Saturday, June 18, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 18: A Song You Wished You Heard On The Radio

Okay, I'm going to say it: the categories for the 30 Day Song Challenge are starting to suck a little. ( "A song you wished you heard on the radio"? C'mon now. Puh-lease.) I've looked ahead and, fortunately, the prompts get better, so hang in there.

Here's what I'm going to assume about today's prompt: the creators of the 30 Day Song Challenge must think that "what we listen to on the radio" basically amounts to "what we listen to in the car." So, I'm assuming that the song we "wish we heard more on the radio" is going to be something like the song we wish we heard more often while we were driving. That's about all the sense I can make of this category.

On my iPod, I actually have a playlist entitled "Driving Music"-- and it's exactly that. It's what I listen to when I drive: a whole collection of great Car Songs. I mean, Roll-Down-The-Windows, Bang-On-The-Steering-Wheel-Like-A-Snare-Drum, Flash-The-Rock-Horns and Sing-Like-The-People-In-The-Next-Lane-Can't-Hear-You songs. If there's one song on that list that I wish I heard more often on the REAL radio, it's the following.

Here it is, John (Cougar) Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" from his 1982 album American Fool:



As I've said many times before, Mellencamp's line "sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze" is one of the best ever written. And, as a whole, the story of "Jack and Diane" is a really great, really well-written story. Some of the lines not involving chili dogs or the Tastee Freeze are equally memorable: like "dribble off those Bobbie Brooks / let me do what I please" or "Jackie sits back, collects his thoughts for a moment / scratches his head and does his best James Dean." But I suppose the reason I wish I heard this song more on the radio is because of what always seems to me like the unexpected turn in the song, when it goes from being a sweet ballad about teenage love to a full-on existential anthem.

So let it rock, let it roll
Let the Bible Belt come and save your soul
Hold on to sixteen as long as you can
Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men

That's just great, simple and true, songwriting. And it sure doesn't hurt that it's preceded by a musical break that makes for a perfectly melodramatic air-drum solo in the car. I wish I heard more songs like "Jack and Diane" on the radio, in the car.

Last summer, I saw John Mellencamp (with Bob Dylan) at an outdoor concert in Oregon. It was a beautiful, cool summer night in the Pacific Northwest and both Mellencamp and Dylan were in fine form. Unfortunately, however, Mellencamp never played "Jack and Diane." That still seems wrong to me. But I realized during that show just how many great Americana songs Mellencamp has written, many of which have the same rootsy feel as "Jack and Diane" and almost all of which are examples of Mellencamp's truly impressive storytelling skills. He played "Little Pink Houses" and "Small Town" and "Hurts So Good" and even a few from his new album, including the very excellent "Save Some Time To Dream." Mellencamp has a way of telling sad stories in a hopeful way, and hopeful stories with a heavy dose of sadness, just like he does in "Jack and Diane." What is consistent among all of them, I think, is a kind of matter-of-factness that celebrates the celebration of simple life, warts and all.

Oh yeah, life goes on. Long after the thrill of living is gone.

2 comments:

DOCTOR J said...

One of my friends on Facebook asked me to provide the "Driving" playlist that I mentioned in this post. As it turns out, there are over a 100 songs on that list, but here's a taste:

- Mercy (Duffy)
- Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones)
- The Ballad of John and Yoko (Beatles)
- Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)
- 99 Problems (Jay-Z)
- Hot In Here (Nelly)
- Hey Ya! (Outkast)
- Take A Chance On Me (ABBA)
- Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
- Kick Drum Heart (Avett Brother)
- Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson)
- Think (Aretha Franklin)
- Low (Flo Rida)
- Pinball Wizard (The Who)
- Beast of Burden (Rolling Stones)
- F**k You (Cee Lo Green)
- Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)
- Single Ladies (Beyonce)
- Get Up (James Brown)
- Empire State of Mind (Alicia Keys)
- Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
- Come On Eileen (Dexy's Midnight Runners)
- It Wasn't Me (Shaggy)
- A Little Less Conversation (Elvis)
- Do Whatcha Wanna (Rebirth Brass Band)
- Rockateer (Far East Movement)
- Lady Marmalade (Patti LaBelle)
- Celebrate (Three Dog Night)
- Little Red Corvette (Prince)
- I've Been Everywhere (Johnny Cash)
- 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)

etc, etc, etc

Angie J said...

I love your Driving playlist! However, I am surprised at some, as I never would have thought you would like Jay-Z, Beyonce, and especially Lady Gaga?? Perhaps another side of my sis I still have to learn! Turns out, most of those songs are on my ipod, too. I'm such a melting pot when it comes to music! I love everything.

Now, regarding Jack and Diane, I just thought about it yesterday(and sang loudly in the car, too....alone). Personally, I think most of us can relate to this song, at some point or another in our lives, and in my opinion, it ranks right up there with the National Anthem. I also love Kenny Chesney's song, "I Go Back", which references "Jack and Diane", and how it was influential to him, as well. Good stuff!