The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated July 2000 Written and edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com


Live Bullet

April 1976
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Data

Live Bullet reached 34 on the Billboard Top 200 and was on the album chart for 168 weeks. It is now quintuple platinum. Reportedly, 300,000 of first 500,000 copies of the album were sold in Detroit. (The album was sold for a special low price for a double album.)

The album was recorded in front of 24,000 fans. Only two concerts were taped to make Live Bullet. Seger:"Another of my snap decisions. It only happened two nights beforehand. We decided not to play to the tapes but to the audience -- and it worked." Patrick Goldstein, July 29, 1976, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger. A Star in His Own State."


Background

According to Punch, Live Bullet was originally rejected by Capitol as being too similar to Frampton Comes Alive.

Seger agreed to let Live Bullet be released only because he couldn't finish writing the verses to "Night Moves," the title song of the album he wanted to release. In that respect, "Night Moves" served him doubly well. It not only became the defining song of his career, but it forced him to put out the live album-- which got him the national attention he had deserved and missed for so long.

It was probably frustrating, not being able to finish the lyrics...but if he had, and if Night Moves (the album) had come out on the heels of Beautiful Loser, with no Live Bullet to focus the spotlight on him, well, what then? Would "Night Moves" have been another Michigan-only hit? More than an interesting "what-if," it's a good example of a bad thing -- not being able to finish a song -- turning into a very good thing.


Seger: "We were supposed to deliver a new product (album) in January, but by April I still wasn't ready. We just couldn't wait any longer or we'd lose all the momentum from Beautiful Loser. We weren't even getting gigs 'cause we were so cold." Patrick Goldstein, July 29, 1976, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger. A Star in His Own State."

Seger: "I didn't want to release a live album because I thought it was getting to be a camp thing. The performances were above-average nights, but not the peak of what the band can do. Technically, it's far from perfect. But the next studio album wasn't finished, and I decided we had to get something out. The funny thing is, Punch had called me last January and said, 'I'll buy you a new Cadillac Seville if you let me put this out right now.' I said no. I said no, like an asshole." Lowell Cauffiel, August 1976, Creem Magazine. "Bob Seger, Overnight Success...Finally!"


Live Bullet was definitely not a planned element in Seger's career. In fact, after Beautiful Loser came out, Seger told a radio interviewer that the next album would be a studio album with a 'live' feel.

Seger and the band had recorded "Nutbush City Limits" in one take for Beautiful Loser, and at the time of the interview, Seger seemed to want to take that approach for his next album.

Seger: "We're planning on doing an album here pretty soon, with the band...we're working up some new stuff, after we play it maybe 2 or 3 months, we want to run into the studio and get an outside producer, and by that time we ought to know the songs really well." Spring 1975 radio interview.


A Billboard Magazine ad for Travelin' Man from Live Bullet.


John Sinclair as Seger Promo Man

Unlike some earlier Seger albums, which more or less appeared unannounced, the live album was preceeded by its reputation. Everyone knew Seger's live shows were tremendous, and Frampton Comes Alive was out there setting sales records, so there was a bit of a buzz generated by the idea of a Seger live album.

John Sinclair, the famous White Panther/rock culture politico, wrote about the album in his book or manifesto called "Which is the Real B.S.?" -- a piece of writing I have never seen, though it was referred to and quoted from in the Ann Arbor Argus: "The Cobo concerts were superb in every way, and happily Bob and Capitol Records had the foresight to have them recorded for release soon as Bob's first live album," Sinclair wrote.

(By the way: If anyone knows what "Which is the Real B.S.?" really is, or has a copy, e-mail me and let us all know. And that includes you, J.S.)

(A further side note: Ever wonder what happened to Peter Frampton? About a month ago I got a promo piece from a Nashville recording studio that specializes in producing music for TV commercials...and there introducing the video was Frampton, telling me how great this particular studio is. No ill will to Frampton or anyone else, but I always get a little kick when I come across rockers who once towered above Seger. In the early '70s, Seger opened for Foghat and Mahogany Rush. Where are they now? Doing a reunion tour on the county fair circuit? I don't want to gloat, but considering how long it took for Seger to reach the top, it's nice to see it last so long.)


