Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Cage Match: Jon vs. John

I look at this week's battle as a battle between two songs with two of the most awesome song openings of all time.

The subject matter of Jon Bon Jovi (and his rock band conveniently named Bon Jovi) and John Cougar, John Cougar Mellencamp, and John Mellencamp (take your pick depending on the year) was suggested by the good ol Cleveland Caper, my buddy, my pal.

With some mighty fine acoustic pickin' opening "Wanted Dead or Alive," Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora must have had some idea that his bank account was about to get really fat. "Wanted" was part of an aborted idea to do an Old West themed album in the 80's, an idea that the band would later revisit (kinda) with their Lost Highway album release in 2007. During a recent concert appearance in Detroit, Jon revealed to the audience that the track was influenced by Bob Seger's "Turn The Page," a fact that is either true, or it could have been Jon's way of sucking up to Seger, who could have been in the audience wondering why he didn't go to the casinos instead on that night.

"Wanted" was a powerful tune. It was allegedly Jon and Richie's acoustic performance of the track on the MTV Video Music Awards that ultimately inspired the Unplugged series.

Welcome to the second track for this week's Cage Match: "I Need A Lover" by John Mellencamp, at this point going under the name John Cougar.

According to Songfacts, the track is about finding a low-maintenance lover who knows when to go away and won't require a commitment. That's the American dream right there, folks. The track was also recorded by Pat Benatar, who included a version on her debut album In The Heat of the Night, a tune which did well here in Cleveland, but registered as a flop on a national level, and didn't chart.

After years of living in nowheresville, I moved to Cleveland in 1989 and heard Cougar's version for the first time on WMMS, and was instantly seduced by the stretched out jam of an intro that starts off the track (and is unfortunately edited out of the video.) Going back to Songfacts, it has been said by Mellencamp that the intro was supposed to be shorter, but Mellencamp and the band liked the riffs so much that they rocked out for a while before eventually sliding into the main part of the song.

It's still one of my favorite "classic" tunes to this day, and I always smile when it comes up on my Ipod.

Jon or John - What's your choice?

  • Norm

    Never heard that John “Cougar” track before – cracker! Thats going down as my song of the day!!

  • emily

    thanks for all of the shout outs:) hahahah! i mean, even though i applaud john mellencamp for playing around with his name waaaaaay before puff daddy ever did, i have to stay true to my jersey roots and go with bon jovi. i mean, c’mon. he’s a cowboy. one a steel horse he rides!

  • Sans Direction

    I’d rather not hear either of them again. Both wore out their welcome with me nearly 2 decades ago. But, given the choice between them ( “Who would you rather go to bed with: Cloris Leachman or Betty White?” ) I have to go with “Wanted”.

    Bring out “Paper and Fire” and you have something I’d even have to think about.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Sans – I think I was in the same boat with you at the time, but 20 years later, I enjoy hearing both of these again, just like the first time I heard them.

    You’re right on “Paper in Fire” good jam…that, “Pop Singer,” “Again Tonight,” the remix version of “Love and Happiness” (do I still have that??)

    Mellencamp had some good jams in the 80s and 90s!

  • mycool44

    All I know is I would still bang either of the two chicks from Cougar’s “Hurts So Good” video. I agree with Sans. It’s a toss-up of the ugly kind. But if I base my decision strictly on the opening jams, it’s Cougar for the win.

  • Matt Wardlaw

    But would you make it “hurt so good” ? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know, really. Just being an ass.

  • Kristi

    Going with the American Dream on this one.

  • Sans Direction

    Ran the video and was struck how much John C looks like Oswald from the Drew Carey Show. But yeah, it’s a pleasant song.

  • Stacy

    #johnmellencougarcamp Oh wait, this isn’t twitter.

    Welcome back!

  • Ann

    John Cougar (Mellencamp)

  • Sandy

    This match isn’t even fair! Wanted wins because it’s just a great jammin song. I Need A Lover is on a totally different playing field for me. Those really were John’s cougar days when he was still struggling to be taken seriously as an artist. Call him Johnny Cougar nowadays and he’ll bite your head off,lol. Cherry Bomb,Pink Houses, Jack and Diane,Check it out…the list goes on and on of really good songs Mellencamp has put out. For me, Wanted the song wins and Mellencamp the artist wins. I’m not just saying that because we’re from the same “Small Town” either,but we are. :)

  • Dave C.

    Not an easy choice. Hard to watch either of these vids. Normally, I’d take Cougar without much thought, but that song is one of his lamest, and he looks like a total dork. The Bon Jovi song is decent, but I absolutely can’t stand how smug and self important he (and band) come across in the video… Gimme Cougar, I guess.

  • Layla

    I like both J’s but if I have to pick I will go with Mellencamp. I think overall he’s got a bit more depth to him, but JBV sure is easy on the eyes :)

  • TJ

    This is funny on several levels, because my girlfriend sent me a text last night that read as follows:

    “jack and diane…the midwestern version of living on a prayer…i hate the midwest”

    for clarity’s sake, she’s from southern ohio, and says the most interesting part of her hometown is Kentucky. So she’s someone who’d know these things.

    Advantage: Bon Jovi


  • Emily

    I have always believed that “I Need A Lover” has one of the best openings ever. I also believed that Jon Stamos and John Cougar Melonhead looked like the same man in the late 80’s. I am a hard core Jovi fan but this is no contest. “I Need A Lover” wins.