I’ve got a new Think Again column called "Foolish Loudmouths in the Military and in the Media."


John Mellencamp: On the Rural Route 7609, Special Edition (Four cds)

A friend once said this about Jackson Browne, "He thinks his catalog is bigger than it actually is."  This is how I feel about John Mellencamp. The man’s got heart and determination, but can sometimes be a bit clumsy when turning his points of view and life experiences into song. Maybe that’s just his style, but I don’t have to love it.  I don’t mind it, though. The man has written some wonderful music.

I like some of his hits, "Pink Houses," "Jack & Diane," but not all of his hits. Some I find less appealing than most, "I Need A Lover" and "The Authority Song," the former conspicuously absent from this set. [Editor’s note. Sal is totally fu**ed here. “Authority Song" is one of my favorite songs evah. The video is great too. It’s just what rock n roll should be.]  His later work tries hard to impress with its "less is more" approach, and serious subject matter. I don’t buy all of it but I must admit, records like 2007’s "Freedom’s Road" and 2008’s "Life, Death, Love & Freedom" showed Mellencamp maturing nicely, and made me more of a fan than I had ever admitted. And "The Longest Days," a song I first heard when Mellencamp performed it on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle, really moves me. It opens this 4 CD set.

A career-spanning boxed set is not exactly what Mellencamp wanted to release. "I know what happens with boxed sets. You go to the hits and skip the rest."  That won’t happen here. On this elaborate new 4 CD set, "On The Rural Route 7609" you get some hits, but not all of them. The set isn’t chronological and it doesn’t rely on rarities. It’s an impressive body of work that John Mellencamp hopes will remind people that he wrote other songs than "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A."   If you’re a fan of the man, you will be impressed by the packaging,  which is elaborate and admirably historical and, one imagines, satisfied with the 17 previously unreleased songs.  Here’s a setlist. Everybody gets to decide for themselves.

Disc 1

1. Longest Days 2. Grandma’s Theme 3. Rural Route 4. Jackie Brown 5. Rain On The Scarecrow 6. Jim Crow with Cornell West 7. Jim Crow 8. Big Daddy Of Them All 9. Deep Blue Heart 10. Forgiveness 11. Don’t Need This Body 12. Jenny At 16 13. Jack And Diane (writing demo) 14. Jack And Diane

Disc 2

1. The Real Life with Joanne Woodward 2. Ghost Towns Along The Highway 3. The Full Catastrophe 4. Authority Song (writing demo) 5. Troubled Land 6. To Washington 7. Our Country (alternate version) 8. Country Gentlemen 9. Freedom’s Road 10. Mr. Bellows (remix) 11. Rodeo Clown 12. Love And Happiness 13. Pink Houses

Disc 3

1. If I Die Sudden (live) 2. Someday 3. Between A Laugh And A Tear 4. Void In My Heart (acoustic version recorded at Chess Studios) 5. Death Letter 6. Sugar Marie (acoustic) 7. Theo And Weird Henry 8. When Jesus Left Birmingham 9. L.U.V. (remix) 10. Thank You 11. Women Seem 12. The World Don’t Bother Me None  13. Cherry Bomb (writing demo) 14. Someday The Rains Will Fall 15. A Ride Back Home

Disc 4

1. My Aeroplane 2. Colored Lights 3. Just Like You 4. Young Without Lovers 5. To M.G. (Wherever She May Be) (acoustic) 6. Sweet Evening Breeze 7. What If I Came Knocking 8. County Fair 9. * Peaceful World (writing demo) 10. Your Life Is Now 11. For The Children 12. Rural Route (acoustic)

Now here’s Charles.



Hey Doc:

"Don Quixote had his windmills/Ponce de Leon took his cruise/It tookSinbad seven voyages/To see that it was all a ruse."

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click:  "Larideaux a six temps" (The Zydepunks)

I believe I have rounded up 60 votes in support of the resolutionwhereby I confess my love for New Orleans. (Also: Folks at Treme? Killing off John Goodman was a bad idea.)

Part The First: I think we can put to rest any notion that Barack Obama cannot be annoyed. Stanley McChrystal’s spectacular flameout should be proof enough of that. The larger question, of course, remains what in the hell are we trying to accomplish Over There? Nobody has that answer.

Part The Second: When did Rolling Stone become the go-to publication for general officers who want to vent?

Part The Third: I’d pay almost any amount of cash money to almost anyone if they were all depicted playing poker.

Part The Penultimate: Hey, remember, you used to be the smart one? Then, your brother happened to the country. Then Terri Schiavo happened to you. Ain’t no comeback. If the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s us.

Part The Ultimate:  I’m not going to go all-in on either side of the Shouldn’t-Obama-Be-Doing-More? debate that’s roiling up the saloons along the docks of Blogistan. (Although I have to admit that I never thought I’d see Neustadt, that fathead, cited again in my lifetime.) Here is where I stand on the issue: remember a few years back, when some Wall Street cats devised a funky accounting system whereby they would agree to sell some commodities six months down the line for a certain amount of money, but they would then enter the profits immediately on their company’s books. When the actual day of sale came, the broker would push it down the line, all the while keeping the profit on the books. (This "phantom trading" was central to a terrific episode of Law And Order, with Courtney B. Vance as the perp.) I think I’m seeing a lot of political phantom trading on this administration’s books. Right now, I’m a bit biblical with these guys. I want to see the nail holes in the palms and the wound in the side. I will give them credit for repealing don’t-ask-don’t tell when it’s actually, you know, repealed. I will give them credit for closing Gitmo when Gitmo is closed. I will believe we’re getting out of Iraq when we’re out of Iraq. I will give them credit for "moving us toward" a sensible health-care system when I feel that momentum to be continuous. I will give them some credit for trying on these and on other issues, but not more than they deserve for it. I don’t think this is entirely unreasonable.

Moreover, the fight over "primary-ing" useless Blue Dogs like Blanche Lincoln strikes me as the wrong argument. My question would be why would the White House get involved in these races at all. (And those people making the "weak presidency" argument are uniquely required to answer this question.) Certainly, it isn’t because they were backing the favorite; neither Lincoln, nor Arlen Specter before her, were strong candidates in their respective general elections. (In fact, IIRC, both of them fared rather worse in prospective final elections than their primary opponents did.) Certainly, given their records, the White House could have lived with either Bill Halter or Joe Sestak just as easily as with Lincoln and Specter. So why even bother to get involved? The only answer, to me, would seem to be that the White House preferred Lincoln and Specter for its own reasons. Be nice to know what those are.

P.S.—I am occasionally overjoyed by some of the young talent that has poured into The Biz since the kids got their hands on the Intertoobz. This, however, is just freaking embarrassing to everyone. Apologize for wanting Matt Drudge to light himself on fire? Apologize to the several Byron York readers out there? My god, children, get out of that town now, before it’s too late and, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.

Editor’s Note: To contact Eric Alterman, use this form.