Music/Popular Culture

Tournament of Rock – Legends: the Mellencamp pod


UPDATE: As of noon Thursday Cream holds a tight lead over John Mellencamp, with the rest of the competitors well off the lead. Polls close at midnight Friday – let us know who you want to see move on…

Results: Kudos to the very dedicated fans of The Church, who turned out in force to assert that their band is the best in the world. In the end, though, Eric Clapton becomes the first seed of the tournament to actually win a match. The full results are: Clapton 49%; The Church 46%; Guns ‘n Roses 3%; King Crimson/Robert Fripp 2%; Ted Nugent <1%. Clapton advances in the Fillmore region.

Our next pod, which takes place in the Red Rocks region, is hosted by the Springsteen of Small Town, #8 seed John Mellencamp.

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24 replies »

  1. It’s tough, becasue I think with a lot of people there’s a love/hate with Mellencamp. He’s got great tunes, and some of his less popular things are in some respects considered more legit. I actually only really started appreciating him last year when I was working on a tree farm during my days off from my regular job. Something about his music just fits in when your riding around in a tractor. Anyways I’m pretty sure he wont win here. Sara has a great voice and a hand full of nice tunes, there’s no way she should ever be mentioned in a “greatest of all time” contest. Mott was kinda a cult band with one hit that someone else wrote for them, which means they might do well in this pod. Personally Mott bothers me, I like their tunes, but I’m amazed at how trashy the recording sound, even their later stuff. Valentine is actually a real cool band, I’m not well enough versed in their entire catalog but I’m sure they will get a lot of votes. It came down to Cream or Johnny Cougar for me. Cream has popularity, influence, lasting power, and street cred. I’m not sure how many musicians are really influenced by John. I could be wrong, and I’m sure everyone will let me know.

    Anyways I think it’s going to be a Cream, Mott, Valentine 3way til the end.

  2. So we’ve got Cream and Clapton? We should throw in The Yardbirds and Dereck and the Dominoes while we’re at it.
    (Based my previous vote for Clapton on his entire career.)

  3. Djerrid: I noted in the previous pod post that we have Clapton, The Yardbirds and Cream all entered. He’s tough because he has played in a bunch of configurations. The Yardbirds had plenty of life after he left and Cream was sort of a crowning group moment, I guess. So we set those out and will let people do what they will with Clapton solo, D&tD, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie, John Mayall (and the Roosters and Casey Jones & the Engineers and The Dirty Mac). There was no perfectly clean answer, I know.

  4. Sarah McLachlan??? Really??? Does this mean The Carpenters show up in the Narnia pod? Your street cred, sadly, just took a hit. Your poll, I know, but still.

    As for the real groups here, Mellencamp is good, yes, and so was Mott. But Cream defined the power trio (even the excesses), and it’s seldom been equaled.

  5. wufnik: Of all the criteria employed, there’s only one that could be used to indict Sarah Mc – and even that angle would be tough, given the rest of the field.

    She had significant popular success, was well regarded by critics, has been extremely influential and significant from an industry perspective (think Lilith Faire here), and the quality of her work has been outstanding (although I will admit that I haven’t been blown away by her last couple releases).

    Now, anybody can stand around and holler about “how can you include her?” and “your cred just slipped,” and that’s all quite safe and easy. How about you telling me WHY she DOESN’T belong here. That way we both have our cards showing.

  6. Although she straddles it with some songs It may be tough for some to classify her music as rock. That being said I’m sure some of the more famous singer/songwriters will appear later, and they’re catalog usually consists of about 80/20 acoustic type songs as well. The problem with her being included is that she’s not in the same league as some of the heavy weights singer/songwriters. More importantly however is that her music isn’t widely regarded as that influential by musicians.

  7. “significant popular success”–Girls Aloud
    “well regarded by critics”–Dead Can Dance
    “”extremely influential”–Partridge Family
    OK, OK, this is a little harsh, I know. I’ll give you Lilith Faire, which did last, what, two or three years? (although it’s going back next year, I gather). But she wrote generally boring (and frequently misogynist) songs. I had one or two of her albums, and they just got creepy.

    And I like Dead Can Dance–I just wouldn’t put them in a list of rock groups, although they have certainly had influence, and they had lots of drums, which seems to be what determines these things. Really, I’m just surprised. It would never have occurred to me to include her in a list of rock legends (or potentials). Everyone else so far, whatever their other relative merits, you could at least say fit under that rubric. You would have done better with Dar Williams or Sara Hickman–who don’t belong here either, but who at least are hugely gifted songwriters and who occasionally rock. I’ll shut up now.

  8. 1: Funny, but my list was an “and” list, not an “or” list.

    2: Misogynyst? Well, she wrote songs where women were certainly in a certain amount of peril, but I’m not sure I think that writing about something makes you an advocate of it. If so, then Shakespeare would be the biggest proponent of murder and mayhem in history. As for “creepy,” that doesn’t bother me. Great art often makes us uneasy. I promise you, if you dislike her music because it’s creepy, then you’d think I’m the worst poet who ever lived.

