Clive Davis was once famously referred to as the “Man with the Golden Ears”. The stable of artists he discovered or nurtured is vast, making him a legend in the music business. Janis Joplin, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel are just a few iconic names from the list of music royalty influenced by Davis.
The task for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is simple, select a song by an artist that was discovered, nurtured or produced by Clive Davis. I am going to step outside the box and stretch the rules a little. The post will most certainly be related to Clive Davis but the artist was not a Clive Davis product. Instead, I have chosen to focus on someone who auditioned for Davis but he chose to pass on as discussed in a 2017 interview with Rebecca Jarvis on the ABCNews’ weekly show Real Biz.
During the interview, he said “Sometimes I’m asked, ‘Who did you pass on? Who did you think would not make it and did?’” He explained that John (Cougar) Mellencamp had auditioned for him but that his sound was too similar to that of Bruce Springsteen, whom he’d already signed. Davis would say of Mellencamp, “He later was to be one of the great rock and roll figures, writers, performers of all time. When I saw him, I thought he was too close [to Springsteen] and I said a pass.”1
This week I have chosen the second single released from Mellencamp’s 1985 “Scarecrow” album. The album spawned several singles including the three top ten hits “R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A.” (#2), “Lonely Ol’ Night” (#6) and “Smalltown” (#6). Mellencamp would say of the album, “With Scarecrow, I was finally starting to find my feet as a songwriter. Finally, for the first time, I realized what I thought I wanted to say in song. …I wanted it to be more akin to Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Faulkner, as opposed to The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan.”2
Years later as Davis and Mellencamp sat at a dinner table that also included Springsteen, Jackson Brown and Don Henley, Davis would get his opportunity to tell Mellencamp that he was the biggest artist he’d ever passed on.
Here is John (Cougar) Mellencamp with “Smalltown“. Even though it was not part of Clive Davis’ legacy I hope you’ve enjoyed this little piece of music history and take a listen to this Mellencamp classic just as I did in my youth.
Well I was born in a small town And I live in a small town Prob'ly die in a small town Oh, those small communities All my friends are so small town My parents live in the same small town My job is so small town Provides little opportunity Educated in a small town Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town Used to daydream in that small town Another boring romantic that's me But I've seen it all in a small town Had myself a ball in a small town Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town Now she's small town just like me No I cannot forget where it is that I come from I cannot forget the people who love me Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town And people let me be just what I want to be Got nothing against a big town Still hayseed enough to say Look who's in the big town But my bed is in a small town Oh, and that's good enough for me Well I was born in a small town And I can breathe in a small town Gonna die in this small town And that's prob'ly where they'll bury me Songwriters: John Mellencamp
Contains prompt from
Jim Adam’s Song Lyric Sunday.
Date: 2022-04-02 | Theme: Clive Davis
Sources: 1. Excerpt from ABCNews article by Taylor Dunn / 2. Excerpt from 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit.
Photo Credit: ‘Clive Davis circa 1960’ by Michael Ochs from Rolling Stone Magazine / Album Art: discogs.com
Copyright 2022 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.