When the news was announced that John Mellencamp would be touring New Zealand in December – for the first time, apparently – it was inevitable that my mind went back to when he first became known here.
It was a small but unforgettable story in Rip It Up, 30 years ago. John Mellencamp was an angry young man. He was 26, his career was going nowhere, he’d had a fight with his manager, and he had a wife, a seven-year-old and a 60-cigarette-a-day habit to support. And they wouldn’t even let him use his own name.
So when the mild-mannered reporter of a fledgling rock paper asked him the wrong question, Cougar - as he was then known - showed his claws. He went all Gordon Ramsay (the printer deleted his expletives), and to many people here, that’s how he was remembered.
Five years later he would have a breakthrough hit, he'd eventually get his own name back, and become the Walmart Springsteen of the cornbelt. But at this stage he hadn’t learnt one of the rules of rock’n’roll: be good to the people you meet on the way up, because you will meet the same people on the way down.
Left: the issue that caused offense, May 1978, and the eventual Cougar issue, September 1978.
What – no cover story?
Cougar pic © Murray Cammick