John Mellencamp admitted he doesn’t look back longingly at any part of his life and career. The legendary singer/songwriter is receiving raves for his newly-released 24th album, Strictly A One-Eyed Jack, which features a trio of collaborations with Bruce Springsteen.
Mellencamp spoke to GQ magazine and marked the difference of how he used to create his music and how he does today: “When I was a kid, I would try to control the songs, and y’know, they were labored, they were crafted. In the last 15, 20 years, I stopped crafting songs. I just let the songs roll out however they want to present themselves.”
Mellencamp recalled the embarrassment he endured from having a stage name early on in his career: “I really, for a long time, hated the fact that I was arm-twisted to become Johnny Cougar. (Former-manager Tony DeFries‘) whole explanation to me was that Mellencamp was first of all a German name, and he was Jewish. And I kinda understood that point.”
Although his rise might’ve seemed like a rags-to-riches story upon the massive success of his American Fool album — nothing could be further from the truth: “In 1982, I had the Number One album in America and the Number One single and the Number Two single. I didn’t have any f***in’ money, I didn’t have a dime in my pocket.”
Mellencamp looked back at some of his earlier classic singles, and revealed why the intro to his 1978 track and eventual Top 40 breakthrough “I Need A Lover” ran for nearly two-and-a-half minutes: “I never listen to my old records, I’m not nostalgic at all . . . The long jam before the first verse of ‘I Need A Lover’? The reason that intro was so long is because we had just discovered that you could change keys in the middle of the song. It’s like ‘Oh listen, if you go to here, we can play the same f***kin’ part but in a different key and it kinda uplifts the song.'”
Regarding him featuring his band trading off vocals on 1987’s Top 10 smash “Cherry Bomb,” Mellencamp expalined, “I can answer that really simply for you: Sly & The Family Stone. (I) had all those hit records when I was in junior high, and I love the fact that all the sudden there’s a female voice, then a male voice.”
- John Mellencamp has scored 10 Top 10 hits to date, with 1982’s “Jack & Diane” marking his sole Number One hit to date, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for a solid month.
- Mellencamp had a couple of near-misses, with 1982’s “Hurts So Good” and 1986’s “R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To ’60s Rock)” both peaking at Number Two.
- All told, between 1979 and 1996, John Mellencamp scored a total of 22 Top 40 hits.
CHECK IT OUT: John Cougar in 1978 performing “I Need A Lover” on The Netherlands’ music show, Top Pop: