The Seger File An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Archived Updates 1998-2000 For the latest updates, see News & Updates page. Written and edited by Scott Sparling firstname.lastname@example.org
The Current "News and Update" Page has moved.
After two years, I've given up my quest of creating the world's longest and slowest-loading web page. This page now contains the earliest updates -- updates that are slightly past their freshness date, you might say, but still full of charm, wit and occasionally, facts.
For the newest news -- and in the Seger File, we use the word "news" loosely -- click to www.segerfile.com/update.html.
Out In the Hall
It's official: The votes have been counted (finally) and like so many other people, I'm semi-outraged and disappointed by the results. Obviously, the wrong people decided...and for whatever reason, they get to impose their bizarre preferences on the rest of us. If the vote had truly reflected the will of the people, I'm sure the outcome would have been different.
I'm referring, of course, to the vote of 1,000 so-called "rock experts," who selected the 2001 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That's right: While the rest of the media was duped into covering some big Supreme Court case about something-or-other, the Cleveland tourist attraction announced the results of its annual marketing ploy. And once again, no Seger.
From a slate of 16 finalists, the mysterious "international voting body of about 1,000 rock experts" chose Aerosmith, Solomon Burke,The Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Ritchie Valens, Chris Blackwell, James Burton and Johnnie Johnson. A deserving group, I suppose, and certainly no one on the list is more deserving than Solomon Burke. But without Seger, the list and the museum fall short.
So...another travesty of justice to add to the list. (And, brother, that's getting to be a long list.)
But does it really matter? Not terribly, no. The music is what matters. About the best I can do in terms of a rant is to refer you to last year's rant, skewering The Lovin' Spoonful.
Still, it would be nice if the Hall of Fame would get its head on straight, for once. Personally, I think it's anti-midwestern bias. Or maybe it's the penalty for not seeking the limelight and being the star that U Don't C for so long. Whatever.
Anyone for a recount?
December 14, 2000
Seger: On the stage and in our hearts, but not in the Hall...yet.
For those following the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame saga, Seger and 15 others have advanced to the next round.
The nominees include Seger along with Solomon Burke, Brenda Lee, Paul Simon, Ritchie Valens, Lou Reed, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steely Dan, The Flamingoes, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, New York Dolls, and through some horrible mistake, Queen.
Ballots will now be sent to an international voting body of about 1,000 rock experts, not including me ... again, by some horrible mistake. However, the above listing represents my order of preference, in case you happen to vote and are too lazy / stoned / confused to make your own decisions. Performers who receive the highest number of votes, and more than 50 percent of the vote, are inducted. If I'm not too lazy / stoned / confused to remember correctly, the inductees are announced in October and inducted in March. I can't wait to see Michael Jackson lined up for his GI buzz-cut.
September 28, 2000
Poetry and Politics
As you remember, (or, for those of you who don't know yet, but will shortly, "as you will remember,") Sen. Thaddeus McCotter from Livonia, Michigan -- who is at least ten years younger than me but already has tons more vowels in his name -- recently introduced a bill creating a Poet Laureate for Michigan. Among those he suggested for the post were Bob Seger and Jim Harrison.
Harrison, a truly great poet, promptly declined."I wish to gratefully withdraw my nomination for poet laureate," he wrote. "As a child I was abused by several poet laureates -- you know, having to memorize their crappy poems.
"Meanwhile, I want to continue seeking opportunities in the private sector.
"My full support is offered to the candidacy of Bob Seger. His renowned Nutbush City Limits fully captures the public mood of our times and his appearance at the inaugural ball would be a decided improvement over anything that has ever happened in our state government." Neal Rubin, August 27, 2000, The Detroit News. "Poet pulls his verses."
Seger didn't write Nutbush City Limits, of course. But I think I know what Harrison means. Once you're put on a leash and displayed as the state's pet poet, it's hard to muster the honesty that poetry requires.
Meanwhile, McCotter has been busy fending off criticism from pointy-headed types (by which I mean me and every other decent American who can still read) who claim that lyrics and poetry are two different things. (And here I restrain myself from adding "Duh." Although actually I don't. Restrain myself, that is.)
"Everything they're saying about Seger, they said about Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798," McCotter claims. Indeed, Coleridge was the original Ramblin' Gamblin' Poet. He was often called The Motor City Poet, as is well known by people who believe everything written here.
McCotter continues (He's a legislator -- he can't help but continue): "They used language more people could understand, and wrote about subject matters people didn't think were appropriate for poetry. It's just like Seger writing about making Thunderbirds and life on the assembly line. That isn't considered poetry -- well, it's funny how history repeats itself," says McCotter. "And when you listen to Seger sing 'Night Moves,' that song isn't about the lovely sky but what he feels about the passage of time and the maturation process."
Excuse me for a moment...whenever I hear legislators use the phrase 'maturation process,' I have to leave the room for another snort. Back in a sec.
We now continue with Thaddeus McCotter, Warrior Poet. For your reading pleasure, I've turned his final quote into a poem! See how easy it is!"In Wordsworth's definition
of what a poet is,
what Bob Seger does.
Wordsworth said that
the most important thing
a poet could do
is show the dignity
of people's daily lives.
I seriously believe
that Seger is a poet,
and I think that someone like that
would show people my age
that you are exposed to poetry every day.
Just because people can understand it,
doesn't mean it isn't poetry."
McCotter quotes from the article by Susan Whitall, July 26, 2000, The Detroit News. "Picking a poet for Michigan"
September 28, 2000
Like A (Kid) Rock
And now, a joke from Kid Rock:"'I want to do a New Year's show at Joe Louis Arena,' said the rap-rocker, with a laid-back grin, 'and I'll call it Live Mullet.'" Wendy Case, August 28, 2000, The Detroit News. "Kid Rock revs up his hometown fans."
Ta-da-boom! Meanwhile, reader Shawn Freeman reports that Kid Rock samples "Get Out of Denver" in his song, "Born To Be A Hick." Not owning any Kid Rock, I can't confirm that. Another thing I can't confirm is whether Punch is Kid Rock's new manager, though things seem or seemed to be moving in that direction. To quote:"Kid Rock has cut ties with his Chicago-based manager, Stephen Hutton, and appears to be close to signing with local legend Punch Andrews, longtime manager of Bob Seger.
"Andrews was out of town and not available to comment, but he did attend a Los Angeles party on Saturday night at Club Vinyl feting Kid, Metallica and Korn after their concert in that city. Susan Whitall, July 20, 2000, The Detroit News. "Singer Kid Rock strengthens his ties with Detroit."
Whitall adds that "Although Seger has a long and storied career, he's been out of the public eye in recent years as he raises a young family. Aside from re-signing with Chevrolet every year for the commercial using Seger's "Like a Rock" and overseeing Seger's perpetual new album in progress, there hasn't been a lot for the high-energy Andrews to do, and some speculate that he's been bored."
Hello? Did I read that right? They re-sell "Like A Rock" every year? Is that true? If so, it calls for a footnote.
Also, the "perpetual new album in progress" line is a nice one.
Anyway, the article concludes that Andrews doesn't want to work with just anybody, but that he likes Kid Rock's attitude. "Kid Rock is a 'down-to-earth kid, not just some rocking guy,' Andrews told a friend." Susan Whitall, July 20, 2000, The Detroit News. "Singer Kid Rock strengthens his ties with Detroit."
September 28, 2000
Through a Lens Sharply
Few people have spent more time watching Seger through a lens than Thomas L. Weschler. Look at any of your early albums; Weschler's photographs are all over them. It occurred to me a while ago that I look at one of his photos a couple hundred times a day, since I have the back of Brand New Morning as a screen saver on my work computer. And although they weren't credited, there's a good chance that the early System photos I grabbed from the Capitol web site (scroll down; you'll see them) were Weschler's too.
So it was a treat to get an email from Weschler and a few photos. His shot, below, of Seger with Tom Petty is a great one.
Another of my favorite Seger shots is on the back of Mongrel. I'd heard, via e-mail from a fan who says he's in the photo, that it was taken in Cincinnati. I asked Weschler and he confirmed that it was the Cincinnati Pop Festival. (Why didn't I ask about the cover of Mongrel...there's gotta be a story there.)
Anyway, I did ask about the cover of Brand New Morning, a cool double exposure showing Seger in a rowboat. But the second image shows a mountainous shoreline -- clearly not Michigan.
Weschler explains:"The photo in the boat is in Michigan (Bogie Lake) but the background is Nice, France from the air (on the Riviera). I had just gotten back from Europe with the James Gang and I was showing my slides to Seger and Punch and at the same time we were looking at slides for a possible cover shot for BNM. The last shot of Seger got sandwiched with the first of the Europe trip shots...and the cover came to be...exactly like that!"
And then there's the image below, which at one point was going to be the cover for Rock and Roll Never Forgets -- the album which eventually was renamed Night Moves, with the photo of Seger by a studio moon.
If you're like me, you're thinking you seen that photo somewhere before. In a dream, maybe. No...wait. On the cover of Barooga Bandit, of course, the 1979 LP by Barooga Bandit (who else?). You don't have it? C'mon, it was produced by Alto Reed and Punch, and features guest appearances by Drew Abbott, Charlie Martin, Tom Neme and Alto Reed. My copy is secondhand and was scribbled on by the previous owner, but as Weschler confirmed, it's clearly from the same photo shoot.
