John Mellencamp-The Lonesome Jubilee 30th Anniversary

If the Eighties made anyone a star, it was John Mellencamp. 1981’s American Fool  gave him two legit big hits in “Hurt So Good” and “Jack and Diane“, along the way influencing the sound of rock and pop with a big forward drum sound from emerging in-demand percussionist Kenny AronoffUh Huh  in 1983 made John Mellencamp  a star, and 1985’s Scarecrow  established him as not only popular but an important voice chronicling the times in Reagan-era America. Scarecrow was John’s third platinum plus seller in a row, so there was no indication or even expectation that with his August 1987 release The Lonesome Jubilee Mellencamp was about to alter not only the sound of his own music but, in so doing, influence rock, pop, and modern country music that is still heard three decades later.

In direct contrast to the Pop Metal of the day from Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and a horde of hair bands, the musical roller coaster “Paper in Fire” and the retro cheek-to-cheek dance floor favorite “Cherry Bomb” each went Top Ten with fiddle and accordion, no less, and the soaring instrumental harmony on “Check It Out” broke into the Top Fifteen, all from The Lonesome Jubilee. It was about that time that John Mellencamp’s new-found stardom, wealth, and lack of privacy started to raise issues with his working class values, in his mind and in at least some cases, his personal relationships. 

John Mellencamp had progressed from writing ” a little ditty ’bout Jack and Diane…” into deeper waters of social issues, but when the self-described “just a song and dance man” waded into the deep end he found the cross currents of public scrutiny to be swift with riptides unseen until you are swept up in them. The 1989 release Big Daddy exposed a sense of hopelessness that had crept into his lyrics even as Mellencamp’s career was at a peak. His marriage was on the rocks, he had just turned the Big Four Oh, and his daughter made him a grandfather all about this same time, reflected in the songs “Pop Singer”,”Martha Say”,”The Real Life”, the stinging Reagan indictment “Country Gentleman“, and the bleak “Jackie Brown“. In this revealing interview, John Mellencamp takes the American electorate out to the woodshed for sleepwalking through the democratic process even while complaining about the dysfunctional results. –Redbeard