Jack & Diane

“”Jack & Diane” was originally about race. I was playing nightclubs and I was seeing new American couples, mixed-race couples. I thought it was cool. The song was my effort to make a song about that but the record-company guy didn’t like it. I took his advice and made Jack a football star.”John Mellencamp (223)

Crumblin’ Down

“This is a very political song that I wrote with my childhood friend George Green. Reagan was president – he was deregulating everything and the walls were crumbling down on the poor.”John Mellencamp (223)
“I was having problems after American Fool came out because all of a sudden I turned into the guy I hated – the guy who’s on the radio all the time, and the guy dealing more with business sometimes than music. It was hard for me to deal with, and I think writing ‘Crumblin’ Down’ helped me. Because when the walls come crumblin’ down – when all the bigtime deals fall through – I’m still going to be ‘the same old trouble you’ve been having for years.’ So why the fuck are people treating me differently? What’s the big deal? People seem to be more affected by what they think I am than I am about the whole thing myself.”John Mellencamp (300)

Pink Houses

“I was driving through Indianapolis on Interstate 65 and I saw a black man holding either a dog or a cat. He was sitting on his front lawn in front of a pink house in one of those shitty, cheap lawn chairs. I thought, “Wow, is this what life can lead to? Watching the fucking cars go by on the interstate?” Then I imagined he wasn’t isolated, but he was happy. So I went with that positive route when I wrote this song. This one has been misconstrued over the years because of the chorus – it sounds very rah-rah. But it’s really an anti-American song. The American dream has pretty much proven itself as not working anymore.”John Mellencamp (223)
“It’s saying the American Dream and all that shit is propaganda. It’s not rah, rah, rah America at all, and I think it puts America in its place. It’s like the Russians shooting down that plane, and we want them to apologize. I’m not condoning what Russia did, but that’s bullshit! There’s so many things we’ve done, and then we expect them to apologize when we had a spy plane beside the plane that got shot down! Let’s see the deal as it really was! And the majority of the public is going to fall right in line with the way Reagan wants them to think. I don’t mean to get political, but I do get wound up about these kinds of things because so many people see it as it’s really not. They believe the propaganda. And that’s sort of what ‘Pink Houses’ is about.”John Mellencamp (300)

Small Town

“”Small Town” reflected conversations that I heard in the music business. I had a stuttering problem, and my accent, and people would say, “You talk funny.” I would think, “You’re the one with the New York accent.” In interviews people would ask, “Do people in Bloomington even have MTV? Do they have CNN?” I wanted to write a song that said, “You don’t have to live in New York or LA to live a full life or enjoy your life”.”John Mellencamp (223)

Rain On The Scarecrow

“I wrote this one with George Green too. I had just played “Small Town” for him. He said, “I don’t know why these towns are going out of business” – towns like Freetown and Dudleytown, Indiana. We couldn’t figure out why they were disappearing. We did our research and wrote this song – Reagan had been using grain against the Soviet Union and all sorts of other things. Talking to people was heartbreaking. Nobody wanted to lose their farm.”John Mellencamp (223)

Between A Laugh And A Tear

“There’s a great line in this song: “I know there’s a balance/I see it when I swing past.” I suffered severely from panic disorders and anxiety around this time. Still do. I’m also very excitable and get angry very quickly. This was the peak of my success, but I didn’t enjoy any of it. I blame it on the fact that I was born with spina bifida. I had one of the first successful operations for it in the world. It meant I had a hole in my spine and all my nerve endings were on the outside of my body. They were all exposed to air, so it’s no wonder I go up and down so quickly.”John Mellencamp (223)

Pop Singer

“This song is me realizing what kind of monster I’d created. I was going through a divorce [with second wife Victoria Granucci – Ed], and I was questioning the validity and the importance of music. Things were changing. Everybody was having to kiss everybody’s ass. If you want to be on MTV, then come here and do this. All these backroom deals were getting made. I was like, “I don’t want any part of this.” In the song, I write, “Never wanted to be no pop singer/Never wanted to write no pop songs.” I didn’t want to go over to the radio station and play their Christmas party. I couldn’t play that game. People went nuts on me after that record came out. “You’re an ungrateful fucker! Rock & roll provided you with such a great life!” I understood what they were saying, but they didn’t understand what was happening behind the scenes.”John Mellencamp (223)

Lawless Times

“I wrote this song kinda as a joke to myself about how this country changes little by little by the people we admire. We admire certain people and we think that those people are looking out for us. Capitalism is a great thing as long as you’re on the receiving end of making the money. If you’re not then you’re bored. The middle classes have gone away. Here’s what I think. The President should have four terms. Congressmen and Senators – four years and you’re done. That way special interest groups can’t take advantage of us. It’s an honorary position, you’re a Senator for four years, that’s your job. The last President to have four terms was Franklin Roosevelt and I think if you check his record, he did pretty good.”John Mellencamp (622)

You’ve Got To Stand For Something

“I never did say what you should stand for – except your own truth. That song was supposed to be funny, too, and I hope people got that. But I think that’s the key to the whole LP [Scarecrow Ed] – suggesting that each person come to grips with their own individual truth – and try to like themselves a little bit more. Find out what you as a person are – and don’t let the world drag you down. People should have respect for and believe in themselves.”John Mellencamp (301)


“I think that to write a song that has any ability to connect with somebody on a powerful level, one should write about what he/she knows. I have two brothers and one is younger than me and totally different from me. Probably that song, ‘Brothers’, it is about my younger brother and me. At the time that I wrote it, I didn’t really think so. I thought the song was more about a Cain and Abel kind of story, but a couple of years later I realised it might have been about that. I love that song, it is a cool song and I think it is about me.”John Mellencamp (312)