September 28, 2000
The Famous Seger Smile
Finally, there's this photo, not by Weschler but from The Detroit News (September 12, 2000) featuring two Michigan superheros: Al Kaline and Bob Seger. For those of you who aren't sports fans, Kaline was and is a legendary Detroit Tiger from the '60s. They're shown here at a celebrity charity golf event organized by Isiah Thomas. For those of you who aren't sports fans, Isiah was and is a legendary Detroit Piston from the '80s. Are we clear? Tyra Banks was there too, but I didn't save her picture because I don't know exactly who she is...some kind of legendary running back with the Detroit Lions, I think.
Kaline and Seger
September 28, 2000
Testing, Testing -- Is This Thing On?
FYI: To see if anyone was paying attention, I misidentified "Lust for Life" as being a Rolling Stone song in the Chuck's Children section below. It's really Iggy Pop, as any bozo knows. Thanks to BrDrake for letting this bozo know.
September 28, 2000
I took some friends out to my car recently. Middle of the work day, but there's a back door, no one's really gonna see me leave.
My friends are young...a couple decades younger than me. How the hell did that happen? As Michael Kinsley once wrote, we're the generation that invented youth: No one was ever supposed to be younger than us.
And yet -- these two are so young, all they know of Seger is post-Against The Wind. And, you know, I couldn't let that stand.
For one thing, it makes me look like an idiot, slaving over this huge Seger website, when all they've ever heard are the Bob Seger Mediums, as Seger himself calls him.
So we get out to my car. They sit in the front where the sound is the best, I get in the back. We get ready to hit Track Ten. This is gonna take seven minutes and twenty four seconds, I tell them.
After that it's impossible to talk, because we really cranked it. But I had my legal pad with me and started scrawling big notes.
"Listen to Those Drums!" I scribbled. "That Organ!" They both nod. There was so much music in the car, it was like being underwater.
"WOW" one of them wrote back. They were hearing it. The music was three decades old, but not to them.
The song hit its fever pitch about two-thirds of the way through and we were all in the grip of it -- the music had us -- and I wrote the last note:
"This Went Nowhere!" I scribbled. Looks of confusion. "Barely Made The Charts!" And then the clincher: "You Can't Even Buy It Today!!!"
They were stunned. I had turned them on to the pure, raw thing. The idea that it's essentially gone -- that you can't buy it for any price, outside of ebay or secondhand stores -- seemed to offend and/or amaze them. What a crazy mixed up world it must be, their expressions said, for music this good to be unavailable.
And that's the truth: It is a crazy mixed up world. What a great feeling it is to take the youth of today under wing and set them straight.
What we were listening to was "River Deep, Mountain High" from Mongrel. You should go listen to it now, too. Because life is short, and you need a break.
Take the back door and maybe no one will see you leave.
October 1, 2000
"Just like me / I'll be obsolete one day..."
It's happened. There is no longer any reason to visit The Seger File. Yep, Capitol Records has finally launched The Official Bob Seger Web Site. If you go there, make sure you're prepared to spend, oh, at least a minute, exploring the three or four sentences of content they've slapped together.
The main attraction, I guess, is about an hour of free Seger music -- past hits from past albums. All the obvious cuts...nothing unusual or daring thrown in. (Hint: You're not going to hear "Railroad Days," a dynamite cut from Brand New Morning, from which I copped the above "obsolete" quote. In fact, the Official Site doesn't even include Brand New Morning in its Seger discography.)
As an example of the cool things they could do, however, check out the string of small photos along the bottom of the page. Most are shots you've seen before, but three or four are from the early System days. I stole a couple and here they are.
Okay, I guess it's cool that Capitol has some kind of Seger site up. But there are still only two decent places to get Seger info on the web -- this site, and Kevin Walsh's fine site, which you should definitely check out.
Anyway, now that I've stolen some photos from Capitol's site, maybe they'll finally have to contact me. You know, just to say hi and howdy, and, uh, cease and desist.
(For the record, The Seger File has been up for for two and half years, and has attracted nearly 50,000 visitors, without any contact from Capitol...though I have heard from some former band members and other insiders, which I greatly appreciate. Best of all though, I've heard from and made friends with some astounding Seger fans all over the world, which is what makes it all worthwhile for me.)
The official site, by the way, is at www.hollywoodandvine.com/bobseger.
August 31, 2000
But Will He Survive The Hall of Fame Vote?
Among those Seger fans referenced above is Paul Dunn, (a previous contributor to this site), who wrote to let me know about the WCSX "Survivor of Rock" contest, a takeoff on the recent TV show. Paul reports:"They started out with 16 classic rock bands and broke them into two "tribes" -- American vs. British. There was Tom Petty, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Bruce, the Eagles, Carlos Santana, Queen, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Elton John and of course Bob!
The rules were that every hour one band was pitted up against another and the fans would call in who they wanted voted off. Only music by the two bands was played for that hour. Anyway it came down to two -- the Rolling Stones and -- you guessed it -- Seger. I still haven't heard official numbers but the DJ said he hadn't seen an ass-whoopin' like that in a long time! Bob smoked 'em! Michigan -- "You are now entering Seger Country" -- proves it again!
Paul also passed along the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame press release from June 22, 2000. Balloting was at the semifinal stage at that point. A total of 635 eligible artists had been cut to 31 potential nominees, as follows:
AC/DC, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Jackson Browne, Solomon Burke, Chicago, Dick Dale, Miles Davis, the Dells, the Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Carole King, Kraftwerk, Brenda Lee, Lynyrd Skynyrd, MC5, Willie Nelson, New York Dolls, the O'Jays, Gram Parsons, Gene Pitney, Queen, Lou Reed, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Steely Dan, the Stooges, Donna Summer, Richie Valens, and Tom Waits.
The next step, apparently, is to kill a chicken and read the entrails. Or perhaps someone channels Bill Graham. At any rate, through some mysterious process they get the list down to 15. Will Seger make the cut? Do I really care all that much? Sure, in the sense that it gives me something to write about. (See my tirade on the Lovin' Spoonful's induction, below.) But overall, no. The music is the music, and awards are something else. Half honor, half sideshow.
I do think it's pretty interesting that Seger and Solomon Burke are on the same ballot, since as a schoolkid Seger used to listen to Burke on his transistor radio late at night...and Seger has often cited Burke as an early influence. Burke, by the way, has made the final ballot eight times already. If you're outraged that Seger isn't in the Hall of Fame, direct an equal measure of outrage to the fact that they've overlook Solomon Burke. In fact, if they induct Seger and skip Burke, it'll just prove how bogus (or as we used to say -- see below -- how bogued) the whole process is.
August 31, 2000
"I Pretend to Be Liberal But I Sure Support the GOP..."
I know little about Seger's politics and care less, but -- despite the ironic lyric above -- I'd be surprised if he was a hardcore GOP guy (because I remember him making a few campaign appearances in Michigan with a past Democratic presidential candidate).
So it was interesting that the Republicans borrowed (or stole) "Old Time Rock and Roll" to warm up the crowd prior to George W. Bush's convention speech. Entertainment Weekly described it as "'Old Time Rock and Roll' by Bob Seger" but Seger didn't write the song -- not officially, anyway. Seger has said he added most of the lyrics, but he took no writing credit even though he could have. Presumably he has limited or possibly no control over how the song is used.
September 2, 2000
All of Chuck's Children...
TV people and advertising types are notorious imitators. If something works once, it gets used again and again. "Like A Rock" certainly wasn't the first rock song in a TV ad...but it's been hailed within the ad industry as one of the most successful campaigns in recent history. So whenever I hear a new rock song in a TV ad (particularly in a car ad), I tend to mark it down as a copycat crime. The latest perpetrators: the Lovin' Spoonful (of Hall of Fame fame) for Jeep ("What A Day for A Daydream") and the Rolling...uh, Iggy Pop, I mean...for Royal Carribean Cruise Lines ("Lust for Life"). All of Chuck's children are out there workin' it, it turns out.
September 3, 2000
Put a journalist and a politician in the same room, and you can get some definitely weird mutations. Such as: Making Bob Seger the Poet Laureate of Michigan.
This idea earned a headline in celebrity blurb columns across the country. I know because people across the country e-mailed me about the coverage in their papers, and indeed The Oregonian featured it as their main celebrity blurb, complete with a fifteen year old photo of Seger. The uniformity of the coverage leads me to believe that some sort of celebrity blurb conspiracy is at work here. Last time I looked, practically every third person had become a celebrity, yet the same few blurbs get printed coast to coast. Bizarre.
It's even loopier when you consider what Thaddeus McCotter really said. Thad is the poetry-lovin' state senator who proposed the idea of a Poet Laureate for Michigan in the first place -- except he told the Lansing State Journal that he thought Jim Harrison would be a fine choice for state poet. He mentioned Seger second. So how come Seger gets the all headlines and not Harrison?
Better question: Why isn't Harrison the national Poet Laureate? Answer: Because he's too good of a poet, which means he is too full of truth, which means he would frighten and shock the good folks of America.
If you care about the power of words and about truth in its unvarnished forms, you should know about Harrison's work. Read it here; it will take a moment and enrich your life.
Mentioning Harrison and Seger in the same breath when you're talking about poetry is crazy. Both Seger and Harrison are geniuses at what they do, but they do different things. Even a politician and a journalist should be able to figure that out.
But, of course, that misses the real story. Bob Seger for Michigan Poet Laureate? Yo, man -- that is a freakin' slap in the face to eminem.
July 21, 2000
The Real History of Rock
That reminds me. Starting today I'm changing my name from Scott Sparling. From now on, call me essenesse. It's phonic, palindromic and mnemonic. Call me essenesse, or with your mind I will mess.
