The Lonesome Jubilee

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The Lonesome Jubilee
John Cougar Mellencamp-The Lonesome Jubilee (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 24, 1987 (1987-08-24)[1]
RecordedSeptember 1986 – June 1987
StudioBelmont Mall Studio in Belmont, Indiana[2]
GenreRock, heartland rock
ProducerJohn Mellencamp, Don Gehman[2]
John Cougar Mellencamp chronology
The Lonesome Jubilee
Big Daddy
Singles from The Lonesome Jubilee
  1. "Paper in Fire"
    Released: August 1987
  2. "Cherry Bomb"
    Released: October 1987
  3. "Check It Out"
    Released: January 1988
  4. "Rooty Toot Toot"
    Released: May 1988
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[3]
Robert ChristgauA−[4]
Rolling Stone(mixed)[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[6]

The Lonesome Jubilee is the ninth studio album by American singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, credited as John Cougar Mellencamp. The album was released by Mercury Records on August 24, 1987 (see 1987 in music).[1] Four singles were released from the album, the first two in 1987 and the last two in 1988.

The album was one of Mellencamp's most successful worldwide, charting in ten countries. The album was most successful in Canada where it topped RPM magazine's Top Albums chart[7] and became the artist's highest certified album by Music Canada (formerly the Canadian Recording Industry Association) becoming 6x platinum.[8]

"We were on the road for a long time after Scarecrow, so we were together a lot as a band," Mellencamp said in a 1987 Creem Magazine feature. "For the first time ever, we talked about the record before we started. We had a very distinct vision of what should be happening here. At one point, The Lonesome Jubilee was supposed to be a double album, but at least 10 of the songs I'd written just didn't stick together with the idea and the sound we had in mind. So I just put those songs on a shelf, and cut it back down to a single record. Now, in the past, it was always 'Let's make it up as we go along' – and we did make some of The Lonesome Jubilee up as we went along. But we had a very clear idea of what we wanted it to sound like, even before it was written, right through to the day it was mastered."[9]


On October 30, 1986 – during the period in which The Lonesome Jubilee was being recorded – Mellencamp's uncle Joe died of cancer at the age of 57, which greatly influenced the album.[10]

While the album was being recorded, Riva Records had ceased to function, so Mellencamp moved to Mercury Records (which, like Riva, was distributed by PolyGram), which would continue to release material by Mellencamp until 1998.

Recording and production[edit]

The sessions for The Lonesome Jubilee took place at Belmont Mall Studio in Belmont, Indiana and started in September 1986 and lasted until June 1987, a period of nine months. The sessions were produced by Mellencamp with Don Gehman and were engineered by Gehman and David Leonard.[2]

The sound on the album was a departure from Mellencamp's previous albums and included many traditional folk and country instruments in order to make his audience aware of the "once-familiar social landscape" of folk music.[10] The risk of making music counter to the mainstream of rock music paid off with the album's success.

Songwriting inspirations[edit]

Of "The Real Life," Mellencamp told Creem Magazine in 1987: "When I sing about Jackson Jackson (in 'The Real Life') – unless you know what it's like to spend your whole life or the majority of your young adulthood doing what you're supposed to do, then you can't relate to it. Because some of these young guys are thinking, 'Well, I'm doing what I want to do' – but that's not true. They're doing what they're supposed to do. Jackson Jackson is based on my Uncle Jay. He said those exact words to me one time at the Red Lobster here in Bloomington. He and his wife got a divorce. She was 14 and he was 17 when they got married – and he said, 'Man, I have done exactly what I'm supposed to my whole life. I married this girl when she was 14 – I didn't love her. We had kids. We raised the kids. I stayed there. I worked every day pouring concrete. Now I'm in my 40s, and I want to do something for myself.' And I asked, 'Well, what do you have in mind?' He said, 'I don't know.' You can't be 21, though, and relate to that. I mean, I look back on my life now – and you look back on your life – and you realize that we hardly ever really get to do what we wanted to do. Suddenly, it's 17 turns 35 – and how can someone 21 understand that?"[11]

Mellencamp said he was inspired by his daughter Teddi Jo to write "Rooty Toot Toot": "That song was a nursery rhyme that I wrote for her. Teddi Jo said, 'Dad, how come you never use my name in one of your songs?' My youngest daughter's name is Justice, so she said 'You used Justice, and you used Michelle' – because Michelle's middle name is Suzanne – 'so I want you to write me a special song.' So I wrote 'Rooty Toot Toot' as a nursery rhyme. It didn't even have music. I showed it to Larry (Crane) and he said, 'That's a good little, uplifting story' – so we arranged it into a song and put it on the record."[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by John Mellencamp; "Empty Hands" was written by Mellencamp and George Green.

