Remember that little ditty about Jack and Diane, those two American kids growing up in the heartland? Well, this is a different though related story about Jamie, a Canadian young man finding his way in the heart of the new west.
Many years ago, before kids sucked the fun out of our social lives, good friends of mine lived near a bar that did Name That Tune nights. It was a goofy but fun way to spend an evening, especially for groups of friends with good music, lots of drinking, and a joyous atmosphere far removed from the meat market dance clubs downtown.
At this bar there was one particular patron who was a bloody wizard when it came to naming tunes. So much so that the host of the event would go to great lengths trying to stump this guy, but rarely succeeded. I remember one particular night when he nailed “Perry Mason” by Ozzie Osbourne on just three notes and the host simply gave up. It was remarkable to witness and exposed me to an excellent song I was previously unaware of.
This story, however, revolves around me. One night whilst there with a group of friends, a portion of the game was played with each team sending up one representative to compete against reps from all the other teams. On the infrequent occasion I was present, I was typically given the task of going up for the rare country songs because, though I was far from an expert in the field, I knew more than anyone else on our team. Becoming an expert is just that easy.
Anyway, on my next turn to compete the song was not a country song per se, but a well-known but often bungled hit by John Cougar Mellencamp. The snippet of music was played and immediately most participants knew the song, or so they thought. Hands shot up in the air accompanied by multiple, “Oh oh oh”, because this was a seedy bar in Calgary and we didn’t have Jeopardy buzzers.
The first person chosen said, not surprisingly, “Ain’t That America” by John Cougar Mellencamp. Bzzz, incorrect. A moment of confusion in the minds of other participants before again hands shot up in the air. Next chosen person says, “Ain’t That America” by John Mellencamp. Bzzz, incorrect again. Like many others present, this person assumed the host was being anal about the artist’s name. Mellencamp, as everyone knows, has modified his moniker a few times over the course of his career.
This went on for several minutes with everyone offering variations of Mellencamp’s stage names before I, having not yet been chosen to answer despite my hand clearly being in the air every freakin’ time, blurted out in disgust, “Oh for God sake, it’s “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp!” Ding, ding, ding, winner winner!
Everyone gets the title wrong with that song. The equally frustrated host awarded me the winning points despite my speaking out of turn, much to the joy and congratulations of my team. This was my crowning moment at Name That Tune.
As for Jack and Diane, the weird thing about that monster song is that it’s not even the best Mellencamp song on the album in which it first appeared. That song is the one I’m kicking off your weekend with; “Thundering Hearts” from the legendary 1983 LP American Fool by John Cougar. See, he wasn’t Mellencamp yet then so technically I was wrong too!