Speaking of minds that have been messed with, we segue now to Kid Rock. Seger File reader Shawn Freeman tipped me off recently that one of Seger's songs is sampled on Kid Rock's new album. I can't verify this because it would involve listening to Kid Rock's new album. (And I can't do that -- I'm too busy listening to my old Dylan CDs. And Mary Lou Lord.)
But there's more. Shawn also says that Kid Rock commands a blurb of his own in this month's Maxim Magazine -- in which he calls Seger the best musician around; plus he says Live Bullet is the best live album ever, and that he (Kid Rock) is talking with Seger's people about jamming with Bob. I can't verify this either, because it would involve reading Maxim Magazine. (And I can't do that. I'm essenesse. I don't read magazines. My people do that for me.)
July 21, 2000
If Web Pages Ran Filler
Much has been made about the differences between Old Media (i.e., newspapers) and New Media (like web pages, man). But in all this much-making, who has remembered that staple of old media, The Filler? You know -- those little inch-long items that newspapers run to fill up a column. Web pages don't need them, because there is no prescribed length to a web page. (Certainly not this one.)
But just because something isn't needed doesn't mean it isn't wanted. One of my favorite fillers ever ran in The Trumpet, a small paper in Northern Michigan. The headline was: "Touches Five Continents." The sentence below explained how the Pacific Ocean touches five continents. And, in a brilliant display of investigative reporting, it named them! Which is more than I can do.
So, in that proud tradition, The Seger File introduces its first Seger Filler.Catfish Eludes Both Bobs
In the 1970s, both Bob Seger and Bob Dylan wrote songs about or inspired by Catfish Hunter, the baseball pitcher. Dylan's "Catfish" was written for the album Desire; Seger's "Can't Hit the Corners No More" was written for the album Against the Wind and was partially inspired by Catfish Hunter. Neither song made it onto the intended album (though Dylan's song was later included on Columbia's 1991 3-CD "Bootleg Series" boxed set).
While we're on the subject of Dylan, consider this recent e-mail from Bill Balsley, owner of Community Radio for Visalia, California:One Saturday afternoon in 1966, I walked into a step-down music store in Ann Arbor. My garage band, The Village Pillagers [from Birmingham] was playing that night at the ZBT frat house, and I needed some spare guitar picks. Yakking with the store owner about local bands and such, he pointed at a corner of the store with a big interior window and said, "Come hear this tape, man."
He explained that a local kid wanted to record himself, so this little room became an amateur studio. He cranked the amp, and we listened for at least half an hour to Bobby Seger singing Bob Dylan songs!
I've wondered for years whether that reel-to-reel tape survived, and if anyone would enjoy knowing that he recorded 'Like a Rolling Stone' long before he wrote 'Like a Rock.'
Seaholm High, class of '66
Most Excellent, Most Underrated
The Most Excellent Way to Spend Your Lunch Hour: Get yourself some Rollerblades and a sports Walkman. Put the remastered Night Moves in the Walkman and put the Rollerblades, you know, on your feet, and then coast and glide along the Willamette River in downtown Portland. Everyone you see will be hearing the normal sounds of normal life and moving at more-or-less normal speeds -- but you'll be flying along inside a secret world of Seger, with some of the best rock and roll ever made piped right into your ear-stems. Or whatever the inside of your ear is called. I'm a webmaster, not a doctor, dammit. Actually I prefer the title "webslinger," but I think that's already taken.
I came to two profound and pertinent observations during today's skate. One, Seger is a genius at those little vocal flourishes that aren't really part of the song, but that accentuate the music. Those "uh-huh's" and "ooohs" and little growly asides. I don't know if it's the remastered sound, or the headphones, or what, but I suddenly began noticing all the little extra "oh, yeah's" and musical groans he throws in. There were some particularly tasty ones in "Come to Poppa," and the coolest thing about them is they're so subtle. You barely hear them unless you're listening for them. But once you start hearing them, they're perfect. Singers must have a name for these little flourishy things, don't you think? What is it?
Today's other musical epiphany is this nomination for The Most Overlooked and Underrated Seger Song: "Ship of Fools."
Honestly. When you listen to "Ship of Fools" as part of the album, it's what you might call a role player on a basketball team. It gets you from "Come to Poppa" to "Mary Lou." But today, for the second time in my life, I listened to it not as part of an album, but as a song unto itself. (Raise your hand if this is making sense. Anyone?)
Again, maybe it's the remastered clarity, or just fresh ears, but what a tasty, near-perfect morsel this is. Okay, one factor at work here is my more-evolved attitude toward country music. When Night Moves was first released, I regarded anything that brushed up against country with great suspicion. In the intervening years, I've dropped my prejudices (thanks mostly to Steve Earle and Rosanne Cash). The result is that today, "Ship of Fools" sounds better to me than it ever did. If you haven't heard it in a while, play it again. It's an underrated gem.
(FYI, the first time I really listened to "Ship of Fools" was at the Michigan Jam, and then it was enhanced by a truly magical Alto Reed flute solo.)
As if that's not enough, "Ship of Fools" also provides stunning insight about what it's like to await Seger's next album. If you're like me, you've been wondering when it will come out for more than two years. You've had to deal with uncertainty -- just like the protagonist in "Ship of Fools":"I was left in constant doubt
Everything I asked about seemed private."
Well, if you must know, the new album will be out May 23. Not Seger's new album. Henley's. The release of which, around Seger File headquarters, is an event almost as important as Seger's new CD. But then, in my experience, there's a tremendous overlap in Seger and Henley fans. Is there anyone out there who likes Seger but isn't into Henley? Feel free to write to me and explain how that works.
May 12, 2000
What's Old is New:
News about some older (and stranger) Seger albums:
Punch Andrews was a guest on Jim Johnson's morning radio show on WCSX in Detroit earlier this month. According to Seger fan and previous Seger File contributor Diane Burkey, they talked mainly about the reissues of Live Bullet and Night Moves -- both albums were remastered and reissued last fall. You can get the CD's in the regular jewel cases, or as album replicas.
On the show, Punch talked about the deterioration of the master tapes. "They put something on the tapes to preserve them and that's what causing the problem," Diane reports. "Punch said something about spending $22,000 of his own money trying to gather a perfect 1st generation copy of the master for these two. I guess he found one in England. Anyway, JJ played an older CD of Night Moves along with the new re-mastered version, and the new one sounded soooo much better...JJ was trying to talk Punch into reissuing Back in '72 and Punch just kinda laughed and said 'we'll see.'"
You can get the remastered CDs at various places on the web, including Diane's site, www.dcb.theshoppe.com, and compare for yourself.
Hold your fire for a sec, though. Now comes word that while the remastered Night Moves is an improvement, the remastered Live Bullet is more like a dud. I haven't compared them, and even if I did, I'd be the first to admit that I don't have Ears. (I do have ears, you understand -- what? do ya take me for some kind of freak? -- but not those kind of Ears. Not with a capital E.) But audiophile and Segerphile Michael Good does have Ears and has compared the two disks. His review on Amazon.com cautions listeners to stick to the original CD, which is also still available.
So there you have it. Personally, I may wait until it comes out on DMCI -- Digital MicroCell Implant, the next new format. You just inject it in your frontal lobes. It plays perfectly then, through the miracle of biotechnology, whether you have Ears or not. It's all tested and ready to go...perfectly safe*...they're just waiting until I complete my CD collection before bringing it out.
*According to the friendly chemists at Monsanto, providing corporate DNA to a new world of productivity!
In the "stranger" category is The Best of Hideout Records compact disk. Is it a bootleg? I can't tell. In some ways it seem official, in other ways not. The liner notes say "From the One Who Started it All, The Godfather of Michigan Rock - Dave Leone." And yet there's no catalog number or address.
What you get is 17 tracks originally issued on Hideout, including "East Side Story" and "Persecution Smith," as well as tracks by The Mushrooms featuring Glen Frey and the Pleasure Seekers with Suzi Quatro. And there are seven "bonus" Seger tracks, mostly his early singles (but no "Very Few.") It's a nice collection. My main complaint is that it takes all the fun out of owning the early singles. It's available various places on the web.
The Bizzaro World of "Train Man"
Strangest of all is "Train Man," a CD that describes itself as an import on the Neon label. For a long time I wondered what this was. Now that I have it, I think I know: It's some sort of jimmied-up, stepped-on, reconstituted, backassward version of Ramblin' Gamblin' Man (the LP/CD, not the single).
I first heard of something like this from a German Seger fan, Alex Mertsch. I don't know what it is about Germany, but I've heard from at least three amazing Seger fans there, who all seem to have terrific collections of Seger information and music. If it was me, I'd schedule a stopover in Germany on the next tour, just for these three fans. Anyway, in February 1999, Alex wrote me about a bootleg version of Ramblin' Gamblin' Man he'd found somewhere:"The tracks are almost completely different to the original ones. They seem to be other versions, more powerful, heavier...All songs were obviously mixed up with fresher sound...There is no fade out and fade in in 'Down Home' and it seems to have other drums. '2+2=?' does not have the typical break at the end and is about 40 seconds longer. The short silence in this break is 'filled' with synthesizer drums and 'chainsaw-buzzin'-guitar'."
According to Alex, the CD was issued in 1993 by WZ Tonträger Vertriebs GmbH, a German label. He even sent me a picture of it, which I posted on my Other Albums page. Since I'd never seen it myself, I remained a little skeptical.
That was it until earlier this year when I began to get e-mail about a CD called "Train Man," which sounded like it might be the same thing. At first it was only offered through eBay, but eventually places like CDNow and Amazon began listing it.
