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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Cougar, John - 1980 Nothin' Matters and What If It Did
Cougar, John - 1980 Nothin' Matters and What If It Did

ARTIST: Cougar, John
ALBUM: Nothin' Matters and What If It Did
LABEL: Riva Records
YEAR: 1980


LINEUP: John Cougar- vocals, guitar * Larry Crane, Mike Wanchic - guitar * Jeff Baxter- steel guitar * Robert Frank - bass * Kenny Aronoff, Rick Sholsser, Ed Greene - drums * John Jarvis, Doc Rosser - piano * Dave Woodford - sax

TRACK LISTING: 01 Hot Night In A Cold Town * 02 Ain't Even Done With The Night * 03 Don't Misunderstand Me * 04 This Time * 05 Make Me Feel * 06 To M.G. (Wherever She May Be) * 07 Tonight * 08 Cry Baby * 09 Eild Angel * 10 Peppermint Twist * 11 Cheap Shot


While John 'Cougar' Mellencamp isn't a name that springs directly to mind when thinking of AOR, it's fair to say he had a couple of shining moments associated with melodic rock in the early 80's. Back in those days Mellencamp was saddled with the 'Cougar' moniker, with record executive types feeling it was more marketable than his actual name. Of course Mellencamp was a Mid-West champion, but his early work didn't really contain the type of blue collar rock ethic that made him a star in later years. That said his 1979 'John Cougar' album was a tremendous improvement over his 1976 debut 'Chestnut St. Incident' and with songs like 'Great Mid-West' it was obvious where his sights were set. This album was notable of course for 'I Need A Lover' which was made famous by Pat Benatar, but overall it's a decent melodic rock album and more listenable than his bigger selling albums. When he returned a year later the results were equally as commercial and he managed a couple of hits with the softer tracks, firmly on his way to stardom following his rocky beginnings.

The Songs
Opening the album is the well covered 'Hot Night In A Cold Town' penned by the tandem of Geoffrey Cushing-Murray and Richard Littlefield combination. Mellencamp's take on the track is excellent and Uriah Heep's attempt a couple of years later differs little to be honest. Mellencamp's earthy vocals suit the songs style better, giving it that working class Bruce Springsteen or Michael Stanley Band vibe. 'Ain't Even Done With The Night' was a number seventeen hit and is still heard on classic radio today, veering towards the softer side with its delicate chorus and wistful leanings. The AOR hook of 'Don't Misunderstand Me' is one of Mellencamp's best, a clear indication of the success to come, pre-dating the mind-numbingly stale 'Jack And Diane'. Another hit was the upbeat romp 'This Time' which could be mid 70's Orleans or Pablo Cruise to a degree. Mellencamp derided the song in later years, but it's great FM rock. The ballad nature of 'Make Me Feel' doesn't quite hit home for me, despite Mellencamp's impassioned vocals, lacking that melodic appeal. The inclusion of another introspective ballad 'To M.G. (Wherever She May Be)' is also firmly rooted in the Springsteen camp, laid back with lyrics about lost love and rural settings.. you get the idea. 'Tonight' reinforces that lyrical direction, but this ones at least a rock track, if slightly labored musically. 'She'll Go Down' is a throwaway 25 second joke track, leading into 'Wild Angel' and its good-time leanings, heavy on piano and backing vocals. 'Cheap Shot' is a cynical tirade about the record industry, with a traditional rock and roll musical setting, which is meant to be ironic I assume.

In Summary
Despite being far from essential there's a handful of tracks here which recommend it to the casual AOR purist. It probably isn't to everyone's tastes, but it's more varied than later albums that saw Mellencamp become a household name and a rural street poet, although each of his albums have significant merit up until the mid-nineties when he lost it for good.

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#1 | Eric on February 17 2014 12:15:36
Amazing we haven't covered Cougar here before!? Nice review Alun. 'This Time' was a killer radio tune, always reminded me of Benny Mardones at his best.
#2 | TheSubhuman on February 18 2014 19:13:46
Mellencamps never lost it ever...the man is absolute quality.
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