Flashback Friday: John Cougar Pre-Mellencamp Sings "Jack & Diane" on SCTV!



Sometimes it's just nice to be taken back to a time before Mr. "Pink Houses" decided he wanted to go by his real last name.  If that was such a hot idea, don't you think Dylan would have gone back to Zimmerman at some point?

I know Johnny said he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, but, in truth, I surmise that it came down to ego.  To hear him tell it, John felt the Cougar name - one that had been bestowed upon him by Tony DeFries, the head honcho at Main Man and the first person to believe enough in the self-confessed hillbilly to give him a record deal.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't cool that DeFries didn't tell him about the name thing until the albums had been pressed up.  That must have been fucking hilarious.  Those among us who consider ourselves musicians know exactly what it's like to spend years writing songs for what we hope will be the album that changes everything and, when you finally get your hands on the finished product, we discover a freakin' typo and our entire day is ruined.  Well, imagine if the typo you discovered was that your entire last name (Mellencamp) had been misspelled "Cougar".  You'd probably be sorta pissed.

And when that album completely stiffs and the same guy who changed your last name for you without even asking balks at releasing your next album (The Kid Inside) and drops you from the label, nobody would blame you if you dropped the "Cougar" bit.  Instead, you spend three long, hard years writing new material and beating down doors for a new record deal, only to release your next album, which somebody decided to call... John Cougar.



Now, once you've had the chance to drop "Cougar" like a dirty shirt but didn't, you're new label, Riva Records, is spending a literal fortune promoting John Cougar from a "nobody" to a "somebody" and, in the process,they help you land not one, but three Top 40 hits by the summer of '81: "I Need A Lover", "Ain't Even Done With The Night", and "This Time".

But then comes American Fool, which breaks your career wide open as little ditties like "Hurts So Good" and "Jack And Diane" permanently dominate the airwaves.  Suddenly, John Cougar is a household name thanks to the dedication and hard work of the folks at Riva Records.

So you do what any grateful artist would do by recording a follow-up album that isn't just American Fool, Pt. 2.  But then you pull the dick move of all dick moves by demanding that the record company released this under the name "John Cougar Mellencamp".  I mean, I still know clerks in record stores who are still trying to figure out whether to stick the album in the "C" section or the "M" section,

Personally, I'd have gone to the record company too, but I'd have demanded that they change my name to "Cougar".  That's right, just "Cougar".  For that matter, I'd have also called the next album You Bought It, You Name It, but, by then Joe Walsh had already done just that.

By '87's Lonesome Jubilee, "Cougar" was gone from the masthead and things began to get a little too serious.  Sure, John kept the ear of America long enough to score hits like "Paper In Fire", "Cherry Bomb" and "Check It Out", but then the wheels fell off.

1989's Big Daddy ushered in a serious Mellencamp, now seen tenderly embracing a small child on the album cover.  The first single, "Pop Singer" poked fun at the very star-making machine that had made him.  Perhaps a better album title would have been Bite The Hand That Feeds.

Makes you almost wistful for a time when Johnny Cougar and band being willing participants in such tomfoolery as appearing on Canada's SCTV  as Ed Grimley transforming into a rock singer on a stage made to look like the mouth of a snake...with odd "cougar"-like stripes.


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