TRUE CONFESSIONS : JACK AND DIANE

A GUEST POSTING by THE FRIEND OF RACHEL WORTH

Father VV

Please hear my confession.

Growing up in the 80s I was a bit of a Little Britainer as far as music was concerned and especially snobby when it came to anything out of the states. There was only really Talking Heads who i had anytime for and like most early teens had a bit of a crush on Debbie Harry. I had an especially big distaste for anything that sniffed too much of rock n rawl.

However, one track came along which I really should have hated but became a secret vice that even today raises a smile on the rare occasions it pops up on shuffle. At the time i was a compulsive compliation tape complier and would force them onto anyone who I knew. I can safely say that this track has never appeared on any of these tapes.

The whole thing is a tad ridiculous to the point of parody (college football star and debutante! , I ask you) and it is by a man who felt the need to insert an animal between his first and surnames.

I have a secret love for Jack and Diane by John “Cougar” Mellancamp.

The thing gives me strange small pleasures such as a first line “ a little ditty” not story , not song , not tale but ditty. There was the other worldliness of the Tastee Freez ( I had no idea what this was was , but it sounded like a wonderful place) and what an earth was a chilidog. It is easy to forget in this time of access to everything how mysterious some American references were.

There’s the weird choral, gospelly bit in the middle , the fact for years, I thought it was the Bottle bank and not the bible belt that would come and save my soul. I kind of love the fact that the thing would all fall apart with out the handclaps

There was also the thrill of sex. I wasn’t sure what Bobby Brooks were but as a 15 year old I could certainly imagine what “Let me do as I Please” was all about

“Hey, Diane, let’s run off behind a shady tree
Dribble off those Bobby Brooks
Let me do what I please”

This was 1982 when I was into anything with a synth and I tried to kid myself that that bit of electronic percussion in this meant that it was okay. I must have known that this was a bit desperate as on endless afternoons round friends listening to the new Soft Cell or OMD single I never said “Hey I’ve bought that great John Cougar single with me to listen to”

Reading up on the track for this post (okay I’ve looked on Wikipedia) I’ve found out that that the whole thing was based on Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams and that Mick Ronson played on and helped to arrange and produce it. If I had known that in 1982 it may have given me a bit more courage to champion the song. Actually maybe I should have just focused on one of the bleakest lines in pop music which just felt so true to a pretentious teenager and held its own with anything Ian Curtis et al have come up with “Oh yeah life goes on , Long after the thrill of living is gone”

mp3 : John Cougar Mellencamp – Jack and Diane

Thus ends my confession and I am off to listen to angst filled thin men with guitars as penance, and make myself a chillidog

FRIEND OF RACHEL WORTH

15 thoughts on “TRUE CONFESSIONS : JACK AND DIANE

  1. I have a HUGE love for The Cougar since then: I own almost all of his albums and I think he’s one of those who’s aging with grace and dignity. My reason to love him was opposite to yours: I hated that synthesizers domination and dived deep into everything with guitars and REAL drums…

  2. Strange thing is that he is probably closer to a lot of stuff I listen to now than I did then . With his later stuff , where should I start Andrea?

  3. I’ve loved JM since I was a teenager, probably for similar reasons to Andrea. Posts like this make me realise I’m probably hanging out with the wrong crowd… but it’s ever been so… and nowhere else will have me.

    I lost touch with Mellencamp to a degree in the 00s, but his latest album Sad Clown & Hillbillies is pretty good. He’s turned into a bit of a grumpy old man, but then: haven’t we all?

  4. Just looking at that track listing reminded me of the song Pop Singer, which summed up Mellencamp’s attitude pretty well…

    Never wanted to be no pop singer,
    Never wanted to write no pop songs.

  5. I only recently heard about Mick Ronson’s contribution to this track. He was still faux a Springsteen trafficking in “iconic Americana” that I could not relate to. I think he’s smarter than Springsteen though. His appearance on the comedy series SCTV was something of a classic. Of course, he was managed by Tony DeFries; hence the “John Cougar” branding that took him a decade to erase. But at least that explains why Mick Ronson was working with him. Mellencamp returned the favor on the posthumous Mick Ronson album “Heaven + Hull” with the track “Life’s A River.”

  6. I think his peak was in the mid-80s, with Scarecrow and The lonesome jubilee… And if you want to check his recent years, you could try No Better Than This (rough but masterclass songwriting)

  7. I always quite liked the track (but never said so) and it was memorably used for the Derek B (RIP sad to say) re-mix of the great Paid in Full by Eric B and Rakim. 30 years on the re-mix still sounds epic and so much better IMHO than the Coldcut one so here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=016dZDTIjpg. Could we have greatest remixes on a Sunday once New Order is completed?

  8. I found out about the Ronson connection on this song when my wife bought the Mick Ronson documentary “Beside Bowie” and we watched it recently. Nice that Ronno got a film. Such an unassuming, but talented, guy.

  9. Mobyfop….that’s a great idea for a series, but it’s one I feel needs to be driven by guest contributions. The Sunday thing of going for one band in chronological order allows me to be lazy….

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