The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated May 1998 Edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com


Beautiful Loser

April 1975
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Data

Reached 131 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

The album was originally rejected by Warner Brothers, according to Punch, who has said he had to borrow $1,000 to remix the tape before playing it for Capitol.


Background

Seger: "Frey came to my house, when the Eagles had like three hit records and they'd just released On the Border. He came and heard my Beautiful Loser stuff. If he hadn't come, seriously, I probably would have put out another record like Seven, basically all rock & roll, with maybe one ballad. But Frey liked it. He said 'Go with it, man. Do something diverse.' And ever since then, I been doing it." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."

"It's a concept album, to a degree. There are two songs that don't figure in the concept. [Nutbush and Jody Girl]...The other seven songs all have a connected theme

"It's basically life on the road and my concept of what a winner or a loser is in life, as opposed to just the music business. Some of the songs talk about how we maintain our sanity..some of the songs are darker, about the loneliness..." Early 1975 radio interview.


Standout cuts

Again, nearly all of them. You might get an argument about "Momma," or "Sailing Nights." I would describe them as more heartfelt than classic.


Beautiful Loser

Seger on the title cut: "The song was a long time coming. The original concept came from Leonard Cohen's line, 'He's reaching for the sky just to surrender' -- you know, people who set their goals so low that they'll never be disappointed.

"It took over a year to put it together. I wrote five different 'Beautiful Loser's' before I settled on one for the record. There was a ballad, a blues...I couldn't find the right tone. So I played it for Glenn Frey, an old friend, to get some advice. He was the first person to ever hear it. And he loved it, so I stuck with the song until it all got pieced together." Patrick Goldstein, July 29, 1976, Rolling Stone.

 

"The immediate image that you would conjure up is that I'm the Beautiful Loser, but it's really not...you have to hear the song to understand it." Early 1975 radio interview.


Jody Girl

Seger: "Probably the quietest thing I ever did...I recorded all the instruments except the Mellotron." Early 1975 radio interview.

Give Seger credit for being one of the first rockers to write about the disillusionment that can follow when the exhileration of young love wears off. In 1975, not many songwriters were interested in, or attempted that subject.

Fast forward to Sheryl Crow's 1997 album, and the spirit of Jody Girl lives on. Listen to Crow's beautiful song, titled 'Home':

"I woke up this morning, now I understand,
What it means to give your life to just one man.
Afraid of feeling nothing. No bees or butterflies.
My head is full of voices and my house is full of lies.
I found you standing there when I was seventeen.
Now I'm thirty-two and I can't remember what I seen in you.
I made a promise, said it everyday.
Now I'm reading romance novels and dreaming of yesterday."

That's Jody Girl talking. Crow's song is every bit as original and heartfelt as Seger's, and being in the first person, it's also edgier. I remember hearing listening to "Home" and thinking: 'I've met this woman somewhere.' Only now it's the '90s, and Jody definitely wants out.


Nutbush

Recorded in the studio in one take.

"The pocket, the groove of the song, the syncopation is different. It's like a 2/4 feel....and it's just a nice respite from the straight ahead quarter note rock and roll, and 16th note rock and roll ,and 8th note rock and roll, which is the basis of what we do...

"[Tina Turner's version] was a hit of a degree in the United States. I think it made to 23 or something...it was a big soul hit, and white audiences hadn't been turned onto to it, so we took and we grabbed it.

"Tina's always been one of my favorite singers...she lays right in that pocket of power singing..." Early 1975 radio interview.


Katmandu

"Katmandu was a song about getting completely out of the country because nobody cares. 'I'm tired of this, I'm getting out of here.'

"It was written sort of tongue in cheek, to the industry. That song was written kind of autobiographically, but it was supposed to be humorous...you know, if you'd gone through what I've gone through, you'd want to go to Katmandu, too. You'd just want to disappear...if you can dig that." May 1979 radio interview.


Fine Memory

"Fine Memory" is an interesting member of the family of Seger songs that look back on memories. It's also interesting in the way the last line is left unspoken..."such a fine memory, such a fine memory"...and then you wait for Seger to deliver the last line -- I think I'm gonna take it with me. But he leaves it unsung, just as he leaves the last line in "Turn the Page" unsung, ending it with "here I am, here I am." In songwriting, as in fiction and poetry, what you don't write is so often as important as what you do. In "Turn the Page" it was a brilliant stroke not to write the last line, but to let it echo plaintively in our heads instead. The loneliness is communicated far better by its absence and the lack of completion it creates. How Seger had the insight and genius to leave it out always just stuns me. Here, in "Fine Memories" the same technique also works...but because the song is significantly less powerful overall, the technique isn't nearly as meaningful.


Autobiographical -- or Not?

Marsh asked Seger whether Beautiful Loser was an autobiographical album. "To a degree. Well, I say that now, but back then I didn't believe it. But I believe it now, that that was what it was all about." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."

One more time on the same subject: "A lot of people think I wrote 'Beautiful Loser' about myself. I got the idea for that song from a book of Leonard Cohen poetry by the same name. The song was about underachievers in general. I very rarely write about myself that much. I draw on my own experiences like anyone else, but I'm not what you'd call -- what's the word? -- auteuristic. I'm not like my songs at all. I'm a lot more 'up' person than what I write." Roy Trakin, 1987?, Creem.


That "book of Leonard Cohen poetry" sits here on my shelf, having arrived via Amazon.com. I wanted to read the original Beautiful Losers poem that inspired Seger. The only thing is, it's not a poem. It's a novel, in three parts, one of which, the epilogue, is also titled Beautiful Losers. The whole thing is so weird, fierce, twisted and disjointed, it clearly has nothing to do with the song...leading to the conclusion that it was the title, the two words themselves, that inspired the song. Which makes sense, since Seger says he almost always starts with the title.

Anyway, my guess is that all these questions about how autobiographical Beautiful Loser was probably made Seger and Punch more reluctant, later on, to release "Can't Hit the Corners No More" -- once again, everyone would think he was writing about himself...when maybe he's just writing about a side of himself, or a side or all of us. A degree of self-doubt is pretty universal, after all.


Promotion

Beautiful Loser was promoted with a full page ad in Rolling Stone, which included quote from "Katmandu."

The Capitol PR department also brimmed with enthusiasm, issuing a press kit about Seger's return to Capitol built around the theme: "It's about to happen all over again!" What happened before, of course, was that Seger got very little promotion from Capitol and was eventually left without a label. Presumably, that was not what was about to happen again. Actually, there had been a changing of the guard at Capitol, and the young rockers in Seger's camp now had gained much control.


Reviews

Reviewed in Rolling Stone on June 5, 1975 by Ken Barnes. As a prelude, Barnes proclaims that "East Side Story," "Lookin' Back," and "the most passionate, personalized anti-war song of the Sixties, '2+2,' should have been part of everyone's radio heritage."

Then, amazingly off-base, he describes the album as "lacking a classic" to rank with Seger's past 45 greats, but calls it "his most consistent effort, a deft balance of chugging rockers and striking, reflective numbers...With this fine LP, he deserves his long delayed recognition -- now." Lacking a classic? Hey, how about the title cut, "Travellin' Man," "Katmandu," "Jody Girl," or "Nutbush." Take your pick.


SevenMain MenuLive Bullet
 
 
Do ya do ya wanna rock? Send your fond dreams, lost hopes, bittersweet regrets, half-remembered stories, rejoinders, rebuttals, questions, comments, corrections and contributions to:
sparling@segerfile.com