From the Stacks

From The Stacks: The Kid Inside and Chestnut Street Incident

Johnny Cougar/John Cougar/John “Cougar” Mellencamp/John Mellencamp made three — three — albums before the sort-of-self-titled John Cougar, which most people think of as his first album.  There’s nothing really unusual about that — lots of artists’ careers have false starts — but this is “From The Stacks,” and I have two out of three of those albums  in my stacks.

His first album, Chestnut Street Incident, was released in 1976 on the MCA label.  There’s a weird connection to Bowie here: Mellencamp was managed by MainMan’s Tony DeFries, who was Bowie’s manager, and the album was produced by DeFries.   It’s not very good, consisting mostly of cover songs.  My version is the ’80s UK re-release, which has an alternate cover.  The original cover was easily as mediocre as the contents, though it’s obviously much more collectible.

Next up for Johnny Cougar was The Kid Inside, which MCA refused to release and then dropped Mellencamp from the label (it probably didn’t help that Chestnut Street only sold 12,000 copies).  In 1983 Tony DeFries tried to cash in on his former client’s fame and released the album.  If you look in the lower righthand corner you can see the MainMan logo.

The third album prior to John Cougar was titled A Biography, and it was only released in the UK and Australia (I think).  It did well in Australia, though, which might have saved Mellencamp’s career.  A Biography is notable for containing  “I Need A Lover” and “Taxi Dancer,” both of which showed up on John Cougar.  I don’t have a copy of this one, which is why you don’t see it here.  If any of you UK readers happen across a used copy for cheap, please let me know.  I’d even be willing to swap you for a doodle or a hand-written Why It Matters tale of liquor, lust, and primer-grey Camaros.

16 replies »

  1. I had never really heard about those earlier albums. I guess I didn’t really become aware of him until American Fool, so late on the uptake!
    Seems like the were definitely marketing on his very good looks…yet he seems to have been one of those people rather eager to become the seasoned older guy.


  2. I remember seeing “The Kid Inside” album years ago! I don’t think I had it, but I sure remember it. Love Mellencamp. Do you remember seeing him interviewed around the time he was trying to phase out “Couger” and incorporate “Mellencamp,” and the woman interviewing him kept purposefully calling him “Couger” after he had nicely asked her not to? About the third(?) time she did it, he jerked his mike off and walked out of the interview.

    Yeah, he has never slipped out of my top ten. Never.


    • I haven’t seen that clip but I can imagine it. That’s the kind of thing I was thinking of when I noted that in attitude he seemed more aligned with punk than Bruuuuuuce early in his career.


  3. In the seventies I purchased an album titled “Johnny Cougar” The cover of the LP was in a photo of a young John in a black leather jacket and a steel topped guitar. I’ve never seen another like it. Is this an alternate cover? If so, which album was it? Thanks!


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