John Mellencamp – Minutes to Memories

This song is not one of John’s big hits but it’s a damn good song. It’s off the Scarecrow album. In my opinion, this was John’s best album and arguably the peak of his career.

To prepare for this album Mellencamp had a good idea. He had his band run through old rock songs for a month. They learned them inside and out and applied the knowledge on the new songs they were working on for the Scarecrow album.

You can hear it in songs like R.O.C.K in the U.S.A. and through the complete album.

Minutes to Memories peaked at #14 on the Top Rock Tracks in 1986. It was not released as a single.

 

Minutes to Memories

On a Greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
He saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
He said I’m old kind of worn out inside
I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
And my father before me I helped build this land
Now I’m seventy-seven and with God as my witness
I earned every dollar that passed through my hands
My family and friends are the best thing I’ve known
Through the eye of the needle I’ll carry them home

[Chorus:]
Days turn to minutes
And minutes to memories
Life sweeps away the dreams
That we have planned
You are young and you are the future
So suck it up and tough it out
And be the best you can

The rain hit the old dog in the twilight’s last gleaming
He said Son it sounds like rattling old bones
This highway is long but I know some that are longer
By sunup tomorrow I guess I’ll be home
Through the hills of Kentucky ‘cross the Ohio river
The old man kept talking ’bout his life and his times
He fell asleep with his head against the window
He said an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind
This world offers riches and riches will grow wings
I don’t take stock in those uncertain things

[Chorus]

The old man had a vision but it was hard for me to follow
I do things my way and I pay a high price
When I think back on the old man and the bus ride
Now that I’m older I can see he was right

Another hot one out on highway eleven
This is my life it’s what I’ve chosen to do
There are no free rides No one said it’d be easy
The old man told me this my son I’m telling it to you

[Chorus]

John Mellencamp – Rain On The Scarecrow

This song was from what I think was John Mellencamp’s best album Scarecrow and the peak of his career.

This song is about the financial difficulties farmers in the Midwest US face… difficulties that can go as far as having their farms repossessed by banks. Mellencamp wrote the song with George Green, who he worked with on many tracks, including “Hurts So Good.”

He has taken an active role in helping American farmers. Along with Neil Young and Willie Nelson, he regularly plays at the Farm-Aid concerts to help raise money.

The song peaked at #21 in the Billboard 100 in 1986. The album peaked at #2 in 1985.

From Songfacts

“Our songs always came about the same way: talk around the kitchen table,” Mellencamp told Rolling Stone. “I had just played ‘Small Town’ for him. He said, “I don’t know why these towns are going out of business” – towns like Freetown and Dudleytown, Indiana. We couldn’t figure out why they were disappearing. We did our research and wrote this song – Reagan had been using grain against the Soviet Union and all sorts of other things. Talking to people was heartbreaking. Nobody wanted to lose their farm.”

When the banker forecloses on the farm in this song, Mellencamp introduces himself into it:

He said, “John it’s just my job and I hope you understand”
Hey, calling it your job ol’ Hoss sure don’t make it right

This bit was culled from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, where the boss man puts Paul Newman’s character, Luke, in “the box” (solitary confinement), telling him, “Sorry, Luke. I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.”

Luke replies: “Nah, calling it your job don’t make it right, Boss.”

Another track on the album, “Lonely Ol’ Night,” also uses dialogue from a Paul Newman movie: the 1963 film Hud. In that one, a character asks, “It’s a lonesome ol’ night, isn’t it?”

Rain On The Scarecrow

Scarecrow on a wooden cross blackbird in the barn
Four hundred empty acres that used to be my farm
I grew up like my daddy did my grandpa cleared this land
When I was five I walked the fence while grandpa held my hand

[Chorus]
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
This land fed a nation this land made me proud
And son I’m just sorry theres no legacy for you now
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

The crops we grew last summer weren’t enough to pay the loans
Couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmers bank foreclosed
Called my old friend schepman up to auction off the land
He said john its just my job and I hope you understand
Hey calling it your job ol hoss sure dont make it right
But if you want me to Ill say a prayer for your soul tonight
And grandmas on the front porch swing with a
Bible in her hand Sometimes I hear her singing take me to the promised land
When you take away a mans dignity he cant work his fields and cows

There’ll be blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow

Well there’s ninety-seven crosses planted in the courthouse yard
Ninety-seven families who lost ninety-seven farms
I think about my grandpa and my neighbors and my name and some nights
I feel like dying like that scarecrow in the rain

[Chorus]

Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
This land fed a nation this land made me so proud
And son I’m just sorry they’re just memories for you now
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow
Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow

John Mellencamp – Small Town

I always liked this song because I could/can relate to it. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. It had its drawbacks but was a great place to grow up.

Mellencamp wrote this about his experiences growing up in the small town of Seymour, Indiana. The media portrayed Mellencamp as the champion of small-town America when the song was released. While he has remained true to his roots and often returns to Seymour, he claims he was simply writing about his life, and not trying to make a statement.

The song is on what I always thought was his best album Scarecrow. Small Town peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100 in 1985. Scarecrow peaked at #2 in the same year in the Billboard Album Chart.

From Songfacts

The music Mellencamp listened to growing up in the ’60s was a huge influence on his work, and he often put bits of classics songs from that era in his tracks. On the bridge of “Small Town,” you can hear the riff from The Supremes song “Back in My Arms Again.”

