Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame, Round One: Heart vs. John Mellencamp
The Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame is chosen completely by the fans — and in our latest round of voting, the fans must choose between Indiana’s preeminent heartland rocker and a band fronted by two of the Pacific Northwest’s hardest-rocking sisters. Yep, you guessed it: It’s John Mellencamp against Heart.
Both acts got their start in the ’70s, although Heart had a bit of a head start, issuing its debut album ‘Dreamboat Annie’ to Canadian audiences in 1975 (the U.S. release followed in Feb. 1976). Mellencamp, then going by the stage name Johnny Cougar, followed with his ‘Chestnut Street Incident’ record in Oct. 1976. And while Heart tasted immediate success, going platinum and sending a pair of future AOR classics (‘Crazy on You’ and ‘Magic Man’) into the Top 40, things moved a little more slowly for Mellencamp; he didn’t see a single break the mainstream until ‘This Time’ hit No. 27 in 1980.
But Mellencamp made up for lost time in the ’80s, starting with 1982’s massively successful ‘American Fool’ record, which sparked a string of bestselling LPs that grew to include ‘Uh-Huh’ (1983), ‘Scarecrow’ (1985), ‘The Lonesome Jubilee’ (1987), and ‘Big Daddy’ (1989). Meanwhile, Mellencamp — who ditched that “Cougar” as quickly as possible — took pains to establish himself as a serious rocker, taking part in the Farm Aid concerts and penning increasingly socially conscious songs.
Heart’s fortunes faltered in the early-to-mid ’80s and the group’s classic lineup splintered, although Ann and Nancy Wilson remained — and with a new lineup in tow, they rebounded in a big way with a self-titled release in 1985, kicking off a comeback that lasted through 1987’s ‘Bad Animals’ and 1990’s ‘Brigade.’ Heart’s big ’80s sound diverged from the band’s classic rock roots, but by the mid-’90s, they’d axed the hairspray and corsets and returned their focus to the music that made them famous.
Mellencamp and Heart continue to tour and record, and their new albums continue to hit the upper reaches of the Billboard charts; Heart’s most recent effort, ‘Fanatic,’ peaked at No. 24, while Mellencamp’s ‘No Better Than This’ went all the way to No. 10.
So which of them gets your vote for the UCR Hall of Fame? We don’t envy your tough decision, but don’t worry — you can vote once an hour between now and Sunday, June 15 at 11:59 PM EST, so feel free to divvy them up however you see fit. The next inductee into the Ultimate Classic Rock Hall of Fame will be announced on July 1. Be sure to read our official rules.