Indeed, just this morning, Seger File reader Derrick Anderson e-mailed to say he found a copy in a local Detroit record shop, in between Greatest Hits and The Distance"If my Ears are not foolin' me," writes Derrick, "someone has taken Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and torn it apart and put it back together again with a few changes (good or bad, take your pick). There is guitar work that Seger could have never done, even in his prime. There are keyboard sounds there that didn't exist in late '68. Also, I believe the entire drum track has been re-recorded. Also, most of the songs are much longer than the originals."
To top the whole story off, my very own copy was delivered this afternoon by the mailman, bless his obsolete soul. So on my way to work (typical Monday; I showed up five hours late) I heard this blasphemy called Train Man. And in my succinct opinion, it's bogued.
(Inside joke explanation: That's what the local Jackson, Michigan record store owner used to say about Seger back in the late '60s. Jesse and I would go down on a Saturday and ask if there was anything new by Seger. He would never answer the question straight out. "Seger?" he'd say. "He's bogued." I don't exactly know what he meant by bogued, to tell the truth, but it was definitely a put-down. It rhymes with "rogue-ed." The record-store owner had a low opinion of Seger, said he would never be famous. Not long after this, I actually took over the lease of his record store -- well, okay, this was after the record store guy moved into a bigger space -- but anyway I took over the lease at the old place and turned it into the Jackson Moratorium Coalition headquarters, and as we were moving in Jesse borrowed the record store guy's dry mop and got it wet, which the record store guy thought was intensely bogued -- he got very worked up about it -- but we thought he (the record store guy) was bogued for caring so much about a dirty old mop -- a mop! Now that I think of it, we didn't even know there was such a thing as a "dry mop," we were just trying to clean the place and stop the war, but that's how you learn -- and not long after that various druggies kind of took over the Moratorium Coalition, so I didn't even feel comfortable going there despite the fact that I had the lease and the place was clean and well-mopped, and that was really bogued. Man.)
(Thank you. That was my David Foster Wallace. Now back to our program -- Ed.)
Anyway, here's my guess about "Train Man." Somebody got their hands on Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and digitally zapped everything but the vocals. Then they added new, heavier instrumental tracks, with all sorts of bells and whistles and imitation Hendrix. The result, to my ears, is completely inauthentic and at times laughable. For one, Seger's vocals got turned way down in the mix, so you can hardly hear him. Worse, what's been added is so unnecessary and way overdone. The original tracks are spare and hard and rocking. The Train Man versions drip with frosting. The way they prettied-up "2 + 2" is a travesty. In fact, the whole thing is like taking a dry mop and putting it in a bucket of water. In the sense that it ruins the mop. And that's what all this frilly, Train Man needle-drop rock does...it ruins the songs.
The album cover, by the way, says "Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band." I don't think so. I think this is Bob Seger and those guys who make stock music CDs.
I'm guessing some loyal Seger File readers (whose opinions I respect) may disagree...but I will say this: if you haven't ever heard Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, the album/CD -- which is to say, if you haven't heard the original versions of "Down Home" and "Tales of Lucy Blue" and "Ivory" and "2 + 2 = ?" and "Black Eyed Girl" and all the rest -- then please, please, please stay away from Train Man, the bizzaro version. You want to start with the originals. You want to hear those pure versions maybe a thousand times each. Let 'em wear good and deep in your brainpan before you experiment with this sideways stuff. Better yet, skip Train Man altogether and spend your $12 on Rhino's "The Very Best of Albert King." Dig the original version of "Breakin' Up Somebody's Home" and compare and contrast to Seger's. Now that's music worth listening to.
For those who need to know, Train Man represents itself as being on the NEON label. The words "Licensed from Cuba Libra Music, S.L." appear on the package and "Made in Sweden" on the wrapper. Though elsewhere it says, "Made in E.C." That would be, uh...Eric Clapton?
The cover photo is...well, it's a good shot of Seger's excellent dentition and his gums seem even and in good health. As should they be for someone of his means and stature.
Incidentally, Train Man's liner notes are sprinkled with almost-accurate information about Seger. He was born April 5, 1945, it says. In 1966 he signed with Motown. "Yellow Berets" was the first protest song against the Vietnam War. Et cetera.
The track list is the same as Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, minus "Dr. Fine." That alone kills the deal for me as I've always been a huge Dr. Fine fan. Beside, the tracks are in a different order, which totally messes my mind. It's bad enough listening to those British versions of Beatles albums. I don't need more confusion. C'mon. I want "2 + 2" after "Black Eyed Girl" followed by "Dr. Fine" or forget it.
May 1, 2000
Speaking of Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, an e-mail from MrSkiMask recently addressed the issue of sound quality and mix consistency on the original vinyl versus a reissued version. In between bank heists, MrSkiMask is a professional sound recording engineer...well, okay, I made up the bank heists part. Anyway, of the original 1969 LP, he writes:"I LOVE the production on that LP -- it is so incredibly powerful --and I love the interesting psychedelic use of panning and great '60's experimental mixing technique. It is the heaviest sounding vinyl pressing I've ever heard, and I am really into extreme and harsh loud music like death metal as well." [Hence my bank heist theory -- Ed.]
On the reissue, however, "the stereo effect is lost, the instruments sound flatter, the bass isn't as booming and loud -- it sounds remixed in some weak mono-sounding fake stereo which is a more mainstream and commercially acceptable sound than the original pressing. Have you ever noticed this vast difference in sound between the reissue and original pressing of the LP?"
The answer to that is, no, I haven't...not yet, anyway. The truth is, I haven't yet played my reissue version of the LP. It exists strictly for backup. Though the next time the family leaves, I'm going to go check at top volume. One point, though, is that I don't know for sure which reissue we're talking about. RGM was reissued as SM 172 in 1975 -- and reissued again in 1980 as SN-16105. The 1975 reissues were just after Seger returned to Capitol...part of the re-signing deal, I'm guessing. The 1980 reissues came as Seger's popularity was surging, with Against the Wind hitting number one that year.
And as for the minor (and yet mind-boggling) differences in album artwork ... don't get me started.
April 25, 2000
Occasionally we must do strange dances around the blood of a chicken, tossing our limbs akimbo til the drums reach a fever pitch. Then we raise our eyes to the clouds and address the gods, asking the questions that vex us most. This is one of those times.
I'm not gonna ask when the new CD will be done, because I know better. I'm gonna ask an easier one. To kind of let the gods warm up a little. It's good to start with a few softballs, I've found.
See, we know the high school friend was Neil Stahle.
We know Rosalie was Rosalie Trumbley.
We know the woman with a face that would let her get her way was Cheryl Tiegs. We know it was Jane Fonda who had the strut.
We even know the girl with points all her own was, well, I don't know, some high school girl. Does it really matter?
But the kid on the foul screen? Chen? Chan? Jan? Chad? Jim?
It wouldn't take much to answer that question, gods. You could basically answer in just a word. Not even a long word. You wouldn't need to thunder it from the heavens, either, you could just e-mail me. You must have an assistant up there with e-mail, right? Couldn't he just...you know...so we could, like, sing along and stuff and not have to guess about that word...
Here's my deal, okay? Just give me this one word, and I promise I won't ask who Cat was.
...Ah, but as Tom Ames said just before he got shot, "who the hell am I talking to, there ain't nobody here but me." And if you don't know who Tom Ames is, you should.
April 24, 2000
Gonna Learn to Boogie If It Takes Me All Night and Day
The Wayback Machine sits at the curb, engine purring.
Only problem is, you can't decide whether you want to go back to November 9, 1969...or December 10, 1971.
It's a tough choice. If you set the dial for '69, you can whisk yourself back to the Oakland Coliseum in San Francisco and be in the crowd as the Rolling Stones take the stage for the famous LIVEr Than You'll Ever Be show...the show that spawned the whole bootleg phenomenon.
On the other hand, if you go for '71, you can transport yourself to Ann Arbor's Crisler Arena and the John Sinclair Freedom Rally featuring Seger, plus some husband and wife team called John and Yoko.
Strangely enough, no matter which destination you choose, you'll hear Chuck Berry's "Oh Carol." It's one of two Chuck Berry songs covered by both Seger and the Stones.
So, which concert to choose? Can't make up your mind? Fortunately, for educational purposes only, I've set the radio in the Wayback Machine to the two concerts, so you can compare and contrast the two versions before committing. Which one cooks and which one chugs? Don't thank me -- It's all part of the Segerology course I teach at the UWF (The University Without Floors. Sorry -- Levitation 101 is a prerequisite, and it's only offered fall quarter.) To enroll anyway, just click.
April 9, 2000
My Life Is Bad
Saw Springsteen this week at the Rose Garden. That was me in the Seger t-shirt. Without a doubt, I had the worse seat in the house. This seat was so bad, it forces me to recommend that all planning for Seger's tour be put on hold until the issue of my seat can be resolved. In fact, I'm not sure Seger should tour, if there's any chance I might get this seat again.
I had a great view of Max Weinberg, though. The man is a marvel. I don't know why The Big Man gets all the secondary band applause. (Except that he's big, of course.) But Weinberg is a show all by himself. A drumming genius. Roy Bittan might have been on the stage too, but it was hard to tell from my perspective.
Is it hot in here? Boy, it's hot in here. If it gets one degree hotter...
Anyway, it was a great show for those who could see it. If my notes are right, Springsteen did one song, followed by something like 27 encores. By looking at the DiamondVision screen through the binoculars I could kinda get the sense I was watching a poorly filmed TV show. I did see Bruce throw his guitar pick to a youngster in the front row, which was a nice gesture. A lot of folks came with their kids.
Here's the other thing I don't like about these concerts: you see the same people when you leave as you saw on your way in. You pay $13 to park, and inevitably the people who park next to you are either sullen-faced losers, or else they exhibit a level of happiness and togetherness far beyond what you'll ever achieve. They're beautiful and they know it.
