I weary of John Mellencamp. Really. For 20 years, I had to live with that poet-laureate-of-the-heartland crap. I lived in the same state as Mr. Laureate, but you’d never know it; a wise man once noted that southern Indiana has more in common with southern Ohio and southern Illinois than northern Indiana, and he’s right. I never saw him once, although the radio stations loyally supported his increasingly dreary, mopey music. After all, he was a Hoosier, and Hoosiers look out for their own.
Based on the evidence of his music, Mr. Mellencamp spent most of the ’90s depressed. I certainly understand how rich and famous people can get depressed — their self-imposed isolation from the regular world takes its toll — but jeez, when they are? I wish they’d just shut up about it. It’s like complaining about how heavy your wallet is. As insufferable as people like David Lee Roth and Jimmy Buffett can be, at least you can say they seem to be enjoying the trip, while Mr. Sourpuss sits down in Brown County fretting over the fate of the family farm and the regular joe.
Well, now Mr. Sourpuss has a new record out, and rather than cut through the clutter of modern radio formats, he’s elected to do it the new-fashioned way — selling the first single as an extended jingle for Chevy trucks. If you’re watching the baseball postseason, and everyone in Detroit is, you cannot escape that “This is Our Country” spot, in which we are asked to connect Silverado trucks with Mellencamp’s jangly guitar, stillborn lyrics (“I can stand beside/Things I think are right/And I can stand beside/The idea of stand and fight”) and an arresting visual montage that links ’50s super-8 home movies, the war in Vietnam, Rosa Parks and images of flooded, destroyed New Orleans neighborhoods. Because, you know, this is our country.
For the reaction in New Orleans, let’s go to our correspondent on the ground, Prof. Ashley Morris:
Does that new Chevrolet commercial piss anyone else off as much as it does me? WTF are they doing showing flooded New Orleans to try to sell a fucking Chevy truck? And Johnny Cougar now gets to keep his name Johnny Cougar. Mellencamp is a name for people with a modicum of scruples. Fuckmook.
Or else I could buy a Ford truck, and show my allegiance for sloping forehead Toby Keith. Or not.
It’s not OK to use images of Rosa Parks, MLK, the Vietnam War, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11 to sell pickup trucks. It’s wrong. These images demand a little reverence and quiet contemplation. They are not meant to be backed with a crappy music track and then mushed together in a glib swirl of emotion tied to a product launch. Please, Chevy, have a modicum of shame next time.
Yes, please, Chevy. You too, Johnny Cougar. I’m taking Ash’s suggestion and calling you Johnny Cougar from now on. The jury is still out on “fuckmook,” but you’ve been warned. This is my country, too.
The Tigers are on deck to lose it all, so how about some angry, bitter bloggage:
The only people who can make ignorant-ass statements about Parkinson’s Disease are the ones who’ve never seen it up close and personal. TPM Cafe blogger Joseph Hughes states the obvious.
Connie said on October 27, 2006 at 10:20 am
Hey, I lived in Seymour for 14 years, where Mellencamp is something of a distant god. Despite the fact that he has lived outside Bloomington for many many years. “Small Town” is about Seymour, and the library I ran appears at the beginning of the video. I much prefer that mid 80s Mellencamp music.
And then there was the time his Seymour area “river cabin” was featured in Country Living magazine.
So my husband owned and ran a lawn care service. He did a lot of work for John’s parents and grandmother. When John wrote and signed a check to pay his grandmother’s bill we debated for a long time whether to cash the check or save it for the autograph. We cashed it.
Jay Small said on October 27, 2006 at 10:21 am
Being of Southern Illinois lineage, your wise man was right. Southern Indiana and Southern Illinois, historically, politically and socially, do not resemble the rest of their states at all.
From Southern Indiana we got, unfortunately, Mr. Mellenhead. From Southern Illinois, well … um … err, at least we got Head East. Save my life, I’m going down for the last time …
Connie said on October 27, 2006 at 10:36 am
Jay, Southern Illinois has Effingham. At least it’s good for a laugh as you drive through S. IL on the freeway. There are 3 Effingham exits! And Southern Illinois has Metropolis! I’ve been there (through no choise of my own), with it’s very own SuperMan statue.
nancy said on October 27, 2006 at 10:41 am
Head East is from SoIL? I had no idea. One-hit wonders, they were.
My wise man said Indiana, Illinois and Ohio were indeed three states, but their true separation line was latitude, not longitude. Chicago-Gary-Cleveland is all in one state, Springfield-Indianapolis-Columbus in another, and Carbondale-Evansville-Cincinnati in the third. I think he’s right.
And Connie, I think John would respect the practical decision you made about his check. He might write a song about it.
brian stouder said on October 27, 2006 at 10:50 am
So, I have not seen the GM truck ad – and I confess, NOW I will be watching for it….and presumeably THAT was the concept that the (college edumacated, no doubt) ad agency execs were banking on when they clearly had to know that flooded NOLA images would cause a ‘wince factor’ (and buzz) accross the land. (lots of free media to be had)
Look at the bright side, though – any image of flooded NOLA two weeks before a national election cannot be anything other than good for the Democrats and bad for the incompetent incumbent party
Danny said on October 27, 2006 at 11:12 am
I’m not trying to get in a good one-line jibe or anything. It’s just that the only problem I see two weeks from now is that the new majority party will be even more incompetent than the current. I’m not happy with either party.
