UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Are you familiar with the phrase, “The soundtrack of my life?” It is so strange, but I bet I have heard it at least ten times this week. Not even kidding. Not even one little bit. I started a blog post early this week, and have been working on it on and off all week. But, for some reason, I keep hearing the soundtrack phrase. My posts lately have been a lot of about life. Something has been telling me to keep this phrase in the back of my mind.
I have been reflecting a lot on life, as you know with my previous couple of blog posts. Might as well keep it rolling. It’s been said that your experiences in life shape you. They mold you. They help to form who you are and who you become. I was definitely under the influence of Mellencamp.
I started thinking about how my friend, Heidi, and I went to the John Mellencamp concert last year. He was the soundtrack of my youth and still with my life. He is also Heidi’s favorite singer. Just kidding. She indulged me. She tagged along with me. She knew what it meant to me. She’s a great friend.
So we traveled to Sioux Falls to the Washington Pavillion. We were in the third or fourth row, center stage. Perfect seats.
I hope you enjoy this blog post, even if it is a repeat.
Have you ever realized how much of an influence someone has had on your life? Except you didn’t realize it until way later in life. When you got to see that person after about 37 years. This person was someone you looked up to, someone whose style you copied, someone who was the epitome of cool and badass. That person for me is John Mellencamp. I have been a fan since I was a sophomore in high school. He has been influencing me most of my life.
Last night, my friend and traveling partner, Heidi, and I went to his Plain Spoken concert in Sioux Falls. I got the tickets way back in March, hoping that the South Dakota November weather would hold out and be good so we wouldn’t have to worry about snow or icy roads. It did.
My first memory of his music was the song, “Ain’t Even Done With The Night.” That song takes me right back to the causeway. The place where in high school we went to hang out or to make out or to drink. I remember standing against the car and this song came on and I instantly connected with those lyrics. “You say that’s all right, hold tight / Well I don’t even know if I’m doin’ this right / Well all right, hold tight / We can stay out all day or we can run around all night…” I was with a guy from my class. Man, I liked that boy. I saw him at our 30 year class reunion in 2012. Fond memories.
The most popular album the year I graduated (1982) was American Fool. The songs Jack and Diane, Hurts So Good; Hand to Hold On To; Weakest Moments, to name a few. I remember driving up and down Euclid (the main drag) with the windows down and the music blaring. That was a great album. Yep, album. At that time it was albums and cassette tapes.
He greatly influenced my style. Because of him I wore jean jackets. Because of him I wore penny loafers. Because of him I wore shoes that looked like pointy toe cowboy boots. Because of him I wore black t-shirts. Shit, he’s probably the reason I smoked (I have since quit smoking for many many years). I’m also blaming him for my tattoos. I was 16 when I got my first one.
I remember specifically driving with a friend of mine and the radio telling us that coming up in the next 15 minutes John Cougar Mellencamp’s Lonley Ol’ Night. We would actually drive around longer, just to hear that song.
The song Great Midwest from the album John Cougar (1979) is one of my favorite songs. The lyrics are so relevant even today. My favorite line is, “If you’re gonna stick around here you better make yourself some real good friends.” Gets me every time I hear it. Because really, if you don’t have some good friends, you have nothing
Human Wheels and What If I Came Knocking got me through a divorce and a lot of workouts. A lot of soul searching happened during that time in my life.
His music and his influence got me through a lot of shit in my life.
Let me paint the picture of the concert. It was held at the Washington Pavillion in Sioux Falls, SD. We drove the 225 miles to get there. It is a small venue and so inviting. We went in and found our seats. Are you kidding me? I didn’t realize our seats would be that good. Row C, as in row 3, as in front and center, as in I might die. Seats 13 and 14. Perfection. Right in the center of the stage.
Carlene Carter opened for him. She is the daughter of June Carter Cash and step-daughter of Johnny Cash. She was amazing. What a voice. What a story. What a lady. She was a treat.
And then, it was time. All these years of being a fan. All these years of being influenced by him. All these years of waiting to see and hear him. I wondered if it would be disappointing. Sometimes they never sound as good live. Sometimes you don’t want to wreck the persona. Sometimes you just don’t want to be disappointed.
His band came out and they were dressed in suits. Wow! Different! At least a full minute or longer later he comes strutting out. And I mean strutting. Holy! It was so exciting to see him live. He was dressed in black jeans, black suit jacket and the signature Mellencamp, white t shirt with black vest under the suit jacket. Sometimes he changes up the shirt, but the vest is usually there.
The first song was Lawless Times. His voice sounded great. The deepness, the smoker’s rasp. I couldn’t believe I was there, seeing him live. My influence. My crush. My life’s soundtrack.
So many great songs…such a great mix. Crumbling Down and the Authority Song – penny loafer influence.
Lonely Ol’ Night – jean jacket influence
Paper In Fire and Cherry Bomb – the pointy boot shoe influence
It truly was such a special night. A true bucket list event for me. The crowd was rocking, the atmosphere was amazing, and the venue was small. It was magical. It was worth it getting home at 2 a.m. Of course, we listened to his music most of the way home.
Being under the influence of John Mellencamp for a big part of my life has definitely been a positive experience. Thanks for the memories Mellencamp…
“Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories.”