5. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First)
This is a very different kind of Mellencamp song, it’s laid back, it’s almost sunny and surfer. I love it, but traditional fans weren’t as pleased as I was with the 1996 album, Mr. Happy Go Lucky.
Further listening: Just Another Day, from the same album, is very similar and also terrific. So is 1994’s Dance Naked.
Covers: I was shocked someone covered this. It’s a nice version, too.
4. Pink Houses (acoustic version)
I already loved this song, but when I heard the acoustic version—which I got as the b-side on my copy of the 45 for the #1 tune on this list—I loved it even more.
Further listening: Small Town, form 1985’s Scarecrow album, has the same kind of feel.
3. Authority Song
The opening riff of this song is probably my favorite guitar riff of all time. It’s constantly bouncing around in my head, often being the first thing I think of in the morning when I wake up. For some reason it’s stuck to me ever since the first time I hear it.
And another classic video, too. Mellencamp is a great singer/songwriter, but…Not a good dancer.
Further listening: Uh-Huh was Mellencamp’s best hard-driving rock and roll record. If you like this song, you’ll probably also like Crumblin’ Down, from the same record. And, of course, there’s R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. Doesn’t get much more traditional rock than that one.
2. Jack and Diane
JCM’s biggest hit by far, from his first plantinum record, American Fool. It’s a story-telling love song, which actually wasn’t something he did a lot of.
Further listening: Hand To Hold On To and Thundering Hearts, also from American Fool, are some solid love songs.
Mashed versions, plus one rap….
1. Rain on the Scarecrow
Before this, John had written a classic rebellion song (Authority Song), but he hadn’t really made it known how politically left he was until Scarecrow sang about the woes of the farmers in the heartland and the system of government that seemed to have all but abandoned them.
Further listening: If you like his political stuff, he had a minor hit with Justice and Independence ’85, off his Scarecrow album. Also check out Hard Times for an Honest Man off of one of his best records, Lonesome Jubilee.