  1. "Paper in Fire" – 3:51
  2. "Down and Out in Paradise" – 3:37
  3. "Check It Out" – 4:19
  4. "The Real Life" – 3:57
  5. "Cherry Bomb" – 4:47
  6. "We Are the People" – 4:17
  7. "Empty Hands" – 3:43
  8. "Hard Times for an Honest Man" – 3:27
  9. "Hotdogs and Hamburgers" – 4:04
  10. "Rooty Toot Toot" – 3:29
  11. "Blues from the Front Porch" (2005 re-issue bonus track) – 2:02


  • John Mellencamp – vocal, guitar
  • Kenny Aronoff – drums, percussion, backing vocals
  • Larry Crane – guitars, mandolin, harmonica, autoharp, banjo, backing vocals
  • John Cascella – accordion, keyboards, saxophone, melodica, penny whistle, claves
  • Lisa Germano – fiddle
  • Toby Myers – bass guitar, banjo, backing vocals
  • Pat Peterson – backing vocals, cowbell, tambourine
  • Crystal Taliefero – backing vocals
  • Mike Wanchic – guitars, dobro, banjo, dulcimer, backing vocals


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1987) Peak
Canadian Top Albums[7] 1
German Albums[13] 41
Netherlands Top 100 Albums[14] 24
Norwegian Top 40 Albums[15] 16
Swedish Top 60 Albums[16] 6
Swiss Top 100 Albums[17] 10
UK Albums Chart[18] 31
US Billboard 200[19] 6
US Country Albums[19] 63
Chart (1988) Peak
Australian Top 50 Albums[20] 10
New Zealand Top 50 Albums[21] 3


Year Single Chart Position
1987 "Paper in Fire" The Billboard Hot 100 9
1987 "Paper in Fire" Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
1987 "Hard Times For An Honest Man" Mainstream Rock Tracks 10
1987 "Cherry Bomb" Mainstream Rock Tracks 1
1988 "Cherry Bomb" The Billboard Hot 100 8
1988 "Cherry Bomb" Adult Contemporary 12
1988 "The Real Life" Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
1988 "Check It Out" Mainstream Rock Tracks 3
1988 "Check It Out" The Billboard Hot 100 14
1988 "Rooty Toot Toot" Mainstream Rock Tracks 7
1988 "Rooty Toot Toot" The Billboard Hot 100 61


  1. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum Searchable Database" (PHP). Recording Industry Association of America.
  2. ^ a b c The Lonesome Jubilee (CD liner). John Cougar Mellencamp. Mercury Records. 1987. 832 465-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Lonesome Jubilee – John Mellencamp". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: Artist 2778". Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  5. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (1987-10-08). "The Lonesome Jubilee". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  6. ^ "John Mellencamp: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-11-05.
  7. ^ a b "100 Albums". RPM. 47 (9). December 5, 1987. ISSN 0315-5994. Archived from the original (PHP) on October 23, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  8. ^ "Gold & Platinum Database Results". Music Canada. Archived from the original (ASPX) on April 5, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  9. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp: Growing Up In Public". Creem Magazine.
  10. ^ a b 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. New York City, New York, United States: Mercury Records. 314 536 738-2.
  11. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp: Growing Up In Public". Creem Magazine.
  12. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp: Growing Up In Public". Creem Magazine.
  13. ^ "Album – John Cougar Mellencamp, The Lonesome Jubilee" (ASP). Media Control Charts (in German). Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  14. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). Dutch Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  15. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). Norwegian Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  16. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). Swedish Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  17. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). Swiss Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  18. ^ "Chart Archive: Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive – 3rd October 1987". The Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  19. ^ a b "The Lonesome Jubilee – John Cougar Mellencamp". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  20. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). Australian Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  21. ^ "John Cougar Mellencamp – The Lonesome Jubilee (Album)" (ASP). New Zealand Charts. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 13, 2011.