John said on October 27, 2006 at 11:22 am
I’m not a big fan of the ad either, though I’m not offended by it. I suspect the people who are aren’t pick-up truck buyers. I’ll just pass along a moment from the Cadieux Cafe last night (that’s a local watering hole, for you non Pointers). The resident neocon at the corner of the bar saw the ad and bellowed: “That really pisses me off. How dare they use the image of the twin towers to sell trucks!” I shrugged and said: “Your guy used that image to get himself re-elected.” and the guy next to me said: “I’d rather have them use it to sell Chevys than to put that moron back in office.”
alex said on October 27, 2006 at 11:46 am
Well, I’m not so outraged at Fuckmook. It’s only fitting that a tacky fellow like him would lend his modest talents to a tasteless commercial for a schlocky brand. Cheap sentiment is the only way to sell a GM product since everyone knows by now that quality and resale value aren’t anything they can brag about credibly.
But I am outraged after reading about Matt Lauer giving Rush Limbaugh a pass on his tastelessness. What a wuss. I have no doubt Lauer’s afraid that Limbaugh will skewer him just as ruthlessly as he did Michael J. Fox.
tom bulger said on October 27, 2006 at 12:12 pm
Thought on Cougar from ESPN columnist Bill Simmons.
But here was his actual take on the song, courtesy this weekend of the Detroit Free-Press, which reported that a message on his Web site said: “I wrote this song to tell a story about some of the challenges our country faces and how our beliefs and ideals can help us meet them, a message of hope and tolerance. It’s a song that is all about standing up for the working people who are the backbone of our nation.”
Here’s how that same message reads on his Web site right now:
“About a year ago, I wrote this song to tell a story about some of the challenges our country faces and how our beliefs and ideals can help us meet them. This partnership with Chevy — an American company that is creating jobs and supporting our communities — makes perfect sense for a song that is all about standing up for the working people who are the backbone of our nation.”
Hmmmm … Quote No. 1 sure reads differently than Quote No. 2! But let’s assume that he meant everything he said in Quote No. 2, and that he’s not just shilling this song to make money and promote his new album that comes out in four months. And let’s factor in his outspoken views against the war in Iraq and our own government over the past few years (explained in this open letter). What does any of this have to do with a Chevy Silverado? He can’t possibly expect us to believe the “partnership with an American company” angle, right? So was he thinking, “I’m not getting my political message across, maybe I’ll do it secretly through a Chevy ad?” Does he have a master plan to use these never-ending ads to increase his visibility, then use that visibility to take more shots at the government? Or am I putting way too much thought into this subject because they won’t stop showing the ads and they’re beginning to drive me crazy?
I don’t know the answer, but one thing’s for sure: “From the East Coast to the West Coast, down the Dixie Highway back home … this is our country … I’ll take the check in cash please, in unmarked $100 bills … this is our country … “
Jennifer said on October 27, 2006 at 12:46 pm
Having been raised in Northern Indiana and having gone to college in Southern Indiana, and no longer living in Indiana, I vote for *fuckmook*.
Dave Kobiela said on October 27, 2006 at 1:11 pm
I don’t appreciate the “My Country” Chevy ads either, but whoever put the video together knew their stuff. I did enjoy the same commercial when it ran for “Sunday Night Football” and had video clips of old NFL highlights. Seeing Walter Payton putting his signature straight-legged high step on at the goal line and Dick Butkus on the bench at Soldier Field, with knuckles taped and bleeding, parka over his head against the snow brought tears to my eyes.
Danny said on October 27, 2006 at 1:25 pm
Hey, are you Joe’s brother?
Dave said on October 27, 2006 at 3:34 pm
I saw Mr. Mellencamp once in Bob Evans, of all places, in Columbus, IN. He was there with a child and although we didn’t approach or disturb him in any way, the manager fawned over him but, in fairness, it was apparent they knew each other, perhaps the manager was from Seymour. He was with either one or two children. I couldn’t help but notice that he barely touched his food and left nearly the entire plateful. It wasn’t a year or two later that he was in the hospital for (and I can’t quite remember) something related to exhaustion and malnourishment.
Bob Segar, who was deadset against music videos for a long time, didn’t seem to have the same aversions when he allowed his song to be used to sell Chevy trucks.
As for Jimmy Buffet and others using their money for enjoyable purposes, a friend of mine is an avid pilot, met Mr. Buffet once at a fly-in. My friend isn’t at all current on entertainment and didn’t know who he was. They discussed aviation and my friend finally said to him, “I know that’s quite an expensive airplane and the upkeep on it costs plenty, you must do pretty well”. Jimmy Buffet laughed and said, “I had a little success and got rather lucky in the entertainment business and it’s been refreshing talking to you because I don’t think you know who I am”.
alex said on October 27, 2006 at 4:17 pm
I’m in Bloomington at this very moment celebrating my birthday. And guess what? Tomorrow *fuckmook* is singing his new song at the homecoming game.
