Getting the gig was one thing. Staying in the band was another. In 1980, the musicians, including Aronoff, traveled to Los Angeles to record Mellencamp’s album “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did.” Many of the guys stayed at the historic Chateau Marmont and rubbed elbows with up-and-coming actors like Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Despite all the Hollywood glitz and glamour, Aronoff still had that Bloomington style.
“When I went out there, it was so glorious, so rock ‘n’ roll. All of us Midwest boys, we were in blue jean jackets and made fun of those (explicative), but we were trying to pick up the chicks. We looked like hillbillies,” he said. “I go to the studio and two days later, I’m fired because I didn’t have the cool gear. In 1980, everything turned into double-headed drums. I had single-headed drums.”
Not to be deterred from such a great opportunity, Aronoff said he told Mellencamp that he refused to give up, instead offering to stay at the studio and learn all at his own expense and with no pay. He recognized Mellencamp was different than most musicians, and that he could be taught a lot from the “pit bull.” Plus, with so much success in his life, Aronoff wasn’t accustomed to defeat.
“So basically he tells me, you know, you go home. And I said no, I’m not going home. He was stunned. It was like Bobby Knight saying, ‘I’m taking you out.’ No, you’re not. I’m staying in. You don’t say that to guys like that,” he said.
Mellencamp eventually agreed and the drummer learned first-hand from the seasoned professionals.
“My goal was when I came home from that horrible experience was I’m going to be on that next record. I don’t give a (explicative) what happens,” Aronoff said. “I’m on the next record to redeem myself. I fought for it. And that was ‘American Fool.’”