Monday, October 7, 2013

John Cougar Mellencamp - Uh-Huh!

Today (October 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Uh-Huh, the seventh studio album by John Cougar Mellencamp (and the first on which he used his real last name). Per the record sleeve, it was written, arranged and recorded over a sixteen day period. It charted at number 92 in the UK, number 57 in Australia, number 24 in Sweden, and number 9 in Canada and on the US Billboard Album chart. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at number 32 on its list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 80's.

Side one begins with down-and-dirty guitar grind of "Crumblin' Down" that goes right to your soul and shakes it apart. As the first single, it went to number 42 in Australia, number 12 in Canada, number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. The lyrics speak to having things in life fall apart around you and how one deals with those frustrations.

"Pink Houses", the second single, went to number 69 in Australia, number 11 in Canada, number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Rolling Stone ranked this heartfelt heartland tune at number 439 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The inspiration for the song came when Mellencamp was driving through Indiana and spied an old man sitting outside his pink house. It was one of those reflective songs that really make you think about the hard times many folks were going through during the 80’s due to economic hardships. I do remember the MTV tie-in contest they had around this song; a viewer actually won a pink house out in the mid-west.

The third single, "Authority Song" reached number 93 in Australia, number 20 in Canada, and number 15 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and US Mainstream Rock charts. This one is totally in your face and angry as Mellencamp rebels against those in the position of power and authority at the time. I remember this being a party favorite back in college, with an energetic guitar groove and a sing-along chorus. Even though, as the last line of the chorus states, "authority always wins", Mellencamp points out that we always need those that question authority to keep things in check.

"Warmer Place to Sleep", a tale of going to hell and back, has a very Rolling Stones vibe to it musically.

Side two opens with "Jackie O" and its Casio rhythm and bells (courtesy of percussionist Kenny Aronoff). After a hard rocking first side, this is gentle tune is a nice respite.

Mellencamp then kicks it back into hard rocking mode with the next track. "Play Guitar", an ode to that particular musical lifestyle, went to number 28 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. I remember this one getting quite a bit of airplay on those album-oriented rock stations.

"Serious Business", the B-side to the second single, went to number 34 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.

Aronoff‘s tribal drum beat drives "Lovin' Mother fo Ya", working the listener into a frenzy.

The B-side to the first single "Golden Gates" closes the record out on a mellower mid-tempo moment.

In 2005, on a re-issue of the album on CD, a tenth track was added. It was the acoustic version of "Pink Houses" which had been the B-side to the third single.

The first three songs from Uh-Huh! together make a solid rock-block that most Mellencamp fans can stand behind. I found the rest of the album to be pretty solid too and one that has held up quite well over the past three decades.

For my review of Mellencamp's prior album, 1982’s American Fool, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

This is my favorite John (Cougar) Mellencamp album. It is musically ambitious with swaggering, badass lyrics to match - in most songs at least but especially in "Play Guitar". The album is also a brief listen, barely half an hour.

But what sets this album apart from all the others for me was the emergence of drummer Kenny Aronoff. Sure, "Jack & Diane" from the previous album was a showcase for him but on Uh-Huh, he shines on practically every tune.

On 1985's Scarecrow, Aronoff shines on the otherwise lackluster "Justice & Independence '85" as well as the singles.

Another great one, Martin. Thnaks.