    3: DCD is indeed talented as hell, and I like a lot of bands in that general genre. (Boy do I have some great dark ambient stuff in my collection.) But you’re right, they’re not rock by a long shot. This is the one potential challenge to SM, as Darrell notes. She’s singer-songwriterish and leans to the folky side of the field. Still, looking through the list of participants, it’s not like everybody is a headbanger. Take Dylan, for instance, or Van Morrison, or James Taylor. I know these arguments are there to be had, but we sort of adopted a policy of inclusion and are trusting the audience to vote their consciences.

  9. I’m with Ubertramp…this will take some thinking.

    Yeah, Darrell, there’s a great deal of enlightened-redneck to Mellencamp. And he does capture the flavor of tractors, rusty pickups, farms and long two lane blacktop through the middle of nowhere.

    I’ve seen a few bands/artists so far that i really don’t like and would not put in a tournament like this were i organizing it. But i’m not organizing it. Jim and Sam must have wrestled with this thing pretty seriously to shape it. (that’s especially applicable to the Clapton incarnation situation) I’m glad that they did because it’s a hoot so far and it’s only going to get better. Ergo, i’m sure as shit not going to criticize them on the details.

  10. The number of bands that we would or would not include in a contest like this varies directly with the number of bands included. I can say that I’m pretty comfortable with my ability to defend the presence of most of these bands in a contest with 170 entrants. In a contest with 16 entrants I’d have a hard time defending about 154 of them. 🙂

    The are a number of acts here that gripe me to no end, but in the interest of letting the people have a say we solicited input and then went with most of the nominees. At that point the list began to grow. So if when all is said and done you take a look at the top 48 seeds, I think you’ll respect our efforts quite a bit. You may not agree with all our picks, but at least it will be clear that we know a little about the history and majesty of rock.

    Some of the non-seeds – hey, let the people have fun…. 🙂

  11. 1. Yes, obviously. But these are all loaded terms, and ultimately subjective to some degree, whether disjunctive or conjunctive.
    2. Actually, it was my teenage daughters who pointed out to me how creepy some of her songs were. And the women I know who know her music don’t like her songs either–but maybe that’s just a weird sample. Sure, great art can make us uneasy–that’s one of the things it’s supposed to do. But just because something makes us uneasy doesn’t make it great art. And my perspective is clearly different here–I just don’t think she wrote very good songs. Which would be the minimal criteria for someone who is regarded as a songwriter.
    3. Of course I would expect Dylan to be in here, and Morrison. Of course, I would expect Fairport and even Pentangle as well. Taylor would be a surprise, but could be justified, again, by songwriting, at which point I would also expect to see Hoyt Axton too. And also by, oh, style I guess would be the term. See how it just spins out of control?. Well, you probably noticed this when you put this all together. But, again, see point 2.

    And you’re doing a great job! This is going to be a hoot, all right. Ignore all whining, including mine.

  12. Cream. Good, but Meh. Mott. Dated Meh.

    MBV may have gotten my vote if this was mostly about “influence.” But the one album I have by these guys drives me in-freaking-sane. It sounds like a cat was sitting on the tape deck taking swipes at the wheels during recording. I’m half convinced that the CD I have was warped in the sun or something, but Slammy insists that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to sound. Bah! But bands I really DO like, like Space Team Electra and Tresspassers William and Rob Dickinson, would probably be a whole lot different without them.

    As for J”C”M, Jack and Diane has been a favorite song of mine since it came out and I’m pretty sure it will always get me singing when it comes on the radio until the day I die. It may not be his “best” song, but there’s something about it that I find infectious as hell. Just based on that one song, I bought every one of his albums and haven’t been disappointed yet. Even the later stuff is good, if not better. Dance Naked was fun as hell. But…

    Ultimately, I had to go with Sarah. Fumbling nearly brought me to tears when I first heard it and I subsequently played it to death. I believe Lilith Fair had an immeasurably huge impact on a whole generation of female artists. I bet we really won’t know how much of an impact for another 10-20 years.

  13. Sam,

    I’m curious what bands gripe you. The roster you put up is a decent tournament, and more than a few bother me but I can live with it. What bands on the list gripe Jim would also be an interesting question, and I wish Jim would respond.


    • Put it this way, Jeff. I’m not a fan of jam bands and there are many people who have a higher opinion of Jim Morrison than I do.

  14. Sam,

    Any chance you could post a list of who is in this tournament, not necessarily the rankings or pods just a list, say alphabetical maybe?

  15. Rho: Nope. That’s going to be part of the thrill. Once we get the prelims out of the way we’ll post the Great 48 bracket, though.

    I’d like to keep the sniping focused, as much as possible.

  16. Not bad at all. But you may have noticed that each pod presents a debate – which is great. But if I show all the cards at once, then we wind up inviting all kinds of debate AT ONCE and that detracts from the bands at hand. For instance, if I have the current pod up and then I post the entire list, then somebody who thinks band A ought to be seeded higher than band B or that how the hell can band C be in the tournament when band D isn’t overshadows the questions at hand, which is about Cream vs Mellencougar vs McLachlan vs Mott vs MBV.

    Put another way, we’ve structured it this way because we want a tournament, not a battle royale.

  17. I’d actually be curious about the S&R writer votes. Maybe at the end of the tournament, post the “top 10” or whatever from each writer? Just a thought.

  18. Went with Cream. Saw them about the time of the second or third album, Fillmore East, I think, like fifth row seats. Their jamming was a little over my head then. They and Jimi Hendrix owed a lot to John Coltrane.