People still come up to Aronoff today and admit to air drumming the catchy beat of his solo in “Jack and Diane” off of “American Fool.” The album eventually reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1982 with three singles breaking the Billboard top 20.
Once again, recording the record wasn’t easy for Aronoff. He and Mellencamp were both strong-willed, and Aronoff said neither always knew when to back down from a confrontation.
“There was one moment where John and I were face to face with fists clenched and we were about to go at. And I knew that if we went at it, I’d be fired. That’s the end. So I backed off,” Aronoff said. “He knew it. He knew that’s why I backed off. And that’s when I was recording ‘Jack and Diane.’”
For 17 years, Aronoff remained with Mellencamp’s band recording some of the best-known songs about Americana from those decades. In between gigs, he also began playing as a session drummer for other musicians. In 1996, his busiest year, he toured for 11 months while still managing to do 20 albums on his days off.
Ever heard Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven on Earth,” Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” or Meatloaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love”? That’s Aronoff keeping the beat in the background. Yet somehow, despite all his success and fame as a drummer, he’s still not a household name.
“I was having a meeting with a business guy and he said everybody knows who you are but they don’t know who you are. They hear you every day all over the radio and they don’t know it,” he said.
While unknown to the average listener, Aronoff’s pages and pages long discography reads like a who’s-who of the music industry. The number of records and soundtracks in which he has contributed astounds many today who are just now entering the profession.