Either way it's annoying. You compete with them to park and you compete with them to get inside. After that, you want to forget them. But as soon as the show is over, there they are again, just as sullen, or as happy.
The sticking point is that they are untransformed. You've been through a major transformative experience, a potentially life-changing event called rock and roll. And when it's over, you have to see the same happy/sullen people. It doesn't feel right. For thirteen bucks, they oughta hire someone to shuffle all the cars around during the concert.
The night was marred by one other incident. At one point, in response to repeated prodding, the crowd roared something like "Yeah," or "whoo-hoo!" I forget exactly what the question was. Something like, are you ready to rock, or aren't you sick of the people who parked next to you? Something like that. The Boss asked this question about ten times and the crowd roared louder each time.
So far, so good. Standard rock-show crowd-whipping-up fare. But then, to end it, Springsteen called out, "Is that your final answer?" Officials from Cleveland immediately took the stage and revoked his Hall of Fame credentials. For cultural pandering.
So anyway, great show, lousy seats. It was fun to watch the ushers. I hadn't seen a show in the Rose Garden since Seger played there in '96. The ushers are much more organized now. They've got some kind of Global Positioning technology that allows them to swoop down on transgressors who violate the camera ban. Very intense. Toss one lousy peanut over the rail in a moment of rock and roll rebellion and they're all over you. The peanuts are $4.00 a bag, by the way. Water costs $3.00. When Springsteen is near, even water rises in value, proof that he's some kind of god.
Certainly the Portland media treated him as such. Oregonian writer Marty Hughley -- who, I repeat, is not an ignoramus, not an ex-con with a record as long as your arm, and not a man with a twisted understanding of rock and roll, at least as far as I can prove -- wrote two lavish articles about the concert. The show consisted largely of songs that were 15, 20 and 25 years old -- all great songs, brilliantly played. In three hours, there was one song I didn't recognize, which might have been new; along with that there were four songs from the 1990s. Everything else was at least 10 years old. But does the media ding Springsteen for being a blast from the past or imply that he's a borderline oldies act? Of course not; the take on Springsteen is that 'these songs still have relevance,' which is absolutely true, (though "Badlands" was a tad more relevant to me when I was riding freights instead of writing ads). But my point here, if I have one, is, is...well, shoot, there is some kind of point here. Isn't there?
By the way, in case you missed the reference, the title of this piece is a twist on the Springsteen-spoofing song "My Life is Good," by Randy Newman -- an equally talented songwriter, musician and performer, in my opinion, who happened to take his talent in a different direction.
(Come to think of it, though, Newman used that same "Is-that-your-final-answer" line to juice up the crowd response when he played here in December. I guess everybody's doing it. Sheesh. You don't suppose there's any chance that Seger, by the time he gets around to touring, would...no, no, he wouldn't. Would he?)
Well that was fun, now here's the real review. I can do it in 23 words:With Springsteen, it's all about rock and roll. When Bruce rocks, you're just around the corner from the light of day. Believe it.
Yeah, and just for the record, the poets on the 300-level don't write nothing at all, they just sit back and try to let it all be with their $4 bag of peanuts. Which gets taken away the moment they step out of line.
Okay? Now scroll down this window and let the rest of the Seger File blow back your hair...
April 4, 2000
In a long-overdue move, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rectified a glaring omission in their ranks yesterday as they inducted new members for the year 2000. That's right, the Hall of Fame (motto: Mysteriously Out of Touch with Reality, and Located in Cleveland) finally got around to inducting the Lovin' Spoonful.
And about darn time, I might add. I mean, we're talking about a group here that's been a powerhouse in the music world for more than 30 years. A group with immeasurable tenacity and staying power developed over ten hard years of rocking the bars and backrooms of America's heartland, playing up to 250 gigs a year. A group that finally found success in 1975 and then proceeded to rack up ten straight multi-platinum albums, including the Number 1, Grammy-Award-winning album, "Against the Wind." A group with 19 Top 40 singles, including the Number 1 hit, "Shakedown." A group responsible for the second most-popular jukebox song of all time, "Old Time Rock & Roll." A group with their hands in the Rockwalk on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard and their own Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A group that was the fourth-most-popular touring act of 1996, playing in front of 923,829 fans. A group that sold 100,000 tickets in an hour when they played The Palace of Auburn Hills. A group so well known and well loved by the American people, that just last month certified hot-babe Lara Flynn Boyle appeared onstage at the nationally televised Golden Globes award show wearing a Lovin' Spoonful t-shirt. In short, a group which, in the words of pre-eminent rock critic Stephen Holden of the New York Times, "has all the requisites of greatness: the voice, the songwriting, the performance onstage, the vision and the ambition."
Oh, wait -- all those accolades and accomplishments belong to Seger, not the Lovin' Spoonful. Why do I keep getting them mixed up?
Anyway, it's a real nice break for the pop group, even if indeed they only lasted four years. I'm sure there was a very good reason they broke up. Let's all check our back issues of Mojo Navigator and find out what it was.
(What, you don't have your Mojo Navigators handy?? And you call yourself a rock fan! Lordy. Good thing I have mine. Here it is, Issue No. 13, April 1967, cover price 25 cents. Managing Editor, Greg Shaw. Isn't he a famous guy now, rock-wise? I wonder if he votes for Hall of Fame inductees.)"There is much talk in San Francisco these days about the Lovin' Spoonful; everyone from the heads of the rock scene down to the lowliest teenybopper is concerned about the Spoonful Scandal," the article begins.
Shall we pause here to form a mental image of the lowliest teenybopper? Nah, let's not. On we go. The article explains how two members of the Spoonful, Steve and Zal, assisted a narcotics officer in making a bust. The guy who got busted, Bill Lougrborough, (sic?), is quoted as saying this about the two informers: "They really didn't mean any harm. They're just puppies."
Cool. I always thought Zal was a cool name, didn't you? Anyway, because of the bust, Zal left the group, and then John "Welcome Back, Kotter" Sebastion left, and then things went downhill. Somewhere in that time period, the group applied to be the Monkees, but didn't quite make the cut. Damn.
But now the puppies are in the Hall of Fame, so all is forgiven. By the way, if you go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame web site and run a search for Seger, you get the following: "Your search on 'Seger' returned 1 results (sic)." Better yet, you can go to the Lovin' Spoonful site and actually book the band (what remains of it) online! Hey, let's take the money from the coffee kitty and book 'em for our next party, okay? And when they start to play, we'll drown 'em out with requests for "Heavy Music." Would that be cool? Or what?
(Full Disclosure: "She's Still A Mystery" remains a treasured 45 in my not-very-large 45 rpm record collection and never fails to conjure up the most delicious images of my eleventh-grade girlfriend. And on occasion my heart has been stolen by a mousy little girl.)
March 7, 2000
The Smallest of Updates
You'd like news about the forthcoming CD, wouldn't you? But the only news is that Lara Flynn Boyle wore a Seger t-shirt at the Golden Globes a couple months ago. Period. End of story. Let's pause now for a rhetorical question:
How the heck does Seger manage to stay so completely out of the news?
Okay, back to live action. Since there is no news about the new CD, I'll make some up for you:
Seger's still writing. How do I know this? I don't. Just plain made it up. But it sounds good, don't you think? Based on past experience, I mean?
Since my corporate sponsors demand that I update this site periodically, (what am I talking about? where am I?), I've decided to add some totally superfluous, non-essential Seger stuff relating to the truck ad and Tom Neme. Maybe this will be so annoying to the folks at Punch Incorporated that they'll send me some real news. Or maybe not. Anyway, read on.
"If this truck is rockin'..."
I thought I'd written all I want to write about the "Like a Rock" ad campaign. But I got a letter recently from a reader who works for GM in Lansing. The campaign has meant a lot to him. His point of view is worth sharing, so I posted it, along with some further thoughts of my own. Together we beat this dead horse a wee bit more, at Like a Truck.
In the same mail came a little sum-thin I call Tales of Tom Neme, twenty years after Noah. I've always had sort of a sympathetic affection for Neme. I see him as a kind of misfortunate son who had the bad luck to take his one shot at glory while singing next to Seger. It's kind of like being invited to play the trumpet alongside Louis Armstrong. No matter what you do, it ain't your day. I've based this view on my thorough research, which in this case consists of sitting here and making things up. In short, I know nothing of Neme, and chances are you don't either. Resynthesize your old info, slightly, at the Tom Neme Saga, Part 5.
February 26, 2000
Okay, okay, here's the shirt.
Sure, it's not quite Jennifer Lopez, but still. Seger, by the way, was watching the Golden Globes broadcast and was "amazed" to see the shirt, according to Punch. It's an official "Like A Rock" t-shirt, but Boyle's fashion designer, David Cardona, added rhinestones to it. Susan Whitall. The Detroit News, January 25, 2000. "Lara Flynn Boyle sports a T-shirt familiar to us all."
March 7, 2000
The World Is Ending
They said so on TV last night, in a message from the First Brands Corporation. You know, the makers of Glad Storage Bags. Slogan: "Imagine Life in the Kitchen Without Glad." Go ahead -- we'll wait.
All right, then.
Anyway, to help you imagine life where the purpose of music is to sell things, First Brands has created a new commercial paying tribute to Skip James -- that "solitary, secretive person who never had his own family, regarded women with suspicious contempt, and was seemingly wary of the entire human race" -- at least according to his biographer.