Mellencamp believes this was a hit because it makes people feel good. He thinks many of his songs don’t do well because they make people confront problems, like the plight of American farmers.

Mellencamp would sometimes add the line “My wife was 13 years old growing up in a small town when I wrote this song,” referring to his wife, the model Elaine Irwin, who is 17 years younger. The couple split up in 2010.

Mellencamp wrote this song after having a number of conversations with folks from New York who seemed to think he – and everyone else from the middle of the country – was a rube. “I wanted to write a song that said, ‘you don’t have to live in New York or Los Angeles to live a full life,'” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I was never one of those guys that grew up and thought, ‘I need to get out of here.’ It never dawned on me. I just valued having a family and staying close to friends.”

Small Town

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me

But I’ve seen it all in a small town
Had myself a ball in a small town
Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town
Now she’s small town just like me

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

Got nothing against a big town
Still hayseed enough to say
Look who’s in the big town
But my bed is in a small town
Oh, and that’s good enough for me

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that’s probably where they’ll bury me

John Mellencamp – Lonely Ol’ Night

When I graduated high school in1985 this song was was all over the radio. It was on the Scarecrow LP and that album marked a change in Mellencamp’s songs. The change in his style started with the Uh Huh album that came out in 1983 but this one is when I became more of a fan.

This song peaked at #6 in the Billboard 100 in 1985. The Scarecrow album peaked at #2 on the Billboard album chart. Mellencamp’s Uh Huh started the transformation and this solidified his heartland Americana image.

The title and hook were lifted from dialogue in the 1963 movie Hud. When Brandon De Wilde’s character asks, “It’s a Lonesome old night, isn’t it?” Paul Newman replies, “Ain’t they all?”

From Songfacts

The lyrics, “He’s singing about standing in the shadows of love, I guess he feels awfully alone” refer to the song “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” which was a #6 hit for the Four Tops in 1967. “Lonely Ol’ Night” reached the same plateau. >>

The Scarecrow album saw Mellencamp move to a more political direction in his songwriting, as he gave voice to American farmers, expressing their burdens in songs like “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “You’ve Got to Stand for Somethin’.” “Lonely Ol’ Night” was more typical of his earlier work, a romantic story set against a musical backdrop. Lyrically, it’s not far off from his 1980 track “Ain’t Even Done With The Night.”

Mellencamp borrowed from the movie again in his 1987 track “Paper in Fire” with the line, “We keep no check on our appetites.”

Lonely Ol’ Night

She calls me home
She says baby it’s a lonely ol’ night
I don’t know
I’m just so scared and lonely all at the same time
Nobody told me
She was gonna work out this way no no no no no no
I guess they knew
We’d work it out in our own way

It’s a lonely ol’ night
Can I put my arms around you?
It’s a lonely ol nigh
Custom made for two lonely people like me and you

Radio playin’ softly
Some singer’s sad sad song
He’s singing about
Standing in the shadows of love
I guess it feels awfully alone
She says I know
Exactly what he means yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
And it’s a sad sad sad sad feeling
When you’re living on those in betweens
(But it’s OK)

It’s a lonely ol’ night
Can I put my arms around you?
It’s a lonely ol nigh
Custom made for two lonely people like me and you

She calls me baby
She calls everybody baby
It’s a lonely ol’ night
But ain’t they all?

It’s a lonely ol’ night
Can I put my arms around you?
It’s a lonely ol nigh
Custom made for two lonely people like me and you

Girl like me and you
Yeah like me and you

John Mellencamp – Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) ———Songs that reference The Beatles

In a hand painted night, me and Gypsy Scotty are partners, At the Hotel Flamingo, wearin black market shoes, This loud Cuban band is crucifying John Lennon

This song was released in 1996 and it came off the album Mr. Happy Go Lucky. The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada and #83 in the UK in 1996. It’s a very good pop song and Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), which was Mellencamp’s last US top 40 hit.

John Mellencamp and Cougar had 29 songs in the Billboard 100, 10 top ten hits and one number 1 (Jack and Diane). He released this two years after his minor heart attack in 1994. I’ve always liked this song…catchy riff and a good pop hook.

 

Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)

In a hand painted night, me and Gypsy Scotty are partners
At the Hotel Flamingo, wearin black market shoes
This loud Cuban band is crucifying John Lennon
No one wants to be lonely, no one wants to sing the blues

She’s perched like a parrot on his tuxedo shoulder
Christ, what’s she doing with him she could be dancing with me
She stirs the ice in her glass with her elegant finger
I want to be what she’s drinking, yeah I just want to be

I saw you first
I’m the first one tonight
I saw you first
Don’t that give me the right
To move around in your heart
Everyone was lookin
But I saw you first

On a moon spattered road in her parrot rebozo
Gypsy Scotty is driving his big long yellow car
She flies like a bird over his shoulder
Se whispers in his ear, boy, you are my star

But I saw you first
I’m the first one tonight
Yes I saw you first
Don’t that give me the right
To move around in your heart
Everyone was lookin’

In the bone colored dawn, me and Gypsy Scotty are singin’
The radio is playin, she left her shoes out in the back
He tells me a story about some girl he knows in Kentucky
He just made that story up, there ain’t no girl like that

But I saw you first
I’m the first one tonight
Yes I saw you first
Don’t that give me the right
To move around in your heart
Everyone was lookin
But I saw you first
I saw you first

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