Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sentimellencamp

I doubt there's anything more sentimental than music. A quick snippet of a song can evoke far more memories than an old film clip or some sort of preserved artifact.

The funny thing I've discovered -- songs that you didn't even like when you first encountered them can trigger a strong reaction, even if that reaction is just making you realize how old you've become.

The song in question today is John Cougar Mellencamp's Cherry Bomb, to which I was always rather indifferent. Mention Mellencamp to me, and my first memory is usually my high school locker room, where a guy in my P.E. class (who later went to Mellencamp's beloved Indiana, only to transfer) imitated the "I'm a real good dancer" line from Crumblin' Down. By the time Cherry Bomb came out, Mellencamp was no longer in heavy MTV rotation -- besides, I was headed to college and wouldn't be watching much MTV again until Beavis and Butthead gave me a reason to act like a middle-schooler.

It's not that I didn't respect Mellencamp -- even in my young and foolish days, I knew Rain on the Scarecrow was one of the strongest protest songs recorded. (This'll hit sacred cow status in some quarters, but I think The Clash never quite managed anything like this, despite their reputation.) But Cherry Bomb, like a lot of Mellencamp's work, just wasn't my style, and it never occurred to me that the song had any deeper meaning.

Over the years, I heard that Mellencamp fans looooove this song. Fine, I thought. Now I hear some of the sentimentality in it, so I can see why some people appreciate it.

Today, thanks to the artist facts and other info on the cable music channels, I caught the year Cherry Bomb was recorded -- 1987.

"No WAY," I thought. "Isn't that song from far later in Mellencamp's career?"

Nope. I'm just that old.

In fact, I've now made the journey in age described in the song -- "Seventeen has turned thirty-five." (Full lyrics at Mellencamp's excellent site.) So this song is now about me, even though I was several degrees more nerdy than Mellencamp at age 17.

And so I appreciate the song a little bit more now. But not as much as I appreciate the fact that Mellencamp has gone on to produce solid material -- building on his roots but also growing -- through his 40s and now into his 50s. I don't mind looking back once in a while, but I need something to look forward to.

2 comments:

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Dave McLemore said...

Wow, this is neat. Discussion of music AND stock tips.

I like Mellencamp. Heartland music. And you can dance to it.

I even hold a spot in my heart for "Jack and Diane" and "Lonely Ol' Night."

Looks like things went well on Rosen's blog. He baited the site with Austin Bay and the army of the fearful came a-running. I can't figure out why Jay was surprised.