The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger
Last updated May 1999
Edited by Scott Sparling
sparling@segerfile.com

Bob Seger's Greatest Hits

Data

Debuted and peaked at #8 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

The tenth consecutive multi-platinum and platinum album from Seger. As of late 1995, the Greatest Hits album had sold more than 2 million copies.

The album sold 80,000 copies its first week out.

According to Punch, Capitol shipped 500,000 units when the album was released and "they were gone in a hurry." In the first three weeks, Greatest Hits generated "phenomenal reorders" of 653,000. "It was more than the record company could handle for a week or so and stores ran out of Seger albums. But that's all been corrected now, thank goodness." Bob Talbert, December 4, 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Sweet sounds: Seger, 'Christmas in Detroit.'"


Inside Baseball

In January 1997, Billboard Magazine changed the way they charted albums, moving many long-charting albums off the main "Top 200" chart and onto a different chart called the Catalog Chart. Since many record stores buy stock based on the "Top 200" chart, some in the industry worried about the move. When "Bob Seger's Greatest Hits" was removed from the Billboard Top 200 and placed on the Catalog Chart, Punch protested, saying it would hurt sales. "The premature removal of 'Bob Seger's Greatest Hits' and other artists' best-selling albums from the biggest scoreboard of all is like disqualifying them all from the game and sending them home," Andrews wrote to Billboard. "We were proud we had increased our Billboard 200 chart position seven weeks in a row since Thanksgiving before being removed." Bob Talbert, March 16, 1997, Detroit Free Press."Some good news, some bad news, for Bob Seger"

Interestingly, the editor of Billboard is Timothy White. No writer has been more supportive of Seger.


Background

Punch Andrews: "Originally we had 39 greatest hits on a list. It took us two to three years to get it down to one CD. A lot of people said we should've released a double-CD, but I always worry about the guy on the street paying $25 for a double-album. Hey, some of my favorites weren't on it. Some of Bob's favorites weren't on it." Bob Talbert, December 4, 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Sweet sounds: Seger, 'Christmas in Detroit.'"

Seger: "We've worked really, really long and hard on this. You've got to really do your homework with the sequencing and picking the songs and all of that. It's more than just slapping a bunch of songs on an album.

"We thought about putting 16 on there, but it just felt too long. I realize that Tom Petty had 18 on his greatest hits album, but with 14 songs, ours runs 12 minutes longer than Tom's 18." Gary Graff, July 8, 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Seger gives fans not quite all his best."

In Graff's article, Seger promises there will be other anthologies. "This is not the final analysis by any means," he says. Gary Graff, July 8, 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Seger gives fans not quite all his best."

As to the photos inside of Seger's children and the band's children, Seger said: "I've never seen it done before. Punch hated the idea, but when everybody saw it, it looks pretty cool." Gary Graff, July 8, 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Seger gives fans not quite all his best."

According to Detroit Free Press writer Bob Talbert, Seger did a five-city promo tour for the album.

"Revisionism Street" was considered as one of the bonus tracks for the Greatest Hits album. It was saved for It's A Mystery instead.

The picture of Cole, at 17 months, on the back of Greatest Hits was taken by Nita Seger in Naples, Fla.


Track List and Players

1. Roll Me Away
2. Night Moves
3. Turn The Page
4. You'll Accomp'ny Me
5. Hollywood Nights
6. Still The Same
7. Old Time Rock & Roll
8. We've Got Tonight
9. Against The Wind
10. Mainstreet
11. The Fire Inside
12. Like A Rock
13. C'est La Vie - (previously unreleased)
14. In Your Time - (previously unreleased)
 
Bob Seger (vocal, guitar, acoustic & electric piano)
Steve Lukather, Waddy Wachtel, Drew Abbott (guitar),
Rick Vito (slide guitar)
Joe Miquelon (electric guitar)
Alto Reed (saxophone)
Roy Bittan (piano)
Doug Riley (piano, organ)
Bill Payne (piano, synthesizer, organ)
Robyn Robbins (Mellotron, organ)
Craig Frost (organ)
Michael Boddicker (synthesizer)
Chris Campbell, Bob Glaub (bass)
Russ Kunkel, Charlie Allen Martin, David Teegarden (drums, percussion),
Bobbye Hall, Sam Clayton (percussion)
Clydie King (background vocals)
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.


