I was never really a fan of John (Cougar) Mellencamp, even when he first became popular and before he became way politically left. To me his music is bland and just not interesting–someone I will change the dial when it plays on the radio, without necessarily hating it. He used to be compared with Springsteen, who was one of my favorites, but Springsteen’s obvious superiority has always made me disdain Mellencamp’s simplistic themes.
The one exception and the only thing I ever owned by him was the single “Aint Even Done with the Night.” Ironically enough, Mellencamp dismisses that song as “stupid little pop,” but it captured the mood of inexperienced male teenager pretty well for me growing up–the dichotomy of facing female desire mingled with expected reluctance:
Well I don’t know no good come-ons
And I don’t know no cool lines
I feel the heat of your frustration
I know it’s burning you up deep down inside
You say that I’m the boy who can make it all come true
Well I’m tellin’ ya that I don’t know if I know what to do.
I remember the video at the link, too, including its homage to James Brown at the end. The one thing, though, that I never liked about that video was the bald guy in shades. He always gave me the willies, especially when he mimics a saxophone at 2:45. Just a bit too much exuberance or something. Something about him always set my creep-dar off.
In looking at the video the other day I discovered why while reading its comments. It’s old news now, but the musician in question, Eric Franklin Rosser, went on to become a significant figure in a child-pornography ring, eventually making the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Naturally, Mellencamp immediately distanced himself from Rosser, although the discography does not strictly support Mellencamp’s recollection of their relationship:
“Eric Franklin Rosser played in my band in 1979 for a very brief period of time,” Mellencamp said in a written statement. “I have not seen or spoken to him since.”
“Aint Even Done with the Night” was recorded in 1980, but let’s not nitpick. As far as crimes, Rosser’s involved girls aged 9 to 11 in the States as well as in all likelihood Thai girls invited to be students at his “music school” in Thailand. He was eventually arrested in Thailand, pleading for mercy on the grounds “he was a child masquerading in a man’s body.” He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Mellencamp was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 and has a new album coming out this month.