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John Cougar - 'American Fool' (landmark album review) Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 18, 2017    
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I will always be grateful for the way his music has affected me. American fool? Not by a long chalk...

This is a Rocktopia™ landmark review (album review no. 4976, pls. click HERE for more information)

John Mellencamp, known as John Cougar early on because it's way cooler (obviously), has never made a big splash in our small pond this side of the Atlantic. Even with this, his breakthrough album in the US, he barely scraped into the Top Forty. I discovered it a few years after its release when I borrowed a copied cassette (home taping is killing music, kids!) of Whitesnake's 'Slide It In' album, and this little gen was on the other side of the C90. Quite simply, I was blown away. I'd never heard this sort of music before and it's definitely responsible for my leaning more towards AOR and away from big ass guitars and posturing.

That's not to say that there's no guitars here. 'Thundering Hearts' is a full-on Rocker about small town living that features lines like "Get your greasy hair girl out of my face, this ol' redneck's on fire". It's not poetry, I know, but it's full of life, energy and joy. The small town vibe is pretty constant throughout (he was raised in a small town, don't cha know) and is perhaps no more evident than on second offering 'Jack & Diane', a single that took America by storm and sputtered out at #25 over here.

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Basically, it's about puberty – raunchy stuff, huh? Containing the immortal line "Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone", it's a tale of young lovers that resonates as much today as it did then. 'American Fool' is the epitome of an album that keeps on giving, a solid gold ten out of ten record with nine perfect tracks. Closer 'Weakest Moments' is a heart-breaking ballad, whilst 'Danger List' echoes Mellencamp's own loneliness and the pain of being the wild boy (and he was) the girls avoid. There's plenty of guitars, the awesome simplicity of Kenny Arnoff behind the drum kit, all tied together by Mellencamp's perfect Rock voice; a mid-west version of Bryan Adams if you will.

Over thirty years after I first heard it, I can still sit and listen to this album without being at all bored or skipping a single track. I still get the air guitar out for 'Can You Take It' and 'Close Enough' and sometimes a tissue for 'Weakest Moments'. I also lustily sing-along to every single track, which of course I know off by heart by now. Some of the words are beautiful and meaningful, some are just a young guy singing about girls, but they all encapsulate living in Indiana in 1982 and wanting to get out, to make something of yourself. The surprise ending is that John Mellencamp went on to be a household name in America, writing some amazing music that has affected millions of people. Over here, not so much, but I will always be grateful for the way his music has affected me. American fool? Not by a long chalk...

Alan Holloway

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