Some History

The possibility of a greatest hit album was first discussed shortly after Seger returned to Capital in late 1974.

Seger: "We had two or three songs that I liked, but they wanted to put out 7 or 8. I don't want to do that just yet, I would like to stay in the present for the time...It would be asking a lot for people to read in nostalgia in something they've never heard before." Early 1975 radio interview.

The issue came up again in the early 1980s:

"The band's been bugging me about doing a double 'Greatest Hits,' but I think maybe, somewhere down the line, maybe a year or two from now, we'll put out a double. I've already got a title for it, we call it Collector's Item.

"And we'll put it out, it'll have no costs but the cover on it. We'll put it out for $7.98 or whatever we can get away with, and we'll put all those old things on it: 'This is for real fans. Unless you're a real fan, don't buy this record.' And we'll put on all the 'Persecutions,' and the 'Heavy Musics,' and the '2+2s' and the original 'Lookin' Back' and all this stuff that people can't get anymore. And the cool thing is that they're all two-and-a-half minute records, so we can put 15 of 'em on there." Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"


Tracks

C'est La Vie

"We did a two-week warm-up session for The Fire Inside in 1988. We cut 'Lucille' by Little Richard, 'Blue Monday' by Fats Domino... about 10 things, including 'C'est La Vie.' It makes sense to have it on here. It's a lot like what we used to play in the early days, loose and unpolished and rough, and it translates to 'That's life,' which I think fits a greatest hits album." Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger Tells The Stories Behind The Hits."


In Your Time

"It's a song about my son. It was intended for the next album...but it made sense to me to have one song, 'C'est La Vie,' that says 'Here's where we started,' and this one to say 'Here's where we are today.' We've all got kids. We're all grown up. We've all hopefully learned a little wisdom we can pass along. A modicum (laughs)." Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger Tells The Stories Behind The Hits."


Reviews

"...the '70s were the decade in which Springsteen got the plaudits and the column inches, but the sales and the radio belonged to Bob Seger..." NAPRA Trade Journal, Spring, 1996


Marty Hughley, writing in The Oregonian in October 1995, explained to his presumably young readers that Seger has had "a long career, first as a meat and potatoes rocker, then as a supposed Everyman -- Springsteen without the intelligence or subtlety. But great hits are one thing and great songs are another.

Hughly continues: "Despite his occasional massive popularity and critical respect..." [Wow -- watch how quickly Hughley dismisses massive popularity and critical respect -- that's quite a trick for a tame newspaper writer. And how exactly do ten straight platinum albums translate into occasional massive popularity? Ah, what the hell, it's only a newspaper, why worry about facts? Back to the diatribe:]

..."what few great songs Seger's written usually are marred by his junkyard dog growl"...[Hughley must be the only writer on the planet to complain about Seger's voice]..."and his overwrought emoting." [Speaking of overwrought, Marty -- take a chill pill, okay?]

"Only the blatant Springsteen impersonation 'Hollywood Nights' really makes the grade here." [Where do reviewers get the idea that Springsteen is the fountain from which everything springs and the standard by which everything must be judged? They must teach that in Journalism 101 these days.]


My Take

The first problem is the track list. It's not that there are good songs left off -- it's that the track list is so safe, so middle-of-the-road, so...well, conservative. In protest, I vowed not to buy it. Teach Seger and Punch a lesson for putting out a standard "garden variety" greatest hits album. Then I perpetuated the Great AOL Hoax, about which, see below. And then I caved, and bought the CD. After all, by not buying it, what was I proving, except my own stubborn streak?

And then, to come full circle, I decided I liked it. I even experienced a moment of revelation during which I came to appreciate the lamest song on the album (indeed, one of the all-time lamest), "You'll Accompany Me." I've never liked this song, though I understand many people play it at weddings. (Get a clue, people.) Yet listening to the middle verses, I heard the artistry in the lyrics, which I had never appreciated before. The slick production values always put me off. I've always preferred the rough hewn to the polished and so I had never really listened. But when I did listen -- when I got past all the sheen -- I heard lyrics with both power and poetry. It's there, if you're open to it. (It doesn't change my opinion about folks who play this at their wedding, though. You want to celebrate true love, play something with true grit.)

