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In 1988, Rolling Stone magazine called this version of Mellencamp's band "one of the most powerful and versatile live bands ever assembled." On the 1984 Uh-Huh Tour, Mellencamp opened his shows with cover versions of songs he admired growing up, including Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", the Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", Lee Dorsey's "Ya Ya" and the Left Banke's "Pretty Ballerina". It wasn't let's go back and try to make this part fit into my song, but I wanted to capture the same feeling – the way those songs used to make you feel.
Since college, Mellencamp, with the exception of his continuing addiction to nicotine, has lived a drug and alcohol-free lifestyle. After a while, we didn't even have to talk about it anymore.
De Fries insisted that Mellencamp's first album, Chestnut Street Incident, a collection of covers and a handful of original songs, be released under the stage name Johnny Cougar, insisting that the bumpy German name "Mellencamp" was too hard to market.
"It was too labored over, too thought about, and it wasn't organic enough. According to the February 1986 edition of Creem Magazine, Mellencamp wanted to incorporate the sound of classic '60s rock into Scarecrow, and he gave his band close to a hundred old singles to learn "almost mathematically verbatim" prior to recording the album.Mellencamp rose to fame in the 1980s while "honing an almost startlingly plainspoken writing style” that, starting in 1982, yielded a string of Top 10 singles, including "Hurts So Good," "Jack & Diane," "Crumblin' Down," "Pink Houses," "Lonely Ol' Night," "Small Town," "R. Mellencamp is also one of the founding members of Farm Aid, an organization that began in 1985 with a concert in Champaign, Illinois, to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. In addition, he holds the record for the most tracks by a solo artist to hit number one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with seven.His songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music."John Mellencamp is arguably the most important roots rocker of his generation. John has made fiddles, hammer dulcimers, Autoharps (sic) and accordions [into] lead rock instruments on a par with electric guitar, bass, and drums, and he also brought what he calls 'a raw Appalachian' lyrical outlook to his songs.Mellencamp's best music is rock 'n roll stripped of all escapism, and it looks directly at the messiness of life as it's actually lived.