It’s Friday everybody! We’ve been working hard here at the press on our upcoming books and we just couldn’t wait to share one of them with you!
This post features one of our new favorites, Mellencamp: American Troubadour by David Masciotra. This book gives you an insider’s perspective on the life and music career of John Mellencamp and his path to fame. This book is an absolute must-read for music enthusiasts who are interested in the development of roots rock and Americana music.
We’ve including an excerpt here at the bottom for you to check out and tell us your thoughts. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our music related posts we’ve been doing all week, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow.
You can order the book here. Have a great weekend!
Introduction: No Pop Singer
From the American heartland came a voice as strong and restless as a tornadic
wind blowing up dust devils on a wide open prairie. In the beginning
that voice was given the unfortunate moniker of Johnny Cougar, and
its possessor would spend nearly a decade, from the late 1970s to the late
1980s, fighting to define himself as a man and as an artist, crawling out
of the shadow of his record company’s limited vision for his talent. His
manager and record company—Tony DeFries of MainMan Management,
which had a close relationship with MCA Records—found a brash, handsome,
and hungry young man from Indiana and offered him a record
contract because they liked his demo, but first and foremost because they
liked the way he looked. They envisioned a pop star brat who would make
girls swoon with his James Dean swagger and cause radios to light up
with the sonic styling of another Neil Diamond. When the record company
executives told the young man their plans and punctuated it with the
demand that he change his performance name from John Mellencamp,
his birth name, to Johnny Cougar, he protested. “No one’s ever called me
Johnny in my life,” he said before addressing the humiliation of a tag like
“Cougar.” The conversation ended abruptly when an executive brought his gavel down on the table: “You can be Johnny Cougar or you can go back to
Indiana and do whatever it was you were doing there.” What Mellencamp
was doing was making minimum wage working for the phone company in
his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. He’d come to New York City to get a
record contract and, in the spirit and tradition of the explorer, adventurer,
and artist, he was determined to meet the challenge of the task—a challenge
that ends with many people forced, without ceremony or even farewell,
to return to their hometowns to do whatever it was they were doing
there. Mellencamp signed the deal, and Johnny Cougar was born.
Fourteen years later, in 1989, after selling millions of albums and scoring
several top ten hits as both John Cougar (Johnny became John by the
early 1980s) and John Cougar Mellencamp (his surname first appeared
on a record in 1983), Mellencamp released a single called “Pop Singer.”
The song is a stimulative and hypnotic blend of funk and folk—the funk
foaming from a Sly Stone bass line and a Stax sisterhood of backup vocalists,
and the folk fomenting from the fiddle, imported from Ireland, and a
beach accordion. Mellencamp’s voice—car wheels on a gravel road of confidence—
begins a biography and commences a confession:
Never wanted to be no pop singer
Never wanted to write no pop songs.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just wanted to make it real
Good, bad, or indifferent
That’s the way that I live and the way that I’ll die, as a