John “Cougar” Mellencamp


When I was growing up in the Midwest, I never seemed to like any of the bands that actually came from there. My favorites at the time hailed from places much further afield: California hotshots Van Halen, English country squires Pink Floyd, London wastrels The Clash, NYC LES pin-ups Blondie, Dublin deities U2, and on and on. What on earth did I need Joe Grushecky, Donnie Iris or Michael Stanley for? It all seemed hopelessly derivative of Bruce Springsteen to me and I didn’t really like The Boss, either. In any case, those previously mentioned fellows and their respective bands were all small potatoes compared to the biggest “Little Bruce” of them all. His name was John “Cougar” Mellencamp, and he pretty much took the gospel Bruce was preaching in New Jersey some 700 miles inland to Bumfuck, Indiana to start a whole new platinum-selling religion.

I wasn’t buying it and my aversion to John and his hymns to a life lived in the middle of nowhere lasted for years, until about 1985, in fact. It was around that time that, while thumbing through some “rock yearbook” at B. Dalton Bookseller one day, I came across a picture of the guy wedged into one of those wire mesh trash cans that used to be on every city street corner. He was grinning like a bandit, obviously having some fun with his image at his own expense—the critics had, from day one, disliked him even more than I did, so there he was, basically saying both he and his musical output were garbage. Hahaha. But what caught my eye about this picture wasn’t John’s cheeky self-deprecation, but the fact that he was shod in Tretorn sneakers! Classic canvas Nylites, white with the blue stripe! What kind of rock and roller, let alone a self-proclaimed “biker,” wore preppy shit like that?

I’ve followed his work ever since…

3 thoughts on “John “Cougar” Mellencamp

  1. At nearly 50, I am still sporting the “Cougar mullet” and probably always will! Good taste never goes out of style!

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