Seger's Reaction

Live Bullet changed everything. It must have been a tremendously exciting time for Seger. He expressed it this way in Creem Magazine: "It's happening, man. Live Bullet is breaking nationally. East and West Coast breakouts, two weeks in a row. I can't believe it. We've sold 250,000 copies in four weeks. It's fucking incredible." Lowell Cauffiel, August 1976, Creem Magazine. "Bob Seger, Overnight Success...Finally!"


Promotion

In the May 29, 1976 Billboard, Capitol celebrated the success of Live Bullet with a full page ad featuring a picture of Bob onstage and the headline: "Bob Seger -- Rock 'n' Roll Star."


Very Random Note

Bass player Chris Campbell arranged the key segue between Travelin' Man and Beautiful Loser.


On Getting High

I sometimes ponder about the album's closing line -- not Seger's closing line, but the stage announcers: "Good night, get high, and have a good time," he shouts. At the time, it was a classic touch -- like the stage announcements on the Woodstock record telling people it's a free concert or warning them about various pharmaceuticals. Still, I wonder how Seger feels about the line now, given his strong anti-drug stand.

The line certainly fit with the times, and I've said it myself many times in jest, when the occasion called for it. Back in the mid-1970s, I couldn't imagine such a sentiment seeming inappropriate. And, I figured the world would get more tolerant, not less. But you wouldn't catch a stage announcer telling a crowd of young people to "get high" these days...and if someone did, it sure wouldn't end up on an album, whether the 16 track tape machine was running out back or no.


Reviews (of the album)

"Live Bullet is one of the best live albums ever made." Dave Marsh, 1983, The New Rolling Stone Record Guide.

Marsh also reviewed Live Bullet for Rolling Stone on June 17, 1976. "Most of these songs are better recorded elsewhere: Heavy Music and Let it Rock are particularly disappointing. But...because of the devotion of the crowd and the desperation of Seger's approach (this is something like his last chance to make it to the top, and he knows it) the album transcends its limitations...He works his heart out and perhaps tells us something special about what it means to be the average guy, with or without guitar...Better than anyone before him, Seger knows the problems of partial success...Live Bullet is a small triumph, but in its way, a magnificent one..."

Since it turned around his whole career, you'd have to call it more than a "small triumph." And the idea that the studio versions of Heavy Music and Let it Rock are better than the album versions could only be true in the Bizzaro World where everything is backwards. (It's so much fun to review the review, twenty years later: take that! And that!) But fair's fair: Marsh is absolutely dead-on in capturing Seger's character and personality.


Reviews (of the concerts)

"It could have been that it was a homecoming for Bob Seger that made his two-night sellout performance at Detroit's Cobo Hall so triumphant this week." Cathy McMahon, Sept 8, 1975, The Detroit News. "Seger Rocks 'n' Rolls, thrills fans at Cobo."

"It should be noted that another reason for Seger's brilliant performance was the fact that the concert was being recorded for a possible live album. Video cameras on hand were also an indication that a video-disc could be in the works." Cathy McMahon, Sept 8, 1975, The Detroit News. "Seger Rocks 'n' Rolls, thrills fans at Cobo."


Seger opened this famous concert with "Nutbush City Limits." The set also included: Back in '72, Rosalie, I've Been Working, Bo Diddley, Jody Girl. Christine Brown , August 6, 1975, Detroit Free Press. "Seger is Always Heavy in Detroit."

"It may be, as he sings in his hot single, 'Katmandu,' that no one loves Bob Seger on the West Coast or in the South. But he's got to admit after two sold-out concerts at Cobo Arena Thursday and Friday that there's one place this side of Nepal that can't get enough of his heavy music....

"He is perhaps the nicest -- and that's the right word -- rock star around." Christine Brown, August 6, 1975, Detroit Free Press. "Seger is Always Heavy in Detroit."

The opening acts for Seger were Spirit and a band called LTD.


"It was hard to tell who had a better time -- the audience that packed Cobo Arena or Seger himself...As the audience roared in triumph, the city's most durable 'heavy music' man kept breaking into grins so wide with content that they'd consume a Cheshire cat.

"Seger could do no wrong (although the lighting men could, and did). For an hour and a half he owned the stage. I've never seen him and the Silver Bullet Band in such complete possession." John Laycock, September 5, 1975, The Windsor Star. "Detroit acclaims Seger (and none too soon!)


 

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