The title is another matter. With a greatest hits album, you have two ways to go: you can choose something creative -- like Don Henley's "Actual Miles" or the Stones "High Tide and Green Grass" -- or you can hit people over the head with the fact that it's a greatest hits album. Just call it "So-and-so's Greatest Hits." Once again, Seger, or Punch, or Capitol took the dull, safe, obvious way.

I know what this proves. It proves the demands of my fandom are great: having tasted sweet elixir from Seger so often, I want sweet elixir every time, and a greatest hits album with an ordinary title seemed like a letdown. Which is how the AOL Hoax was born.


The Unsuccessful AOL Hoax

In August 1994, the Seger Distant Early Warning line went off. It was Randy this time, with e-mail:

"Heard on the radio this morning that a Seger greatest hits compilation will be coming out in mid-October (or, as the annoying DJ insisted, 'Rocktober'). It's supposed to include two new cuts. My guess is you already knew all this."

In fact, it was news to me. I answered: "Two new tracks after three years...well maybe one of them will be Can't Hit The Corners...Hopefully they'll do the collection package up right -- with some live cuts, etc. But who knows, given Seger and Punch's conservatism."

I called Capitol and someone in their PR department unenthusiastically read me the track list. No "live cuts, etc." The songs included are classics, no question...but they are also exactly what you would expect. And of course, I already have them on their original albums.

I wanted to tell Bob and Punch to release something a little out of the mainstream.

After a bit of brooding, I hit upon the idea of the AOL hoax. There's a Seger board on AOL; I could post my complaints on there. But I'm just one crank -- what possible influence could I have? On the other hand, if I could set off a groundswell of people calling for a more adventurous approach, maybe the media would pick it up -- in late 1994, a grassroots uprising of fans in cyberspace might have seemed newsworthy.

The plan was simple enough. Everyday I would change my AOL screen name and post a new comment about Seger's forthcoming Greatest Hits album. It would be a running conversation with myself, but since I'd keep changing my identity, it would look like fans of all stripes were challenging Seger/Punch to be more progressive. After a week or so, I'd copy the whole thing and e-mail it to Gary Graff at the Detroit Free Press. I figured Graff might report on this, and Seger and Punch might read it and think, 'Hey, the fans want us to be more adventurous. Let's pull out all the stops and do a boxed set with a lot of unreleased stuff on there.' And it would all be because I tricked everyone into thinking that my views were really everyone's views.


There was one problem. No one else posted to the folder. My critical comments, my overboard opinions, drew no interest. The grassroots effort produced no turf. Then one day I signed on and the Seger board was gone. The AOL master computer must have known that all the people were really me. It zapped the Seger board and replaced him with a Linda Ronstadt board. So much for my one-fan uprising.

For those of you who missed it -- and that would be all of you, I guess -- here's the running conversation I had with myself, complete with the fake names I used.

RebopX: "Seger's new album, Bob Seger's Greatest Hits, is scheduled for release in late October. After looking at the track list, it can only be described as bland. How come so many less talented artists offer boxed sets, unreleased tracks, live versions, etc., while Seger -- who has the best voice and in the business and superb songwriting skills -- gives us a play-it-safe single album?"

JanVle: "My theory is that it took Punch and Bob so long to make it, that now they're afraid to make a move. They're afraid if they do something a bit different, they'll wake up and not be famous anymore. I think the reverse is true. They're becoming so predictable and risk-free that it's hard even for diehard fans to stay interested. This is just the latest example. What a great voice. Too bad we can't hear more of it."

GoodWtch: "Capitol says it's a single album because of Bob's respect for his working class audience -- he doesn't want them to have to put out a lot of money for a boxed set. I don't think that's the real reason. Seger's audience is mainly in their 30s and early 40s. They can afford a boxed set -- especially from someone who puts out two albums per decade. It's not like we're going broke out here buying Seger product."