Actually, the commercial doesn't specifically mention Skip James -- it simply uses his most famous song to sell garbage bags. You know the one I mean...that 1931 blues masterpiece you never would have heard of if Eric Clapton hadn't put it on the first Cream album. That's right: "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad."
The funny thing is (if anything about the end of the world is funny), James was apparently rarely glad. His biographer, Stephen Calt, calls James a moody, lonely bluesman who "was mistrustful of merriment." (http://members.xoom.com/sardine/) After 1931, James' music career stalled for 33 years, in part because of racial discrimination.
But no matter. The First Brands Corporation ('98 fiscal year sales of $1,203 million and a 10% net income growth with 0% employee growth -- thank you, Hoovers Online) has brought his joyful music back, to celebrate their sturdy waste management storage product, the Glad garbage bag. (www.glad.com)
Anyway, that's how we know the world is ending. When the post office flies like an eagle (yeah, right) and when the artistic creations of bitter Delta bluesmen are used to sell garbage bags, there can't be much time left. With any luck, it will all explode in a gigantic cosmic starburst before Motel 6 gets around to singing, "we know it's late...why don't you staayyy."
Well, I'd love to rant on, but I gotta run. All new ER tonight, you know. And the garbage has to go out.
January 6, 2000
Let Your Inhibitions Run Wild Addendum
Just after I posted the above, I was struck by a southbound eighteen-wheeler on I-5. Struck in the sense that it caught my attention. And how could it not: The entire side of the truck was covered with a bright painting of a Duraflame log -- America's favorite extruded mixture of cedar sawdust and petroleum wax.
Clearly, the truck was multi-tasking: It was delivering Duraflame logs and building brand equity at the same time with the seductive tagline "TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT" -- a reference, I presumed, to the 1976 Rod Stewart hit. (Although to be fair, a lot of songs share that title.)
I've never figured it out: if I let my little inhibitions run wild, wouldn't I be, like, completely inhibited?
The more pertinent question, of course, is tonight's the night for what? If I burn one of these fake logs, am I more likely to get lucky? Or is it just good luck for The Duraflame Company, already the market leader in the manufactured log industry.
And who, you ask, is Duraflame's chief competitor? (Sheesh: your thirst for knowledge impresses me.) Surprise, it's First Brands Corporation, makers of Starterlogg. Which sounds so much less romantic. Like a log you might use in junior high school.
It's clear the First Brands folks need to spend a little more time ripping off pop culture anthems. There's gotta be some rock song/slogan out there with ready-made emotional connotations that would sell a few logs. Wait a minute, here you go: Starterlogg. Light My Fire. Start painting the trucks, guys.
January 12, 2000
Seger in the Middle
It's old news, but last August Brooks and Dunn were in Nashville recording "Against the Wind" for the King of the Hill soundtrack. And in the studio next door was Seger, working on his (still) upcoming CD.
Okay, you know that, but unless you really scour the web, chances are you haven't seen the photo. I hadn't either, until Seger fan extraordinaire Steve Vanghel told me about it. Thanks, Steve. I forget which is Brooks and which is Dunn, but that's Seger in the middle.
For the record, this is the first photo of Seger I've seen since the charity golf course shot from August 1998 -- which adds up to an entire year of staying out of the media. He's the star that U Don't C.
Things We Know Now That We Didn't Know Then--- A Detour, An Indulgence, A Remembrance ---
(And also, why I haven't answered any email in the last five weeks. For the detour, click here.)
January 1, 2000
Mysteries and Clues
Alright then...it's been a year now, hasn't it, and chances are you haven't taken my advice.
What exactly was that advice again?..oh, nothing really, just a little thing I happened to write on ten twenty-four ninety-eight about how it had been exactly three years since the release of It's A Mystery, and about how you ought to bolt to your CD player and blast that disk out at whatever volume your speakers might allow and rediscover -- or maybe discover for the first time --the brilliance of that work.
And, yet, here it is ten twenty-four ninety-nine, a whole year later...and face it, you probably haven't done so. That's okay. As my friend Ken says, big world, busy lives.
Still, I can't help but feel your pain. Four years with no new Seger. ("Chances Are" excepted.) It digs at you, doesn't it? In desperation you turn for answers to the Internet (don't we all?). "Tell me, Seger File," you say, "without new Seger to enjoy, what the heck should I be listening to?" Just then the sea turns to lemonade and we all wake up as extras in a rerun of Hawaii Five-O, the one where Jack Lord chokes on a...but wait, the medication is taking effect; I think I can maintain the delusion of sanity long enough to answer your question.
In fact, I'll even use my powers of deduction to tell you what Seger is listening to. But to do so, I'll have to tell you about my Michigan trip.
Be assured, this is a Seger story...sort of. It may drift off here and there, but not to worry: no matter how far afield we seem to stray, it'll end up dead on.
It starts off in the air, some weeks ago, flying into Traverse City as the sun was slanting down over the big lake. If you have no other reason to fly to Traverse City, I recommend it for the view alone.
One of the great people in this world, my good friend T.L., met me at the Traverse City airport, arriving, as he always does, not a minute early nor a minute late. I jumped in his truck and we tooled around places familiar to me. Having been away so long, what I saw were the changes: Traverse City's got a brew pub now, and it was jumpin'. You can order a latte in Northern Michigan and people don't give you that weird squint anymore. Etc.
Anyway, we hit the record stores and that miraculous thing happened that is so hoped for and so rarely provided: new Seger...sort of. Actually the first Seger thing happened out on the sidewalk. It was a guitar in the display window -- Bob's guitar in a polished oak case. It was signed by Seger and by every member of the Silver Bullet Band and the other musicians who joined the band for the 1996 tour. (This particular store, I recalled later, is run by Seger's former road manager.)
It was a sign of surprises popping up in unexpected places...and indeed, later, in an unexpected place, a CD called Rockin' the Radio popped up.
A quick look confirmed that it was actually a rare radio program from the mid-70s featuring Seger in two small clubs. The radio show is called Retro Rock. I'd heard it, but my friend TL hadn't, so we spent the next two days listening to small gems from Seger's past: Albert King's "Don't Burn Down the Bridge," and Hound Dog Taylor's "See Me in the Evening." This was before Live Bullet -- the applause after "Turn the Page" was barely a smattering -- but Seger and the band were in Live Bullet form. It's the kind of stuff a boxed set might conceivably contain...Seger even muffs a line at one point, which is rare indeed...in the meantime, you have to haunt used record stores or eBay to get a listen.
But there's more. This is a story about Seger, but it's also a story about going home, which for me means southern Michigan. From Traverse City, there was no way to get to there except by bus...so Greyhound and a driver nicknamed "Sick Leave" carried me the dull five hours to my hometown...to a place I've written about here as Snailsville, or the Bermuda Triangle of the Soul. Officially, they call it Jackson.
(They've got a new slogan on the city limits signs, by the way. The hyper-defensive "We like it here -- honest" was ditched a while ago, replaced by the old chestnut, "Birthplace of the Republican Party." This time around, though, they had new signs reading "Welcome to Jackson" and below it, in smaller type, "Without Amphetamines, Life Itself Would Be Impossible...At Least Here.")
Jackson, as you know, is where Seger played for strippers back in the Town Crier days at a place called the Roseland Inn. That landmark is gone now, replaced by a Red Lobster. My family is gone too -- we're all out here, now -- but the house remained, complete with 25 years of belongings. My job was to empty it.
It's not what you expect, arriving by bus in a town you don't live in anymore, opening up a house no one has opened for a very long time. The floor creaks like breaking ice.
The worst thing is the dismantling. Rooms take on a life when you live in them, and when you put everything into boxes, they turn back into rooms again. I didn't like that. I spent a lot of time talking to my dad, who physically occupies a small box of ashes, but who also occupies, in an emotional sense, so much of the space around that house. Days were okay, but evenings were lousy. On the second night I started my dad's old car -- a '62 Valiant no one drives anymore -- and headed to Schoolkids, the legendary Ann Arbor record store.
Only Schoolkid's isn't there anymore. There's another store there, called SKR, and it didn't dawn on me until I left that SKR isn't Schoolkid's Records. What did dawn on me was Solomon Burke.
I've known for a long time that Burke's "Cry to Me" was one of the first records Seger ever bought, but to me it was just a name. At Schoolkid's -- or what I thought was Schoolkids -- I happened to see the relatively new Solomon Burke collection on Rhino, and decided to finally find out what Burke's music was all about.
I bought "The Very Best of Solomon Burke," but didn't play it. (The '62 Valiant didn't come equipped with a CD player...back in '62 the Chrysler engineers came up with two innovative technologies: a CD player and push-button transmission. But dashboard space was limited and they had to choose between the two. They gambled that push-button transmission would change the automobile forever...and thus the world was denied the miracle of digital technology for an extra quarter century. But that's another story.)
Other stuff happened in Jackson that has nothing to do with Seger. The moving van came. I saw my dad walking down the sidewalk by the dairy. Not really him, of course, but his spirit. We talked. I had just spent his last red dollars -- at the landfill, as it turned out, and it really helped me out of a jam, because the landfill is run by inmates, and not a good place to run out of cash...especially after you've already dumped your load. The red bills saved me. My dad was happy to help. That's what dads are for, is basically what he told me by the dairy. I've never figured out how or why the dollars turned red.
But that's all beside the point. What matters is the airport run.
By the time you get to be my age (I'm approximately 106, I think), you've screwed up a few airport runs in your life, and probably made a blessed few that were really, really bad.
