John Mellencamp – The Authority Song

The then John Cougar Mellencamp released the album “Uh Huh” in October of 1983. This is when I became a fan. I did like some of his earlier songs like “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” but with this album, his sound changed. I just turned 16 when the Authority Song came out so naturally, I connected with it.

The album peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100 in 1984. He had 5 singles in the top 40 released off of this album. The Authority Song peaked at #15 in the Billboard 100 in 1984.

From Songfacts

When discussing this song, Mellencamp called it “our new version of ‘I Fought The Law.'” It’s typical of Mellencamp’s rebel attitude: “growing up leads to growing old and then to dying.” 

Mellencamp had a complex relationship with authority, which unlike what’s stated in this song, didn’t win.

He grew up in Seymour, Indiana, where nobody had ever become famous. Ignoring the many naysayers, he went to New York and earned a record deal, which he learned wasn’t a big deal after all, as labels were hiring photogenic young rockers by the hundreds. Most of these aspiring superstars came from cities and were willing to play the game, doing whatever the label deemed necessary. Mellencamp clashed with this culture but didn’t have a clear direction. He tried on a number of public personas before establishing his identity as a heartland rocker with his 1982 American Fool album. By Uh-huh, he was still focused on making hits, but imbuing them with more subtext and artistry. He was also transitioning his stage name, becoming “John Cougar Mellencamp” for the first time (he started recording as “Johnny Cougar,” and then, “John Cougar”).

Thanks to “Jack & Diane” and “Hurts So Good,” Mellencamp was a big star by the time this song was released, and much of his success was owed to MTV. He hated making videos, and “Authority Song” paired him with a director who had equal disdain for the form: Jay Dubin, who told Songfacts, “It just has to look nice and exist for a few short minutes. There’s no magic in it.”

The video, in black and white, shows Mellencamp as a boxer stepping into the ring, but without gloves and without ever actually fighting.

The Authority Song

They like to get you in a compromising position
They like to get you there and smile in your face
They think, they’re so cute when they got you in that condition
Well I think, it’s a total disgrace

I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I’ve come out grinnin’
I fight authority, authority always wins

So I call up my preacher
I say: “Gimme strength for Round 5”
He said: “You don’t need no strength, you need to grow up, son”
I said: “Growing up leads to growing old and then to dying,
And dying to me don’t sound like all that much fun”

I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I’ve come out grinnin’
I fight authority, authority always wins

I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I’ve come out grinnin’
I fight authority, authority always wins
Oh no
Oh no
I fight authority, authority always wins

I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I’ve come out grinnin’
I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I’ve come out grinnin’
I fight authority, authority always wins

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

22 thoughts on “John Mellencamp – The Authority Song”

  1. Always a WEE bit put off because of the obvious similarity to “I fought the LAw”, but that said, still like the song. Always was a fan of his, but as time goes on, my love of Mellencamp’s music grows . Find myself listening to his 2-disc best of a lot in last couple of years. There’s an authenticity to it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Scarecrow album was really good…really earthy “heartland” music as it was called by some. I do like the riff…but yea it is just a modern version of I Fought The Law

      Liked by 2 people

      1. He’s pretty heavy in my teen, years, too. Ain’t Even Done came out in ’81. I was 14/15 that year.

        My hook was Jack & Diane. It went #1 in October 1982 & I turned 16 in August…”Holdin’ on to 16 as long as you can…”

        Uh-Huh came out during my senior year & Scarecrow came out in my second year of college. I cannot believe Minutes to Memories never charted.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I loved the Scarecrow album… that was a great album. Minutes to Memories was great.
        Later on Cherry Bomb came out… loved that also

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes… It’s good BUT… way too short to me. Now I’ve read a lot of Who books so I didn’t get a lot of info that I didn’t already have but it is good. I did find out more about him of course….It was over before I knew it.

        Like

      2. Come to think of it, I remember you mentioned this book before I think. I read an excerpt and the writing seemed surprisingly good so I got it. Looking forward to it. I enjoyed pete’s memoir

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes it is enjoyable…I just wanted more. After reading Keith’s book and Robbie Robertson (I can’t recommend that one enough) …but it is good…since Roger was the sober member I would have thought he would have remembered more lol.

        Right now I’m reading about Elvis. I never have before…someone should have kidnapped the dude and made him sing with a raw rock band.

        Like

      4. Yea…I don’t blame him for not liking it…though….I can’t blame the Bowie change…hmmm Davy Jones…

        Like

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