The Best That I Could Do (1978 - 1988) - John Mellencamp

The Synergy vs Rave City compilation - Various

So I found this new religion. It's called the Tribe of the Holy DJ Worshippers and I would like to recommend it to you. It's very "E-zee" to join: just wear any colourful and tight clothes from the '60s or '70s and come along to a meeting, usually held in a warehouse from Saturday night until well into Sunday. During the services we all stand together facing the raised altar, where the Holy DJ bombards us with loud repetitive (mainly) instrumental electronic music and a wide spectrum of bright, hypnotic lights and laser beams. Two of the main congregations in South Africa are Pharcyde and Vortex, with their Synergy services usually being the most moving and awe-inspiring. Last New Year's eve saw 20,000 of my fellow congregants celebrating the arrival of 1998 at the Synergy '97 held at the ("Take me to the") River Club in Cape Town. Rave City is our sister congregation in Munich and they also have huge communal services. Some friends and I are busy saving and collecting at robots to be able to make a pilgrimage to worship with our fellow European ravers.

The tribe elders and organisers, with the assistance of Polygram, have kindly released a CD with all our favourite hymns by some of the artists and Holy DJs who blessed us with their output at the recent services as well as their overseas equivalents. There's 'Forbidden Fruit' by Paul van Dyk, 'Show Me' by Urban Soul, DJ Quicksilver's 'Free' and Underworld's "Born Slippy" (shouldn't that be 'Reborn Slippy'?). Other artists include David Morales, Carl Cox, Brooklyn Bounce, EPMD and Reprazent featuring Roni Size -- all the music we need to be able to do some private stereo devotion at home.

There are lots of new compilation CDs on the market containing music from the many different sects that have sprung up around the new tribal dance religions. I feel this Synergy compilation is special because although it is billed as "a journey through all kinds of international dance music", it is still the music to which we in South Africa had our own particular epiphanies, conversions and trances. So I urge you to buy this -- and if you encounter a strangely attired raver wandering around the intersections with a sign saying, "Haven't eaten, slept or been home for two days," please give generously. We now conclude with a singing of the Hymn 'Imagine' by St John of Lennon: "Imagine all the people, living for today…."

Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman

Towards the end of his final high school year in Indiana, 17-year-old wannabe rock and roller John Mellencamp impregnated his sweetheart and within two years found himself married and a father. After failing at jobs on the radio and with the local telephone company, Mellencamp connected with David Bowie's ex-manager, Tony DeFries, and signed with his MainMan management company. DeFries gave him his new name, John Cougar, and released his 1976 debut album, 'Chestnut Street Incident', which was a total flop. He then had a long and successful run as a wrestler in the famous Tiger comics alongside Roy of the Rovers (Are you sure about this? -Ed.). Cougar then signed with Billy Gaff's Riva label and released the London-recorded second album 'A Biography', which yielded a No.1 hit in Australia in 'I Need A Lover'. The song was picked up and recorded by Pat Benatar for her 'In The Heat Of The Night' album in 1979. Benatar's version received massive airplay and gave Mellencamp's career the kickstart it needed. His own version of this song also reached No. 28 on the Hot 100 charts.

Then in 1982 Cougar released 'American Fool' with the back-to-back hits 'Hurts So Good' and 'Jack And Diane' and his career took off like a wildcat on speed. The albums 'Uh-Huh', 'Scarecrow' and the acclaimed 'The Lonesome Jubilee' followed in quick succession. Sounding a little like Bruce Springsteen's cousin, John reverted to the name John Cougar Mellencamp and turned out a series of non-stop hits, most of which are included on this excellent 'Best Of' collection. Covering only the years 1978-1988 seems a strange choice as none of the hits off later albums such as 'Big Daddy' and 'Human Wheels' are present, but with tracks like 'Pink Houses', 'Lonely Ol' Night', 'Paper In Fire', 'Authority Song', 'Small Town' and 'Cherry Bomb', there is no point in quibbling with the selection on offer here.

Now working under his original name, John Mellencamp is still strutting around, flicking his quiff and playing the music he loves. He always wanted to evoke the sound and songs of a small-town rocker and to a large degree he's achieved just that. He's had a damn fine career and this album and the 14 songs on it are evidence of that. "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A.' indeed!

Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman

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