Paper in Fire

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"Paper in Fire"
Paper in Fire Mellencamp.jpg
Single by John Cougar Mellencamp
from the album The Lonesome Jubilee
B-side"Never Too Old"
ReleasedAugust 15, 1987 (1987-08-15)
RecordedBelmont Mall Studio, Indiana
Songwriter(s)John Mellencamp
Producer(s)John Mellencamp, Don Gehman
John Cougar Mellencamp singles chronology
"Paper in Fire"
"Cherry Bomb"

"Paper in Fire" is a song by American rock singer John Mellencamp, released on August 15, 1987 as the first single from his ninth studio album The Lonesome Jubilee.

The song was a commercial success, reaching number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and the Canadian Singles Chart, and charted on various European singles charts.


In a 1989 interview with the BBC, Mellencamp said: "'Paper in Fire' deals with a lot of biblical things – paper in fire, in fact, is hell, and is referred to in the Bible as hell. 'A man will be cast into paper in fire.' It's in there, believe me, it's in there. That's where that term came from."[citation needed] The Bible passage in question is Ecclesiastes 7:5-6:

“It is better to be criticized by a wise man than to be praised by a fool! For a fool’s compliment is as quickly gone as paper in fire, and it is silly to be impressed by it.”

The line, "we keep no check on our appetites," from the song's final verse, was cited in the 1963 movie Hud, which is one of Mellencamp's favorite movies and has inspired many of his songs.

In a 1987 article, United Press International writer John Swenson called "Paper in Fire" "a chilling indictment on the emptiness in contemporary lifestyles inspired by Mellencamp's exposure to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible."[citation needed]

Track listing[]

7" single
  1. "Paper in Fire" – 3:53
  2. "Never Too Old" – 3:45
CDV single
  1. "Paper in Fire" – 3:48
  2. "Never Too Old" – 3:43
  3. "Under the Boardwalk" – 3:51
  4. "Cold Sweat" – 3:23
  5. "Paper in Fire" (video) – 3:57


Chart (1987) Peak position
Australian Singles Chart[3] 13
Canadian Singles Chart[4] 1
New Zealand Singles Chart[5] 16
South African Singles Chart[6] 8
UK Singles Chart[7] 86
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[8] 9
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 1[citation needed]


  1. ^ Bruce Pollock (18 March 2014). Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era. Routledge. p. 276. ISBN 978-1-135-46296-3.
  2. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (July 22, 1992). "JOHN MELLENCAMP". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  3. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  4. ^ "Every Number One Single 1983-1999". The Record. David Farrell and Associates. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  5. ^ " – John Cougar Mellencamp – Paper in Fire". Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  6. ^ Retrieved 15 May 2015
  7. ^ "The Official Charts Company – John Cougar Mellencamp". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  8. ^ "John Mellencamp Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 2011-05-18.

External links[]

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