RebopX: "So Capitol wants to save us money by putting out a garden variety best-of album with nothing of special interest. Cool -- now I can really save money by not buying it at all."

SAS4: "If the track list for Bob's Greatest Hits album is accurate, then the title is not, because it doesn't contain his only Number 1 hit, 'Shakedown,' or his only Number 2, 'Shame On the Moon.' Not that I want it to, I'd rather hear some of the more obscure tracks, like everyone else."

Deb88: "Punch and Seger always say the fans don't want to hear Bob's "unfinished material," or the fans don't want to pay too much. What they forget is that there is a large group of Seger fans (hundreds of thousands of us, I would guess) who literally kept him going for ten long years when no one else was buying his records. I remember driving 4 hours to see Seger play in front of twenty people in a Cleveland bar in 1971. Clearly, when they release a mainstream, garden-variety "best of" album, it's not aimed at us -- it's for the millions who discovered him after Live Bullet."

"So Punch, Bob, what about us fans who were with you from the start? The ones who have always believed? Don't we deserve a little something? Go ahead and release a greatest hits album for the masses -- but how about putting something like East Side Story, or Vagrant Winter on there for us?"

SAS4: "I can think of more than a dozen unreleased Seger songs, some of which certainly could be included in a killer boxed set, if only they would do one. How about 'Can't Hit the Corners No More'? Then there's Seger's cover of Dylan's 'I'll Remember You'. And an alternative take of 'Sightseeing' with guitar instead of accordion.Also, I was living in SF in 1975 and one of the radio stations played an hour of Seger live, including a great version of 'Bringing It Back From Mexico' the J.J. Cale song.Other stuff for a boxed set: 'Wounded Angel,' 'Stranger in Town,' 'Suicide Street,' 'Jet Set Woman,' 'Yesterday Rules,' 'Elevator Button.' Plus, 'Snow Today,' 'Wildfire,' and 'Days When the Rain Would Come,' all recorded for American Storm. And 'Quiet War,' 'Kuwait '-- the list goes on and on. For that matter, I would love to have 'Railroad Days' or 'Maybe Today' on CD. I've never heard those unreleased racks and I'm not saying they should all be released, or that they're all good. The bottom line is: Seger has the right to decide what he releases and what he doesn't. I only wish they'd loosen up just a little -- just a little -- and give us more than two new songs after three years."

RebopX: "We'll probably hear 'Can't Hit The Corners' someday, but the question is whether it will still be meaningful. Fifteen years ago when the song was written, I was living the rock-and-roll lifestyle and lived for music. Now I've got kids, a professional job, a house to keep up, and a lot less time for music. Will 'Corners' still speak to me the way it might have in 1979? I honestly don't know."

Deb88: "What are you saying, that Rock and Roll Really Does Forget???"

RebopX: "I'm saying that life goes on, that there's a right moment for doing things, and if you wait too long, you miss it."

SAS4: "Maybe the name of the album should be 'Still the Same.'"

GoodWtch: "Someday Bob will start taking chances again. And then his music will get interesting again."

That last one was pretty harsh, I admit. But also kind of prescient, considering the chances Seger took with It's A Mystery.

Bear in mind that by taking on alter identities, I was free to be more critical of Seger than I really am. I wanted a few hard-line identities out there to create conflict.

Where I really came down with my own view is that it's Seger's decision. He's the creator of this art. I just wanted him to know there are some of us who would love to hear the rawer, riskier stuff.

And, as mentioned earlier, I've come to appreciate Bob Seger's Greatest Hits. I own it on vinyl and CD, as a matter of fact. With any other artist, straight down the middle would be boring. But with Seger...he can go straight down the middle and it's still excellent.

I played the CD one sunny morning when my wife was out of the house and my son was playing with his toy cars. I was drinking my morning coffee and had time to really listen. It's true that I have less space to give to music these days, and because I'm busy I'm less easily transported by it. But that morning...well, I heard songs I'd heard a hundred times -- and it just sounded like the best music ever made.


Fire InsideMain MenuMystery
 
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