Mellencamp claims he wrote this song as "a goof." In a 1982 interview with The L.A. Herald Examiner, he explained: "My friend George said, why didn't I write a song with the title 'Hurt So Good'? We thought of it as like a Shel Silverstein thing. I wrote it in three minutes, scrawled the first line in soap on the glass door in the shower. It was really just a joke. I think all good things probably started as jokes. Wasn't God having a laugh when he made this whole place?"
Mellencamp's friend was George Green, who received a composer credit on this song and went on to co-write many of Mellencamp's hits, including "Human Wheels," "Crumblin' Down" and "Rain On The Scarecrow."
On his 2018 Plain Spoken DVD, Mellencamp talked about what inspired this song:
"When I first started playing in rock bands, I didn't realize how crude and mean other fellas could be. How crude they were with women and how crude women were. That led me to write a song called 'Hurts So Good' because I was playing in these bars and I just could not believe the lows people would go to with each other. The thing that surprised me is that it fit my personality perfectly. I fit right in with all that."
Mellencamp was raised in the small town of Seymour, Indiana, where he played in bands and planned his escape. At 21, he took a trip to New York City to check out art school (he is a talented painter) and drop off some demos. Before the trip was over, he got an offer from a management company willing to push him as a recording artist. He took the offer (it was money coming in, rather than going out), setting him on an awkward path to stardom.
He got a record deal with MCA but clashed with the label, refusing to mingle with tastemakers or participate in any industry pomp. But he did let his manager change his name to "Johnny Cougar," which he used for his first two albums, the second of which, A Biography (1978), became a surprise hit in Australia thanks to the single "I Need A Lover." Going to that country and seeing how fans react to a pop star made him determined to create more hits - not for the adulation, but for the creative freedom. If he was on the radio, critics and record companies wouldn't matter, and he could call the shots.
For his next two albums, he became "John Cougar" and did everything he could to generate hits, with modest success ("Ain't Even Done with the Night" reached #17 in 1981). But it was "Hurts So Good," the first single from his fifth album, American Fool, that gave him the breakthrough he was looking for. Two albums later, he started using his real last name and writing songs like "Pink Houses" and "Rain On The Scarecrow" that reflected more of his true self. The hits kept coming until the '90s, when his music fell out of fashion in favor of hip-hop and grunge. He stayed the course, making music that fed his artistic appetite and performing to smaller but very enthusiastic audiences.
Mellencamp once owned a tattoo parlor. This led to many family members getting tattoos they wouldn't have otherwise asked for, like the "Hurts So Good" tattoo on his aunt.
Mellencamp won his first Grammy with this song: Best Male Rock Vocal Performance of 1982. In his acceptance speech he said, "I don't know what to say, I'm just an idiot."
This is a popular song among masochists. It is not truly about S&M, but probably as close as any popular song has gotten.
MTV played a big part in this song's success. Before the network launched in 1981, few American acts made videos because there was nowhere to show them in the US. But Mellencamp had been making videos since 1978 with director Bruce Gowers because he was promoted in Europe and Australia, where many outlets broadcast them. These were just performance clips, but for "Hurts So Good" they boosted the budget and did a shoot with bikers, playing up the S&M interpretation of the song with shots of ladies wearing leather and chains. It was exactly what MTV was looking for: a swaggering American rock star in a video with motorcycles and girls. They put the video in hot rotation, giving the song a huge boost. It also helped that MTV reached a huge rural audience (Mellencamp's stronghold) because cable television was very popular in areas outside of broadcast signals.
Back when he was a rapper known as Marky Mark, Mark Wahlberg wanted to turn this into a rap song, but Mellencamp would not allow it.
Roy from New YorkMichael (from Seymour, Indiana) - I'm a big music "geek" :-) did your uncle write vocal melodies and play guitar too? or you mean he wrote the lyrics to the song?
Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 24th 1982, John Mellencamp performed "Hurts So Good" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'... One week earlier on April 18th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #82; and on August 1st it peaked at #2 (for 4 weeks) and spent over a half-year on the Top 100 (28 weeks, and for 16 of those 28 weeks is was on the Top 10)... And prior to its 4 weeks at #2, it had spent 4 straight weeks at the #3 position... On June 13th it reached #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart... The four weeks it was at #2 on the Top 100, the record at #1 for those four weeks was "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor... Mr. Mellencamp will celebrate his 63rd birthday this coming October 7th.
Ashley from Henderson, KySome people are truly born with the gift for writing music and lyrics and John Mellencamp has proven time and time again that he infact is one of those people!! If you go back look at all the old sleeves of the albums it will tell you who wrote what, and who was credited for what!! Stop all your stupid whining and prove this s--t that George Green got knocked off the list! Oh and guess what if it were actually so, then his name would have been on the credits but most of them he wasn't!! Oh and guess what else dumb asses! It's illegal for an artist to leave another writer out on the credits!!
David from Bloomington, InI also know George Green was the writer of this song because I am from Bloomington and I am dating George's grand daughter Kirstie. Her mom is Carrie Green and she talks of her father all the time I have yet to meet him but I would just to clear it up that George Green wrote i'm guessing at least 95% of the lyrics to this song and also several other of his top songs. Green is very undercredited and I wish Mellencamp wouldn't take FULL credit for writing this song as all he probably did was change a few words to it.
Ched - from La Union, Philippineshow about a concert here in Manila, Philippines. I would love to see you. i love this man i have a number of his albums here and even memorize most of his songs... one night in a bar there was a band sang most of john's songs and i sang along with them. my husband knows how i love john's music.
Ken from Louisville, KyMellencamp hated being called "Johnny Cougar".
Ed from Incognito, IlIf someone from a foreign, 3rd world country asked me to describe/define American Rock 'n' Roll music to them, I would give that person an early John Cougar/Mellencamp CD...'nuff said!
Richie from Sedalia, MoYeah, keep that story going pal. (Michael, Seymour, IN)
Michael from Seymour, InI am from Mellencamp's hometown, and my uncle was the person who wrote that song... The "facts" about the title and where mellencamp wrote it are false... Mellencamp did not even write the song... George M. Green wrote it...
Julian from Anaheim, CaMellancamp rocks!
Brendon from Paxton, IlMellencamp, from the sleve of his "The Best That I Could Do (1978-1988)" collection: "I literally dreamt up that song in the shower in my house in Bloomington and I was still dripping wet when I got dressed, walked out of my bedroom and said to my old song writing friend George Green, 'Hey! I just thought of a great chorus that goes "Sometimes love don't feel like it should. You make it hurt so good!"' In the time it took to dry off, we'd written the verses together and finished it."
Laura from Hanover Twp., PaJohn Mellancamp is and will be remembered as one of the best rockers...she won't!
Phil from London, EnglandHurts so good also a reggae song by Susan Cadogan, probably a lot better than John Mellancamp's tune!