Hope it’s as rainy and nasty tomorrow as it is today. IU’s playing Michigan State so they should get their asses nice and whupped.
nancy said on October 27, 2006 at 4:53 pm
IU gets their asses good and whupped in most Big 10 games, doesn’t it? It’s OK — every conference needs a whip-ee, and they get their own back during hoops season. At least, some years.
One of the Johns upthread had a great idea for a Chevy ad — a GM ad, actually. Drop the Mellencamp, the flying cars and all the rest of it, and let Rick Wagoner channel Lee Iacocca. Put the cards on the table and acknowledge what every American knows. The script would run something like: “We used to make the cars that every American drove, and we prospered along with America. But we lost our way. We know we’ve lost customers over the last 30 years, but we’re ready to get them back. We’re extending our warranty to 100,000 miles, to show we’re ready to go toe-to-toe with our foreign competitors.” Then he adds something about automotive jobs being the sort of manufacturing jobs that built the American middle class, and how they’re worth saving. Fade to black, no music, just a logo.
Much more effective than Rosa Parks, even.
Danny said on October 27, 2006 at 5:05 pm
It’s OK — every conference needs a whip-ee
Yep, they’re called the “homecoming” team because they get invited to everyone’s homecoming.
John said on October 27, 2006 at 5:06 pm
“Cheap sentiment is the only way to sell a GM product since everyone knows by now that quality and resale value aren’t anything they can brag about credibly.”
As the resident defender of GM – which I should note, in the interest of full disclosure, pays the bills in my house – I can’t let this slam go unrefuted. I’m not a fan of the cheap sentiment in Chevy ads either. Why Campbell Ewald still has the account is beyond me. Probably because the ads are so slick. Anyway, I drive GM cars and the quality is fine. JD Power is starting to recognize that. (Maybe someday Consumer Reports – which would give a four-star rating to a rusty wheelbarrow if it had a Honda sticker on it – will.) The transmissions certainly work on our cars, which is more than can be said for the vaunted Honda Oddysey. And GM is doing more than bragging about the quality. It has extended its warranties to 100,000 miles because it knows the quality is there.
Here’s the thing that gets me, putting aside whether you like that stupid Chevy ad or not. Why do I get the feeling so many people would love to see GM, Ford and Chrysler fail? Do people realize what a shitstorm of trouble our economy would be in if that happened? Do people think Toyota and Honda are shiny happy smily kind and gentle employers? Do people hate unions, as Toyota and Honda do? Honestly, I don’t know.
Joe Koibiela said on October 27, 2006 at 6:33 pm
Well put John, Alex, I supose Iowa thought the same thing about I.U. as you did. and I would love to see you attempt to play a down or two tomorrow and see if you come out alive or run screaming like a 12 yr old girl, as some 395 pound lineman that can run faster than you takes a bead on your chest. Both my daughters attend I.U. and they both along with the rest of the student body love coach Hep, the guy is a great coach and he is from just out side the Fort ( Woodland Highschool) He is starting to build a good program and I think they will be in a bowl game next year and with a break or two this year. Try cheering them on instead of hoping they get beat, it is a lot more fun.
Danney, yea that is my older Brother Dave, I would have loved to have seen Mrs N’s face when she discovered there was more than one of us!!!!
and Go I.U.
Joe Kobiela said on October 27, 2006 at 6:34 pm
I suppose it would help if I could spell my own last name right.
Connie said on October 27, 2006 at 7:18 pm
I have always understood Northwestern to be the traditional Big Ten “whip-ee”
Dorothy said on October 27, 2006 at 8:47 pm
Happy Birthday Alex. Is today your birthday? Today is my 27th wedding anniversary. Go us (if today is your b/d)!
basset said on October 27, 2006 at 10:42 pm
Head East was from Champaign, which I guess you could consider southern Illinois, as were REO Speedwagon, Starcastle, Dan Fogelberg, and Duke Tumatoe and the All-Star Frogs, among many others.
My last Mellencamp sighting was right after my mom’s funeral in Bloomington – the procession was headed down W. 3rd toward the cemetery and here comes John the other way, about to make a left across our path in his Mercedes G-wagen. Had plenty of room, but he stopped and held in place till the hearse passed by. Nice of him.
Joe Kobiela said on October 28, 2006 at 3:54 pm
Did you happen to get a score of the I.U. Mich State Game???
I think the board should vote and see if you need to admit you were wrong.
I vote YES!!!
brian stouder said on October 29, 2006 at 8:00 pm
ashley said on October 30, 2006 at 2:04 am
Did you note how both blogs you cited used the term “modicum”. That makes me happy, for some unknown reason…
ashley said on October 30, 2006 at 11:41 pm
Oh, The Times doesn’t like it either.
Gene said on November 6, 2006 at 10:00 pm
I hate that commercial as much as you. It’s pandering piece of crap.
That said, and although I don’t like the tune, the lyrics to the song are pretty relevant. Check them out online somewhere. It’s basically a song asking for tolerance.
It’s a shame it was used to sell Chevrolet’s.