On this day in music history: October 2, 1982 - “Jack & Diane” by John Cougar hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by John Mellencamp, it is the biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from Seymour, IN. Originally written as a ballad on acoustic guitar, Mellencamp runs into problems coming up with a full band arrangement. Former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson who is one of the musicians playing on the track, is instrumental in helping establish the songs tempo and final arrangement. Ronson also suggests to the singer “Johnny, you should put baby rattles on there” to which Mellencamp replies, “What the f*ck does put baby rattles on the record mean?”. In the end, the decide to add a percussion break to the song with drummer Kenny Aronoff playing accents on the hi-hat while heavily emphasizing the back beat on the kick and snare drums, as Mellencamp sings the bridge over the top. This touch becomes one of the most memorable parts of the finished record. The songs signature handclaps were initially recorded to keep time while the rest of the track was being recorded, and were to be removed during the final mixing. They are left on, becoming another important element in the records success. Once the song is finished, Mellencamp plays it for executives at his label distributor Polygram, who are initially not enthusiastic about the “unconventional” song. But John insists that it be included, and they relent to his wishes. When “Jack & Diane” begins receiving airplay as the “American Fool” albums first single “Hurts So Good” (#2 Pop) is still climbing the charts, they release it as a single in July of 1982. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on July 24, 1982, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. The week that “Jack & Diane” takes the top spot on the Hot 100, “Hurts So Good” is still in the top ten at #10, with both singles spending four weeks in the top ten together. In a recent interview with Tavis Smiley, John Mellencamp reveals that “Jack & Diane” had originally been written to be about an interracial couple. When his record company dissuades him from saying that it is, he reluctantly complies to their wishes, a decision he states publicly he later regrets. Though a few years later, in the music video for his 1987 single “Cherry Bomb” (#8 Pop), the retro styled video shows a young couple, a black man and a white woman dancing together. “Jack & Diane” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 19, 1985 - “Scarecrow”, the eighth album by John (Cougar) Mellencamp is released. Produced by John Mellencamp (aka “Little Bastard”) and Don Gehman, it is recorded at the Belmont Mall in Belmont, IN from March 20 - April 29, 1985. Recorded at his newly built studio near his home in Bloomington, IN, Mellencamp takes a different approach than on previous albums. Wanting to incorporate more a 60’s rock and R&B feel into the material, he has his band learn how to play and rehearse nearly a hundred classic songs prior to recording, in order to achieve the sound and feel required for the new songs. Those influences resonate strongly through the material, with this “retro” feel even carrying over into the music video for the single “R.O.C.K. In The USA (A Salute To 60’s Rock)” (#2 Pop). In order to authentically capture the look and feel of the 1960’s, the clip is shot in black and white using a vintage kinescope camera. The album spins off five singles including “Lonely Ol’ Night” (#6 Pop), “Small Town” (#6 Pop), and “Rain On The Scarecrow (#21 Pop). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2005 with an acoustic version of "Small Town” as a bonus track. Going out of print on vinyl in the early 90’s, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Music On Vinyl in 2012. For its thirtieth anniversary in 2015, it is reissued again as a limited edition pressing on gray marble vinyl for Black Friday Record Store Day in November of 2015. A third vinyl reissue on standard black 180 gram vinyl is released in 2016. “Scarecrow” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.