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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October 7, 1951

Welcome to the very first TUESDAY TIMELINE for October 2014!  And in this edition of the blog, I hope you're well prepared to do some rocking and rolling, because this blog will feature a lot of classic music.  But before we find out who this mystery person is, we should take a look at the other events that took place on October 7 throughout history.

3761 BC - The epoch reference date origin of the modern day Hebrew calendar

1542 - Santa Catalina Island is discovered by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo

1582 - Due to the implementation of the Gregorian calendar, this date does not exist in Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain

1777 - The Americans defeat the British in the Second Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War

1868 - Cornell University holds its inauguration, in which 412 students initially enrol

1870 - Leon Gambetta flees Paris in a hot-air balloon during the Siege of Paris

1916 - In what is one of the most lopsided scores ever recorded in college football, Georgia Tech clobbers Cumberland University with a score of 222-0

1917 - Actress June Allyson (d. 2006) is born in The Bronx, New York

1919 - Dutch airline KLM is founded

1933 - Following the merger of five French airlines, Air France is founded

1940 - The McCollum memo proposes bringing the United States into combat during World War II by provoking an attack on America by the Japanese

1949 - The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is formed

1955 - Poet Allen Ginsberg performs "Howl" for the first time at San Francisco's Six Gallery

1959 - American tenor and actor Mario Lanza dies at the age of just 38

1963 - President Kennedy signs the ratification of the Partial Test Ban Treaty

1988 - The "Free The Whales" campaign is launched following the discovery of three gray whales trapped underneath the ice near Barrow, Alaska

1993 - After nearly 103 days, the Great Flood of 1993 officially ends

1996 - The FOX News Channel begins broadcasting

1998 - Matthew Shepard is discovered tied to a fence after being beaten by two men in Laramie, Wyoming because of his sexuality - he would die of his injuries five days later

2003 - Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected Governor of California

And here are our famous birthdays for today;  Graeme Ferguson, Clive James, Joy Behar, Oliver North, Kevin Godley, Catharine MacKinnon, Diane Ackerman, Mary Badham, Vladimir Putin, Tico Torres, Yo-Yo Ma, Dylan Baker, Simon Cowell, Matt Roloff, Ann Curless, Dan Savage, Toni Braxton, Thom Yorke, Maria Whittaker, Nicole Parker Kodjoe, Daniel Boucher, Allison Munn, Alexander Polinsky, Jamie Hector, Taylor Hicks, and Ayla Kell.

All right.  Let's not waste any more time.  Let's just get right on with today's date.

October 7, 1951 - exactly sixty-three years ago today.

And let me tell you...coming to the conclusion that this man is sixty-three years old makes me feel old myself even though I am a good three decades younger than he is.  I suppose it could be because of the fact that I was always surrounded by his music as my whole family became fans of him.  After all, we were small town folk, just as he was.  I mean, just watching him moving around on concert stages and music videos, he seemed to be the very definition of a man who rocked in the U.S.A., crumbled down walls, and fought authority every step of the way - even though authority always won.

And let me tell you...this Indiana born man has had quite a life.  He became a father at the age of nineteen, and became a grandfather at the ripe old age of thirty-seven!  He overcame spina bifida as a child to become a rock star.  He dabbled in artwork and created several paintings in addition to recording several albums as a singer/songwriter.  There were even times in which he couldn't even decide what name he would perform as, and he ended up changing his stage name three times in total.

So, whether you knew him best as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, or simply John Mellencamp, it really doesn't matter in the end.  All three are the same person! 

And today happens to be his sixty-third birthday!

So, in celebration of 63 years of John Mellencamp, I thought that I would do something special.  And when I say something special, I thought I would focus solely on the one thing that made him a superstar. 

His music.

But, I can't really do anything like post 63 of his best singles.  I honestly don't even think he had 63 singles charting on the Billboard charts.  However, I suppose I could do a Top 6.3 list. 

Yeah...that's exactly what I think I'm going to do!  I'll post my six favourite John Mellencamp songs, give some trivia about them, some chart positions, and other miscellaneous facts added in for flavour.  Oh, and that .3?  Well, I'll add in a bonus song that really wasn't written by Mellencamp but was still a fantastic song nonetheless.  I'll call it the "Bubbling Under" song.

BUBBLING UNDER - Wild Night (f. Me'shell Ndegeocello)
Album:  Dance Naked
Released:  June 1994
Peak Position on the Charts:  #3

Okay, so the reason why I didn't include this in my Top 6 list is because this is actually a cover version of a Van Morrison single from 1971.  The reason why I chose this single was because it was one of my favourite songs from the summer of 1994.  I don't know what it was, but the duo of Mellencamp and Ndegeocello worked like magic.  It certainly was a fantastic distraction from the depressing grunge fest that 1994 seemed to be.

