ‘Changes come along real soon, make you swim in a van.'”
Such a look she gave me.
“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” I shot back. “You’re the one who thought ‘Roam if you want to’ was ‘Whoa, Nipsey Russel.'”