Revisiting 1983: Pop vs. Country

I’ve admitted before that I discovered country music way too late. So now that I’m on the verge of my 30th high school reunion (I know, I know, I’m much too young to be this damn old), I’m thinking of all the country hits I missed.

While I in my was riding around in my friend Patty’s Mustang, listening to Bob Seger, Prince, Lionel Richie and the Police, I could have been getting to know the artists who would become my life’s work: George Strait, Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, George Jones, Alabama and more.

And while my mix tapes were full of a diverse array of pop, from “Roll Me Away” and “Every Breath You Take” and “Down Under” to “Billie Jean” and “1999” and “Come on Eileen,” those tapes could have been recorded off of the albums of country’s greats back then. And while I was busy sneaking into John Cougar Mellencamp concerts (back when he was opening for Heart), I could have been sneaking into the concerts from country’s young sex symbol at the time, John Anderson.

I think Mellencamp was the only artist that I was crazy about in high school that could be responsible for sending me down a country path years later. His songs always seemed to lean a little more rural to me than, say, the J. Geils Band. I think at the time they were calling it Heartland Rock. But I just knew that I gravitated towards his songs like “Rain on the Scarecrow,” “Pink Houses” and “Small Town.” (And that out-on-the-farm cover shot from his Scarecrow album? I’d still have that one on my bedroom wall if I wasn’t married.)

So in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I think that for the drive back to Michigan, I’m going to go back in time and replace the pop songs I loved in 1983 with the country ones I should have been loving. Which will mean a little more “Holding Her and Loving You” and a little less “She Blinded Me With Science.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.