But this was the godawful worst. How to describe it? The 85-mph desperation drive, the humidity, the rental car screw up. And the reeking black garbage bag left recklessly left outside the main door...Carumba! My name wasn't in there anywhere, was it, on any slip of paper??? 'Cause I'm sure they called out the squad for that one. But there was no time to find a dumpster, no time for anything. And then the security people X-rayed my dad's ashes and it looked, well...jeez, never take an urn like that through security, not when you're in a tearing hurry and dripping sweat and so out of breath you can barely talk.
When I get to the plane, I'm drenched. I'm the last one on, I've got a middle seat and I'm a walking sweatstorm. No one wants to look at me. I want to look at no one. I take the Sony out. I put on Solomon Burke.
For the first time, I hear the music that Seger listened to as a kid in junior high. And right there, it changed my life. I used to say that the last sixty seconds of "Night Moves" is best minute of recorded music in human history ... but the first verse and chorus of "Cry to Me," made me wonder if it might be a tie.
You can hear it all, the extraordinary range, the gentle touch, the way Burke can tip his head back and wail at any moment and then bring it all back...and if you don't have tears in your eyes when you get through track six, then brother you've never really been in love...anyway, that's when it all broke through for me, all the stress about the house and my dad and the terrible airport run, the heat...all of it, thanks to the powerful music coming through the phones.
The more I listened, the more I heard similarities to Seger's vocal style. Seger has an extraordinary ability to connect with people, to touch something at a very deep level and make it feel one-to-one. It's in his voice somehow and what he does with it. The e-mail letters I get from readers all talk about it. The tracks on "The Very Best of Solomon Burk" do much the same, in a different way. If you haven't discovered Solomon Burk yet, this little four-year Seger hiatus is your chance.
So okay, is Seger himself listening to Solomon Burke these days? I'd certainly bet it's in his collection.
And is he listening to Randy Newman's recent masterpiece "Bad Love"? Of course. (Who could resist an album with the beautifully self-deluded, cheerfully delivered lyric "A full grown woman would be nice / I'd like to flip her over once or twice"?) For that matter, is Newman's biting, self-deprecating and dead-on perfect, satirical cut "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It?)" causing Seger to rethink all the work he's done on his new CD and start over from scratch, causing another insanity-provoking four-year delay? How the heck should I know? I haven't the faintest clue.
Okay, so I might have lied about my mighty powers of deduction just a bit. But who the heck really cares what Seger's listening to? I mean, are you really so shallow that you only buy records you think Seger is buying? Do you really let someone else tell you what's good and what isn't? That's the kind of sheep you've become? Where's your spine, man? For cryin' out loud, where's your spine???
Oh yeah, also buy Buckcherry, and play it chest-thumping loud. Skip the ballads.
And buy Cesaria Evora's Cafe Atlantico. And Kol Nidre Variations. And Cher.
That should about do it. Just kidding about the Cher, by the way. Check back tomorrow and, if you ask nicely, I'll tell you what to wear and how to vote.
October 24, 1999
Dave Leone, Pioneer of the Detroit Music Scene
David Leone, the man who was Seger's first manager and who started the Hideout Clubs with Punch Andrews, died in early October. He was 57.
Leone and Punch opened the first Hideout nightclub in the 1960s. Eventually there were a dozen Hideout clubs. Local bands like Seger and others developed a following at the clubs and eventually cut records on the Hideout label. The clubs were instrumental in creating the Detroit music scene.
"'I think we opened the (first club) for $139,' says Andrews. 'Forty bucks for the band, 75 bucks for the hall. It was a dollar to get in, 10 cents for a Coke. We had no tables and chairs, nothing but the band.'" Susan Whitall, October 9, 1999, The Detroit News. "An appreciation: David Leone helped make Detroit rock in the '60s."
"Leone, a graduate of Grosse Pointe High, opened the first Hideout right on the edge of his hometown. He and Andrews ran the clubs with no insurance. When Andrews' father found out, he had to return to U-M. Leone, who'd dropped out of the University of Cincinnati, stayed on to run the place." Susan Whitall, October 9, 1999, The Detroit News. "An appreciation: David Leone helped make Detroit rock in the '60s."
Leone also has a songwriting credit on Seger's "Sock It To Me, Santa." He also wrote "Friday at the Hideout" for the Underdogs. He later helped form a booking agency that booked tours for Seger and other national acts.
October 29, 1999
Third and Very, Very Long...
As the holiday season approaches, I'm sure you'll agree with me that what the world needs now is more singing football stars. That, and say, a reincarnated Jim Morrison, pushing a coffee cart down Hollywood and Vine singing "Eggnog Lattes! Getcher Eggnog Lattes!" to the tune of "Mojo rising! "Getcher mojo rising! Rising rising! Eggnog, Eggnog!" With, like, millions of record company executives walking by all the time and even buying lattes from him and nobody even knows it's Jim Morrison, and he doesn't remember either, because of getting hit on the head or something, until this old guy, lets call him Mr. Squiggles, comes up and...wait a minute, what was I saying?? Oh yeah, singing football stars.
Right. Well, until O.J. gets his band together (fill in your own joke about what his band would be called), we'll have to make do with another Buffalo Bill, Doug Flutie, who today released the CD, Ramblin' Scramblin' Man. (At which point, the little voice in my head is going, 'why do I have to write this? Do I really have to write this?')
Actually, it's for a good cause. "A portion of retail net proceeds," the press release says, "will go toward the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism." That would be a division of the Giving Back Fund Charitable Organization. As in "[Fill in the name of any singing athlete] believes in giving something back. And also in undermining the authenticity of great rock and roll by recording a jokey version of it." And so on.
The new CD by "Doug Flutie and the Flutie Gang" (try saying that out loud without giggling) contains 11 songs, including ten originals, and, yes, the title track, a re-make of the Seger song. And according to the press release, Flutie also plays, I don't know, some type of instrument. Drums or something. For a good cause.
November 15, 1999
RS, Meet RS
Rolling Stone, meet Robert Seger, that is. The editors at Rolling Stone often seem to be unaware of Seger's existence.
For instance, the July 8, 1999 edition (okay, so I'm behind on my reading) includes a full page guide to Detroit, with listings like "Best Live Music," "Best Dance Clubs," "Best Bar" and "Favorite Sons."
And who are Detroit's "Favorite Sons," according to the wacky youngsters editing Rolling Stone? None other than Iggy Pop, of course, and the MC5, ICP, Kid Rock, Eminem, Sponge and Ted Nugent. Hmmm, let's see, have we left anybody out?? Nope...that pretty much covers it.
During this same time period, Rolling Stone ran a major feature on Tom Waits. Early in the story, the author listed major stars who have covered Waits' material. To my knowledge, no one's covered Waits more than Seger: Eight years ago (back before the Rolling Stone editors can remember, probably) Seger covered "New Coat of Paint" and "Blind Love." He also recorded "Downtown Train," but let news of the recording session slip to Rod Stewart, who quickly ginned up his own version and scooped Seger. And, of course, "Sixteen Shells From A 30-6" appears on It's a Mystery.
My conclusion: Waits is one of the hottest artists right now and Seger covered him more and earlier than most. So is Seger mentioned along with Springsteen and Petty and others who supposedly helped popularize Waits' music? Nope again.
And now today's extra credit question, cutely titled "Wake Up and Smell the Internet": Given Rolling Stone's non-coverage and my obsessive coverage, where will Capitol send press materials and promo CDs when Seger finally releases his next album -- Rolling Stone or the Seger File? And, to which outlet will they send press passes when he tours?
For the answers, stay tuned.
Rolling Stone isn't alone in earning the Righteous Indignation of the Miffed Award. A RIM Award also goes to Shawn Mullins for his hit single "Lullaby."
At first, I liked "Lullaby" because it mentions Seger in the lyrics. The lullaby of the song is supposedly being sung to someone whose parents "hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper, Bob Seger and Sonny and Cher." Cool, I guess...unless it's meant to be an insult...well, whichever, as long as you spell the name right, huh?
But there's the rub. In the liner notes, it's spelled "bob seeger." Hey...uh, sean and all you folks at columbia rekords: next time, get a clue.
October 25, 1999
"E" as in "Eventually"
True, you want to know how the new album's coming along, and if Seger will tour again, and if he does, whether he'll play the Fargodome. (Answer: No.) Beyond that, you're probably wondering if my treehouse is done, and how my trip to Michigan went.
The answers are: yes, it's practically complete. The treehouse that is. My son, who's six, and I spend hours up there on weekends, deconstructing the Boxcar Children mysteries, puncturing their formulaic plots with spontaneously invented dialogue and laughing so hard the treehouse actually shakes. And that, in case you have to be told, is what makes life worth living. (Hearing your son laugh, not reclining in a shaky treehouse, although that's nice too.) As for the Michigan trip...well, that's a subject of another update.
Why am I telling you this? Because those activities are what I've been doing instead of answering your e-mail. I will answer them, eventually. But I'm slow about it. It doesn't mean I don't appreciate your e-mails, because I appreciate them very much. It just means that family comes first.
June 22, 1999
Below, the cover of Seger's 1972 Smokin' O.P.'s (cover art credited to Thomas Weschler), and, on the right, Matt Getz' 1997 poster for a Bush concert. Holy smokes...wait 'til First Person Frog finds out about this (extremely obscure in-joke...don't even try.) On the other hand, they're both rips of a cigarette pack, so I guess fair's fair.
June 30, 1999
Back in '72
Recently I taped a copy of "Back In '72" for a friend. This is something I'm loathe to do, because every time I play the album, I'm reminded of the wear and tear on this 26-year-old vinyl. I wince at every pop and snap, and when I'm done, the album is quickly returned to its special sleeve, in its special place, where I can grab it quick in case there's a fire. (There's never been a fire, and there probably never will be, but I'm ready.)
