“Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did” is one of my favorite albums by John Cougar, who had previously recorded two albums as Johnny Cougar, and who would later release albums as John Cougar Mellencamp and finally as his real name John Mellencamp. I can’t think of any other artist who went through that many name changes.
In the beginning of his career, John Mellencamp let his management and record label dictate. As his songs began to prove themselves, Mellencamp pushed back; after two albums, Johnny became John. The first album as John did okay for him. But when Pat Benetar snatched up his song “I Need a Lover” and had a hit with it, that really helped. The royalties from her recording not only sparked an interest in his original version, but also seemed to help him gain confidence in his songwriting. Consequently, “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did” became the album where John Cougar (Mellencamp) found his voice and let it be heard.
One of my favorite moments from this album is the song “Cheap Shot” which slams the whole recording industry from the artist’s point-of-view. At one point, the song proclaims “Well the record company made me change my name now”, just to see if they were paying attention. That line was conveniently left out of the album sleeve’s liner notes just in case they actually were.