Rock hero John Mellencamp sat in the Stern Show studio this morning to play around with a couple of his hit songs and talk to Howard about music, women, and smoking a lot of cigarettes.
Here are the highlights from Howard's interview with John:
First of all, John has always hated the name 'Cougar'. When he was first starting out, his name was changed without his knowledge. He had no idea until he saw the cover of his first album. He asked who 'Johnny Cougar' was and, lo and behold, it was him.
John got married at 17 – which was legal in Kentucky. He and his bride - who was 24 at the time – got hitched out of town with only a state cop as their witness. His parents didn't even know and he and Mrs. Mellencamp each lived with their respective families. He didn't even take his wife to the prom. In fact, at a post-prom party, an acquaintance congratulated him on his marriage and he realized that it had been printed in the paper, posted as most licenses are. He knew that it was only a matter of time before everyone found out.
His first marriage lasted eight years, and so did his second. His third try, with model Elaine Irwin, lasted for 20. John has nothing but great things to say about his ex-wife Elaine. She didn't want anything in the divorce.
Most recently John was linked to actress Meg Ryan. All he'd say about that relationship was that Meg is an "angel sent to [him] at the right time" and they "tried to have a good relationship."
Onto the music, Howard asked John about some of his favorite songs:
"Crumblin' Down" – This song was a response to the Reagan 1980s, when the poor people of America had everything "crumblin' down" on them. John was surprised that Howard was one of the few people who knew it was a political song.
"Small Town" – This song was inspired by John's dislike of the cosmopolitan attitude –people are pretty much the same whether they live in cities or towns. When John first moved to New York, people would tell him he "talked funny." "No, motherfucker," he'd reply. "YOU talk funny." Whenever he plays this song live, the audience laughs at one of the verses when he brings an L.A. girl to a small town and he still can't figure out why.
"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." – This is a song John wrote for fun. He didn't even plan to release it. Tommy Matolla is the one who told him he should. John called it a 'comedy song'
"Jack & Diane" – Another song John didn't want to put on the album it wound up on. John originally wrote the song about an interracial couple. The record told him he could either change the lyrics and have a huge hit or keep them the way they were and make his statement. John decided to have a hit record, then he could make his statements later.
When he's not writing huge rock hits or romancing beautiful women, John is smoking cigarettes. Let's be honest, John is smoking cigarettes while he is writing hit songs and romancing beautiful women, too. He smokes a pack a day, since he had a heart attack years ago. John thought it was just another panic attack (which he's suffered from since age 19) and told the doctor he was stupid for suggesting he was having a heart attack. The doctor was right, John was wrong.
Howard can't believe anyone still smokes, let alone someone who sings for a living and had a heart attack. John countered that cigarettes actually improved his voice.
Check out John's great new single "Troubled Man" and his album "Plain Spoken."