Mellencamp: 'No Better Than This Tour' Kicks Off Oct. 29 in Bloomington
Recently, Elton John announced that he's through making pop records. And judging from other comments he made, it's clear that he's done playing games. John is settling down to make the music he wants to make and is doing so on his term.
He's not alone.
John Mellencamp has undergone a similar transformation.
"I'm not selling anything anymore," Mellencamp told USA Today. "I see my records as calling cards now. If people can discover my songs without having them shoved down their throats, it makes me feel good. And what's the point of being in the rat race if it's not fun anymore?"
Both men are eschewing the commercial aspects of the industry at the same time they're releasing non-commercial albums.
For John, it's a collaborative effort with piano legend Leon Russell and for Mellencamp it's a folk album called "No Better Than This" (incidentally both albums were produced by T-Bone Burnett, so maybe he's to blame).
We've always assumed that John and Mellencamp wielded the power to tell the powers-that-be to shove it, but now we're hearing them issue such defiant declarations in public.
It's further proof that the record industry is becoming obsolete. It used to be the artists and the record executives were in cahoots but technology and the internet has rendered the latter nearly extinct.
It's not so much that John and Mellencamp have enough money to safely give the middle-finger to the record industry; it's that they know they can't make money from the record industry. So if your albums aren't going to sell doing it their way, you might as well make them your way.
And that's exactly what John and Mellencamp have done with their latest releases.
Mellencamp's latest release is "No Better Than This." The critically acclaimed 13-track opus dropped Aug. 17, 2010.
In an era made up of virtual and digital worlds, Mellencamp's "No Better Than This" takes us back to halcyon days. A time when humans still interacted with one another face-to-face and musicians still played their own instruments.
"No Better Than This" was recorded in mono with one microphone on a portable 1955 Ampex machine. Kids today probably don't even know what "mono" means?
"It's one channel of music, Sparky. The same sounds come out of every speaker!"
And by one microphone I don't mean each musician took turns recording their part. I mean they all gathered around one microphone and jammed.
"We played music as opposed to piecemealing a record in a studio. Some of the lyrics I sang were not the ones I wrote, but there was no going back. What you hear is the way it went down."
The album was recorded in several historic locations: the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia; Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee; and the Sheraton Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The last location was used by legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson in 1936.
Mellencamp is hitting the road to support this unique endeavor. The "No Better Than This Tour" begins Oct. 29 in Bloomington, Indiana. It ends about a month later in Chicago, Illinois at the Chicago Theatre. As it stands right now, Mellencamp has 16-dates on the schedule.
Each concert will open with a showing of Kurt Markus' documentary, "It's About You"—a film about the making of "No Better Than This." Mellencamp will then treat audiences to three sets of music: one solo acoustic blues, one full-band folk, and one full-band electric rock.
As for the recording industry, the final nail in the coffin is just about ready to be pounded in.
"Oh, it's over, and it's not coming back," explains Mellencamp. "The music is now fifth or sixth generation, and the farther you get away from the original, the worse it gets.
"Let's face it, the best records were made a long time ago. Those first five Rolling Stones records, when they were covering black artists, were great. Dylan's Highway 61 is the best record ever. Who's going to make a better record? Nobody. Who's going to make better pop records than The Beatles? I hear the radio today and it sounds like Saturday morning cartoons to me."
>>November 8 - John Mellencamp will be in Indianapolis, IN @ Clowes Memorial Hall