The song was a success in the U.S., reaching #1 on the BillboardMainstream Rock Tracks chart, #12 on the Adult Contemporary Chart and becoming a top ten hit on the main Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reached #8.
"Cherry Bomb" is a nostalgic song that reflects back on Mellencamp's teenage years hanging out in clubs with his friends. In a 1989 BBC radio interview, Mellencamp said: "Cherry Bomb is just a name of a club that I made up. The real name of the club was The Last Exit—The Last Exit Teen Club actually was the name of the place. It was a place that we went as kids. The whole world seemed to exist there. Everything that was important happened down in the basement of this church is what it was."