R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.

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"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.
(A Salute to 60's Rock)"
R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. Single.jpg
Single by John Cougar Mellencamp
from the album Scarecrow
A-side"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A."
B-side"Under the Boardwalk"
Format7" 45 RPM
RecordedApril 25, 1985 at Belmont Mall, Belmont, Indiana
2:48 (7")
Songwriter(s)John Mellencamp
Producer(s)John Mellencamp (a.k.a. "Little Bastard"), Don Gehman[1]
John Cougar Mellencamp singles chronology
"Small Town"
"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.
(A Salute to 60's Rock)
"Rain on the Scarecrow"
Music video
"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." on YouTube

"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.", subtitled "A Salute to 60's Rock", is a rock song written and performed by John Mellencamp. It was the third single from his 1985 album Scarecrow and a top-ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks charts.

Background and recording[edit]

According to Mellencamp biography Born in a Small Town, Mellencamp was initially reluctant to include "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." on Scarecrow, feeling the song was too light-hearted to include alongside the otherwise grim songs such as "Rain on the Scarecrow" and "Face of the Nation".[2]:71,73 Mellencamp told Timothy White in a 1986 article for the Illinois Entertainer of his decision to include "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." on Scarecrow: "It was one of those absolute last-split-second decisions. I was only including it on the cassette and CD copies of Scarecrow as a bonus party track, but my manager loved the energy of it and I thought, 'Yeah! What the hell!'"

Mellencamp required his band to learn how to play hundreds of songs from the 1960s before recording Scarecrow, and the song includes several direct musical references to 1960s songs, including The Troggs' "Wild Thing".[2]:74

The song was recorded at Belmont Mall in Belmont, Indiana. The recording was produced by Mellencamp (under the alias "Little Bastard") and Don Gehman, engineered by Gehman and Greg Edward; backing Mellencamp on the recording were Kenny Aronoff (drums), Toby Myers (bass), Mike Wanchic (guitars, background vocals), Larry Crane (guitars, flutophone), John Cascella (keyboards), and Sarah Flint (background vocals).[1]

Chart performance[edit]

"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." was the third single from Scarecrow, following "Lonely Ol' Night" and "Small Town". Like the previous two singles, it was a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, entering the Top 40 on February 15, 1986 and peaking at #2, behind Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus".[3] The song also reached #6 on the Top Rock Tracks chart in October 1985.[4] In Australia, the single effectively became a double-A side when the B-side "Under the Boardwalk" received significant airplay and both tracks were listed together on the singles chart, reaching #18.[5]

Chart (1986) Peak
Australia (Australian Music Report)[5] 18
Canada (RPM)[6] 7
United Kingdom (Top 100)[7] 67
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[3] 2
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary[8] 36
New Zealand (Top 50)[9] 1
Netherlands (Top 100)[10] 42

Year-End charts[edit]

End of year chart (1986) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 66

Music video[edit]

A music video for the single was released in 1986. The video was directed by Mellencamp and Faye Cummings, and it was filmed using a kinescope camera. It featured an African American-vocal group and a Caucasian-instrumental group with the two groups playing together at the end of the video.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

During George W. Bush's first presidential campaign, "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." was played at a campaign event. While Mellencamp had denied the request of President Ronald Reagan to use "Pink Houses" as a campaign song in 1984, he expressed reluctance to object to Bush's use of "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." at the event, telling Rolling Stone that despite his opposition to Bush's political positions, "I don't see any sense in being silly about it. It's entertainment. It's a song."[2]:158–159

"R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." has appeared on a number of Mellencamp compilations, including 1997's The Best That I Could Do 1978–1988 and 2004's Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits.[12]

During the first Gulf War Howard Stern produced a song parody, "K-I-L-L Colonel Gaddafi", about Libya's unstable dictator.

The song was used in a Nissan commercial in 2017.[13]

The song was played in episode 7 of Stranger Things third season.


  1. ^ a b c The Best That I Could Do 1978–1988 (CD liner). John Mellencamp. U.S.A.: Mercury Records. 1997. p. 11. 314 536 738-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ a b c Johnson, Heather (November 1, 2007). Born In A Small Town. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-8256-7336-8.
  3. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (8th Edition). Billboard Books. p. 419. ISBN 0-8230-7499-4.
  4. ^ "John Mellencamp: Billboard Singles". allmusic. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.0658&type=2&interval=50&PHPSESSID=m89iq841abagb37ld9c0fdc1f3
  7. ^ http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=13331
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 161.
  9. ^ http://charts.org.nz/showitem.asp?interpret=John+Cougar+Mellencamp&titel=R%2EO%2EC%2EK%2E+In+The+U%2ES%2EA%2E&cat=s
  10. ^ http://dutchcharts.nl/showitem.asp?interpret=John+Cougar+Mellencamp&titel=R%2EO%2EC%2EK%2E+In+The+U%2ES%2EA%2E&cat=s
  11. ^ White, Timothy (1997). "Who's to Say the Way a Man Should Spend His Days: The First Two Hundred Years of the John Mellencamp Story". The Best That I Could Do 1978–1988 (CD liner). John Mellencamp. U.S.A.: Mercury Records. p. 4. 314 536 738-2.
  12. ^ "John Mellencamp: R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." allmusic. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  13. ^ https://www.ispot.tv/ad/wnVb/nissan-americas-best-sales-event-rock-song-by-john-mellencamp