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Mellencamp & Reed Bloomington '87


Recorded in mono through the mic of a shoulder-held camcorder in 1987, the fevered screams of this 100-person crowd at Bloomington, Indiana’s Bluebird nightclub are blown-out and overwhelming. And rightly so. On this mid-September night, heartland hero John Cougar Mellencamp scheduled a surprise gig at the tiny local Bloomington joint under the name The Ragin’ Texans.  It was just before his Farm Aid appearance in Lincoln, Nebraska and at a commercial breaking point in Mellencamp’s career. Given that and his life long ties to Bloomington, his surprise local appearance alone would have been enough to push any needle into the red — he came out of the gate with “Smalltown” for God’s sake.

But my, the thick plottened. Fifteen minutes into his rousing set, Mellencamp invited to the stage the unspeakably influential, NYC rock provocateur icon Lou Reed. There’s something almost meditative about the crowd’s piercing din — like when DeLillo's protagonist in 'White Noise' finds a zen in a baby's primal wails. When Reed and Mellencamp’s band (with Johnny Cougar himself on tambourine) launch into some cornfed version of Reed’s 1984 new wave bop “New Sensations” the crowd noise hits a burn level and does not return. It is absolutely, mind-numblingly loud. But don’t you miss it, this pure and deafening frenzy? Lord knows we do. Part American archive, part noise recording, this long lost 1987 field recording of that legendary night is surely one of the more unexpected, curious rock-n-roll moments to ever touch Bloomington if not the US of A. It is here now to fill your wee little heart.  Oh, even better, this Mellencamp & Reed set was just the opening act for John Prine. Unfortunately, no known recording exists of Prine’s headline set or you better bet this would be a double-cassette. 


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