Category Archives: John Mellencamp

Unpretty in Pink: Recording “Pink Houses”

Keeping this blog up-to-date has my attention these days. I don’t expect to blog daily, and maybe not even weekly, but a random-regular basis may work. I intend to keep these “halls” reasonably active with studio stories and tidbits about historic facilities and other random items. So while I go about gathering new material for this endeavor (which could take some time, thanks to the day job), I’ll continue to fill it with snippets from my books and whatever else pops into my head on a random-regular basis.

With that in mind, here is an excerpt from Born in a Small Town: The John Mellencamp Story about recording the song “Pink Houses,” a song that I used to hear at least 10 times a day in 1984, and that I hear now when I’m shopping at Trader Joe’s. The shack referred to in the excerpt is an unfinished house in Indiana owned by one of John’s relatives. Producer/engineer Don Gehman worked out of Miami’s Criteria Recording at the time—hence the mobile equipment—and had recorded Mellencamp’s previous album, American Fool. Their credo for this album, Uh-Huh, was: Think fast. Make mistakes. Move on. Enjoy, Hj


The Shack, even with Criteria’s mobile equipment, still fell far from a professional studio, although recording in bedrooms, hallways and kitchens lent a certain rustic charm. “Since it was being taken apart after recording, there was no need to make it pretty, and it wasn’t,” recalls David Thoener, who engineered and mixed the album with Don Gehman. He was a 29-year-old New Yorker at the time, near the start of his career when he joined Gehman in Indiana. “The air conditioning ducts were hanging out of the ceilings, it was quite a site. But it had an amazing sound.”

“The control room was so small you literally couldn’t turn around,” adds Wanchic. “You had to just pick your spot and plant!” Between takes, the band hung out in the upstairs bedroom, converted to a makeshift lounge. “It was upstairs to hang; downstairs to work,” says Wanchic.

Another downside: the house sat on a pig farm, so the smell was “pretty unbelievable.” The back of the album has pictures of the band goofing off in the mud. The whole scene, from the muddy pigpens outside to the close quarters inside, lent itself well to John’s vision for his American Fool follow-up.

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Shameless Self Promotion: New Book!

Okay, so this has absolutely nothing to do with Bay Area recording, aside from the fact that it pertains to the author of this blog! So here’s my plug — my second book, Born in a Small Town: The John Mellencamp Story, is set for a Nov. 1 release by Omnibus Press. It’s the result of a lot of long hours and more than 20 interviews (everyone from Kenny Aronoff to Don Gehman to John Mellencamp’s friends from grade school). Read the full official press release below: Continue reading

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Filed under Farm Aid, John Mellencamp, Music