Pulling myself out of 1978, I am moving into the 1980s. ~Vic
John Mellencamp‘s Scarecrow album was released on August 5, 1985, 25 days prior to my 19th birthday and six weeks before I started my sophomore year of college. God, what an album. This was Mellencamp’s version of Born In The USA (I own both albums). Roots rock/Heartland rock was the music in the background of my graduation from high school and subsequent foray into college. Minutes To Memories was not an official release from the album but, it managed to make it to #14 on the Top Rock Tracks for one week as a non-single album track. It spoke volumes to me…
“You are young and you are the future
So, suck it up, tough it out
Be the best you can.”
Written by Mellencamp and his childhoon friend George M. Green, it is the #4 track on the album and Mimi Mapes sang backing vocals. Scarecrow made it to #2 on the Billboard 200 chart the week of November 16, 1985 (coming underneath Born In The USA, twice) and stayed for a couple of weeks, stuck behind the Miami Vice Soundtrack.
“I wrote a song called [You’ve Got To] Stand For Something,” [Mellencamp] explains, “but, 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…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 Cougar Mellencamp: Working Class Hero In The Rumbleseat
A deeply felt sense of responsibility and an equally motivating need to atone for past missteps seem to define Scarecrow. On the midtempo Minutes to Memories, Mellencamp tells the story of a young boy riding home to Indiana after a trip to the South. In the next seat on the bus is a seventy-seven-year-old retired steelworker lecturing the child on how to live, backing his advice with experience. “My family and friends are the best things I’ve known,” he instructs, and the child, a budding rebel, chuckles to himself at how out of touch the old dog is.
Easing into the final verse, Mellencamp hushes his band. In a voice just above a whisper, he suddenly shifts the tale from third to first person. He’s the kid on the Greyhound and, his inability to comprehend, let alone act on, the wisdom he was given then, still haunts him… “Now that I’m older I can see he was right.” [T]hen Mellencamp reveals that he’s telling this story to his own son. He knows he’s being silently scoffed at as surely as his travel companion was two decades earlier. Still, he accepts it and the band rocks out.
Album Reviews: Scarecrow
September 26, 1985
There is no official video of this song but, the below is one guy’s idea.
loved the Mellencamp of that era– great stuff.
I played both albums (cassettes, actually) to death in my little 1977 Honda Civic.
If ever a song was single worthy…this one was it. The album was to me…his best and elevated him to more of a serious artist.
Great pick Vic.
You know, I never understood why it wasn’t officially released but, it’s certainly a hidden gem.
You had your Mustang. I was blaring this out in my Honda Civic. LOL! I wish I’d had a cassette of Surf & Drag.
Excellent song, you and I must have some similar tastes because this one was also on my list of possibles…but I already picked the album on the album draft. Like Max says, this song should have been a single, though no complaints about the songs he did use as singles from it. Great lyrics, great playing. I think this album was when people really started to pay attention to John and not think of him as just another workaday rocker.
I thought it was a hit singles. shows how often i listened to that album- a lot… favorite Mellencamp song- Jackie Brown.
I’d have to agree with you. I’ve read your blog posts and your picks, here. And, I saw where you chose the album for Hans draft in 2020. That and BITUSA would have been two albums I would have chosen for that draft.
R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. got the most attention, Billboard-wise but, in my region, they wore out Small Town. To this day, I’ve never heard Minutes to Memories on the radio, here.
My first Mellencamp single/45 was Ain’t Even Done With The Night, when he was still a “Cougar.” I was about 14. Jack & Diane came out one month before my 16th birthday so, “…holding on to 16 as long as you can…” also spoke volumes to me. He and Springsteen are really good at grabbing you by the heart & the guts with their songwriting.
Good pic about an important topic. I left another comment at your blog.
pic = pick
Cool tune off a very good record. John has so many good tunes. Solid pic Vic.
Thanks. I wore out the cassette when I had it.
I still have the album kicking around.
I like how this song opens. I can say that about a lot of his songs from the 80s, and then they don’t hold my interest to the end. This one is a lot better at keeping me listening. I too say it should have been a single.
I love “Scarecrow”, which is so good that just about every track on it could have been a hit.
Great pic Vic! I guess I was just a year ahead of you in college. This album along with Bruce BUSA on heavy rotation back in the day. Agree that with Scarecrow JCM took a giant step forward as an artist – just a fantastic record. I would really enjoy Lonesome Jubilee as well
Both of those albums kept me busy. Decent study music, too.
Great pick! “Scaregrow” was my intro to John Mellencamp, and I’ve loved him ever since.
One of my favorites is the follow-on “The Lonesome Jubilee” where Mellencamp started to introduce more traditional folk and country instrument. It his marked gradual transition into roots and Americana.