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Released: August 24, 1987

Rating: 4.612 (average of 6 ratings)

Genre: heartland rock

Quotable: “Song for song, The Lonesome Jubilee is Mellencamp's strongest album.” – Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Album Tracks:

  1. Paper in Fire [3:53]
  2. Down and Out in Paradise [3:39]
  3. Check It Out [4:20]
  4. The Real Life [3:56]
  5. Cherry Bomb [4:49]
  6. We Are the People [4:16]
  7. Empty Hands (Green/ Mellencamp) [3:44]
  8. Hard Times for an Honest Man [3:28]
  9. Hotdogs and Hamburgers [4:04]
  10. Rooty Toot Toot [3:29]

Total Running Time: 39:38

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 3.0
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 3.0


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 6
peak on U.K. album chart 31

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • Paper in Fire (8/15/87) #9 US, #1 AR
  • Cherry Bomb (9/5/87) #8 US, #1 AR, #12 AC
  • Hard Times for an Honest Man (9/5/87) #10 AR
  • The Real Life (9/12/87) #3 AR
  • Check It Out (2/6/88) #14 US, #3 AR
  • Rooty Toot Toot (5/7/88) #61 US, #7 AR


“Blues from the Front Porch” was added to a 2005 reissue as a bonus track.


One of my personal top 100 albums of all time. Click to learn more.

The Lonesome Jubilee
John Cougar Mellencamp
“John Mellencamp's fascination with the American heartland came into full flower on Scarecrow, but with its follow-up, The Lonesome Jubilee, he began exploring American folk musics, adding fiddle, accordions, and acoustic guitars to his band, which allowed him to explore folk and country.” STE

“The expansion of his band coincided with his continuing growth as a songwriter. Song for song, The Lonesome Jubilee is Mellencamp’s strongest album, the record where he captured his romantic, if decidedly melancholy, vision of working-class America.” STE “The lyrics are a mix of social comment and reflection, and nostalgic descriptions of younger life and the process of maturing.” WK This is ground he has tread before, but on Jubilee he does it “better than ever, and his music is richer, which gives the album resonance.” STE

Paper in Fire is a cautionary tale concerned with the cost of chasing our dreams. Down and Out in Paradise chronicles a series of stories of economic and social hardship as if told to the President, who at the time was Ronald Reagan. Check It Out is a commentary on day to day existence that fosters the hope that future generations will understand better how to live. The Real Life continues the these of concern about the way lives are lived, and includes two vignettes of the lives of ‘Suzanne’ and ‘Jackson Jackson.’” WK

Cherry Bomb is a nostalgic but fundamentally happy review of the narrators life – ‘we were young and we were improving.’ We Are the People lists categories of people – the homeless, the oppressed, people in pain – against the refrain ‘May my thoughts be with you.’” WK

“Unemployment and its effect on the narrator and his wife Maryanne, is the subject of Empty Hands. Hard Times for an Honest Man continues the existential theme, noting, against a backdrop of two more cautionary tales, that ‘the rent we pay to stay here gets high.’ Hotdogs and Hamburgers addresses the question of right and wrong, and the need for personal choice, within a narrative describing the a lift given to an Indian girl on Route 66.” WK

Rooty Toot Toot, like ‘Cherry Bomb,’ is a happy nostalgic tale of the narrator’s youth. Mellencamp originally wrote the song as a nursery rhyme for his daughter, Teddi Jo, who had asked her father to use her name in one of his songs. After it was written, Mellencamp and his band turned ‘Rooty Toot Toot’ into a rock song.” WK

Review Sources:

Related DMDB Links:

previous album: Scarecrow (1985) John Mellencamp’s DMDB page next album: Big Daddy (1989)

Paper in Fire (video)

Cherry Bomb (video)

Check It Out (video)

Rooty Toot Toot (video)

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Last updated June 22, 2010.