Album:  American Fool
Released:  July 1982
Peak Position on the Charts:  #1

Here's a little ditty about Jack and Diane.  Two American kids growing up in the Heartland.  And it also happens to be John's only #1 hit.

Interestingly enough, John has said that this record was one of the most frustrating songs that he has ever recorded.  Many people see the claps within the single making the song, but initially Mellencamp didn't want the clapping to appear at all.  It was only added in to keep the tempo of the song going, as Mellencamp found that his band was having trouble following along to the song's beat.  But when he edited out the clapping when pressing the record, he found that it just didn't sound right without it.  The things you learn!

Anyway, the reason why I have this particular song ranked so low on my Top 6 list is simple.  While I like this song, it is way overplayed...and frankly there are other singles of his that I feel have more power to them.

5.  R.O.C.K. IN THE U.S.A.
Album:  Scarecrow
Released:  February 1986
Peak Position on the Charts:  #2

Sadly, Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" kept this single from topping the charts - which was too bad, as I instantly find myself grooving along whenever I hear this single.  Designed as a song that celebrated rock and roll from the 1960s, "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." was one song that made spelling very cool!

This song was also co-produced by John Mellencamp under the alias "Little Bastard".

Shockingly, this song was almost left off the "Scarecrow" album, as much of the material on that album was dark - a sharp contrast with the happy-go-lucky feel of the single.  But the more he thought about it, the more he decided to add the single on the album anyway.  And, well...this song helped cement Mellencamp as a legend of '80s rock and roll!

Album: Scarecrow
Date Released:  November 1985
Peak Position on the Charts:  #6

You'll quickly find out from this list that "Scarecrow" is my favourite John Mellencamp album, as this is the second of three songs from this album that I absolutely enjoy.  But surprisingly enough, none of the songs from "Scarecrow" make the top of my list.  I'll let you ponder that for a second.

In the meantime, one of the reasons why I like "Small Town" so much is because of the fact that while John Mellencamp wrote this song about growing up in small town Indiana, the lyrics could explain how I feel about having grown up in small town Ontario.  There's certainly a lot of things about the lyrics of "Small Town" that ring true about my own life.  Just sit back and really listen.

Album:  American Fool
Date Released:  April 1982
Peak Position on the Charts:  #2

They say that you get inspiration in the most peculiar places.  Well, in my third favourite John Mellencamp song, John came up with the idea for this song while he was in the shower one day, and he jotted the opening lines of the chorus shortly thereafter.

Now, there's been some debate over what the lyrics of the song really mean.  I'll leave that interpretation up to you.  But it remains a staple at bars, wedding receptions, and house parties for well over thirty years.  I can't help but not include it as a John Mellencamp staple.

Album:  Scarecrow
Date Released:  August 1985
Peak Position on the Charts:  #6

This song is just a near-perfect Mellencamp classic.  I always find myself playing and replaying this single over and over again whenever I get the chance.  It's just that good!  It's also the third single from "Scarecrow" to make my Top 6.3 list.  I told you "Scarecrow" was my favourite album.

The single's title was inspired by the 1963 film "Hud" which starred Paul Newman, and the film's plot about a youth's strained relationship with his father mirrored that of Mellencamp's own relationship with his dad.  That angst and frustration certainly made its way onto many of the songs on the "Scarecrow" album.

I'd say that this single was a strong choice to be the lead single for "Scarecrow", and it became another Top 10 single for Mellencamp.

Album:  The Lonesome Jubilee
Date Released:  October 1987
Peak Position on the Charts:  #8

I know what you're saying.  "Cherry Bomb" is your favourite John Mellencamp song?  You bet your butt it is!  This song, the way it flows, the way the lyrics are sung, the general happy feeling that I get whenever I hear this's just the perfect John Mellencamp song to me.  It is such a great song, and a great reminder of nostalgia.  The song is all about the fun and carefree attitude that a then-teenage Mellencamp had with his friends in various bars and clubs in Indiana.  It could also be a song that anyone who ever had memories of a teenage hangout or place from their childhood could listen to and feel those same warm memories that they shared so long ago.  Takes you back to a time in which life was a lot easier.  I just love this song.  I just wish it had performed better on the charts because it deserved to get more recognition.

Okay, so that's my list of favourite John Mellencamp songs.  What are some of yours?

Happy 63rd, John!

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