On the way to work today, I put the newly made tape in the deck to check the level and found myself drifting back. About seventeen minutes later, I pulled into a parking space by the river as the title track played, and I felt a little choked up. Not because it's a sad song ("oh no, far from it"), but because the song first exerted its power over me during a fairly sad period in my life.
Long story short: It was January in Minneapolis, and the whole city was frozen, and I'd just received a letter from my girlfriend telling me I wouldn't see her again. The only thing that was truly good and energizing and exciting in my life at that particular time was this bright yellow album I'd just bought. I didn't even own a turntable in those days, but I had a friend who did -- an ex-druggie ex-streetperson lesbian who was trying to get her life together and who had just rented her own apartment. She let me use her turntable while she slept in the bedroom with her lover.
I sat there in those strange circumstances, wondering what I was doing in that apartment, and what I was doing in a life that no longer seemed like the life I wanted or expected, and I heard "Back In '72" for the first time. The lines that stuck are the same ones that moved me today: "You know my music died, and it hurt my pride, but somehow I pulled through, back in '72."
"Somehow I pulled through." The idea of pulling through gave me strength in the first month of 1973. Seger's voice conveyed disappointment and, even stronger, determination. It's an old story: it was a lonely time and the record -- which most days I could only look at and not play -- gave me some hope.
Time went by, other things happened, here I am. I continue to think that "Back In '72" is one of Seger's finest albums, a sentiment which, according to various interviews, I understand he doesn't share.
As the creator and originator of the work, I guess he hears the flaws. For those of us on the receiving end, it's different: it's not just music, it's part of our lives. That's why I wince when I hear the snaps and cracks...and why I wish that '72 was out on CD.
So: Punch, Bob, Capitol, Warner Brothers -- whoever makes these decisions -- consider this a plea in 1999 for "Back In '72." If a guy in a bar can influence you to do something for the autoworkers, maybe a guy on the Internet can influence you to do something for thousands of hardcore fans who've been with you all these years. A lot of them have never heard "Neon Sky" or "Midnight Rider" or "Rosalie" or any of the other stellar, standout cuts, and they never will unless the album is reissued. These days, worn copies of the album sell for more than a hundred bucks on eBay, and that's not saving fans any money.
If Bob reads this page (and I'd be surprised if he does -- isn't he supposed to be writing songs and stuff, and playing with his kids, not surfing the web?) I know he'll be guided by his own instincts, not mine. And I admit that I can see the other side: maybe it's enough that the album helped me through a tough time twenty-six winters ago. Maybe the snaps and pops are just a reminder that time goes on. Maybe the past should stay in the past. Okay.
But then, I have the luxury of saying that, because I own the album. Most of the people reading this don't. And they'd like to. For what it's worth, there it is.
February 12, 1999
10,000 Seger Maniacs...times two
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Seger File. In that time, I'm happy to say that more than 10,000 (actually it's closer to 12,000) fans have hit the entry page.
I'm not sure what the future of the Seger File holds, though I'll certainly keep it online through the next album and tour, if indeed that's what the year brings. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has visited and especially to those who have sent e-mail. (I've tried to answer all of them, though it sometimes takes a while.)
February 12, 1999
As I update this page, it's now June 1999 -- Father's Day, to be precise -- and the hit counter is up to 20,000.
June 21, 1999
You've Got (More) Mail
The third installment of Seger letters has been online since February. Check out Seger Stories and Misc. E-Mail. Here are some of the best. Click to the page for more.
- The best thing you could say
- Blue and Julia
- Rockin' with Fidel
- Early days of baseball and Bob
- Follow your heart
- Waving with the lighter
The XRT Files
Speaking of e-mail, I got this message recently from email@example.comHi Scott-
As creator of my favorite site on the web, I thought I would mail you this link in case it was missed...It contains a brief interview with THE MAN from 1987, and then it is topped off with a full length live recording of 'Ramblin...' from 1976. This file is in Real Audio format, and a must for every Seger fan's archives!
I've been so busy with family and work that it took me a week or so to check it out, but when I did, I was blown away. The link takes you to the web site of WXRT in Chicago, which is celebrating 25 years of rock with sound clips from past radio interviews and shows. There's a fun, three-minute interview with Bob, and then "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" from a radio concert.
What amazed me wasn't the song, but the date it was recorded...June 23, 1976, just three days before the Pontiac Silverdome concert. Indeed, this is the somewhat famous "Schaumberg" concert at the Beginnings night club. There used to be bootlegs of this show floating around, and I always wondered where they came from. Now, I know: someone obviously taped the radio concert. According to the 1986 tour book, 50 people attended this show (the crowd noise sounds like more than 50, but it's clearly a fairly small group). Three days later, at the Silverdome, Seger played in front of 76,000.
Thanks, Paul, for the tip.
No News Today, Read All About It
As a writer and former journalist, one of my favorite types of headlines is the one that basically says "News Expected to Happen Soon." You see this all the time whenever there's a big weather story ("Northwest Braces for Storm") or in political coverage ("House Prepares for Impeachment Vote"). The accompanying story makes a big deal over some event that's expected to occur in the near future. Why don't they just come out and say, 'hey, nothing happened today, but something big could go down tomorrow, so save yourself a quarter and buy tomorrow's paper."
Sometimes the event that's supposed to occur never comes to pass, and then the papers manage to get not one, but two empty stories about it. (Day One: "Northwest Braces for Storm." Day Two: "Storm Skips Northwest.")
Writing about Seger can involve a lot of these "News About to Happen" situations. Every December I torment myself with the hope for something new -- this time, I dreamt of a video compilation. But it didn't happen. So it's official: Christmas passed with no new news from Seger.
Remember, you read it here first.
It's Still A Mystery
I'm trying to remember exactly where and when I bought It's A Mystery. It's one of those things I should be able to recall, Seger albums being such big events in my life. The calendar tells me it was October 24, 1995 -- exactly three years ago as I write this. Three years. Which means my son, who is now five, was only two. My dad was still here. The Seger File didn't exist, except as an idea.
Try as I might, I can't place the moment of purchase. But I can definitely remember hearing the first track. I was in my car, driving down Boones Ferry Road in Portland on my way to work, with "Rite of Passage" blaring out of the speakers for the first time...and looking down, I was shocked to discover I was going sixty! The song just blasted me forward.
I've slowed down since then, but the album hasn't. I played it again today (and yesterday, and the day before yesterday) and was just skulled by how powerful the music still is. Some albums fade. This one gets better and better.
What's still a mystery to me is how little aclaim the album got. People went nuts when Dylan came out with a re-invigorated sound on his latest album. Those critics ought to re-examine It's A Mystery. Listen to the bite, power and anger on "Hands in the Air," for example:
- All you death-wish addicts, you corrupters of truth,
- You killers of the spirit, you marauders of youth,
- Get your hands in the air
- If you're selling these lies, these impossible dreams,
- You can keep on washing, but you'll never get clean
- Get your hands in the air
Then, put on "Persecution Smith," (Seger's 1965 single) if you're lucky enough to own it, and listen to the same driving, biting intensity, thirty years earlier. How dare anyone suggest that Seger has lost an once of fire or spark when you hear these two songs back to back.
Listen to the texture of "Golden Boy." The power of "Revisionism Street." The respect and simple beauty of "By the River." Three years have gone by and cut for cut, this remains a great album. All the penquins are still getting well done...even more so, I guess you'd have to say.
Maybe it's all in the timing. I suppose if Seger had released a string of mediocre albums first and then put out Mystery, he would have been hailed as a returning hero. Instead, the album was too often overlooked.
Hey, I'm not trying to sell records here, and I'm not working for Punch...but my recommendation is simple: on this three-year anniversary, go forward into the past a little. Get out It's A Mystery again if you own it, or buy it if you don't and revel in some razor-sharp Seger...or else get your hands in the air.
October 24, 1998
Headbangers Turn Page
The latest band to cover a Seger song is none other than Metallica, who have recently released "Turn the Page." Yep, the heavy metal rockers are on a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha.
The band's double-CD set "Garage Inc." includes "Turn the Page." According to one Metallica fan, instead of "lonely guy on the road," it sounds more like "angry guy on the road."
According to Jason Newsted, Metallica bassist, "In 1989 or '90 we decided we were going to do 'Turn the Page' because of its honest lyrical content. We could really relate to it at that point in our career -- it was a lot of miles, a lot of buses, a lot of road shows...Different bands have contributed to our sound blatantly. But the Bob Seger thing was the first one we chose for this." Brian McCollum, November 24, 1998, Detroit Free Press.
Newstad grew up in Michigan, which naturally meant listening to a lot of Seger.
Metallica also recorded an acoustic version of the song, but scrapped it in favor of a heavier version.The music video for the song includes ex-porn star Ginger Lynn.
Adapting the song wasn't easy, Newsted told the Free Press: "We had trouble figuring out where we stop being soft and start being metal. The song is such a piano-based song; going from the somber mood to in-your-face, we had to figure out where to kick it. So we decided to make it right away. You've got this nice little intro, your mom starts turning it up and then ARRGGH!" Brian McCollum , November 24, 1998, Detroit Free Press.
Brand New E-Mail
The new e-mail page is finally up...letters from Seger fans around the world. All attractively displayed and worth reading. I'm just sorry about two things: that it took so long for me to post them, because some of these letter are just great. And that the page is at the bottom of the table of contents, where some people might not see it. So I'm repeating the links right here.
Brand New E-Mail
(Read 'em all. Or sample a few, by following the links.)Seger, Sinatra, Cobain, etc. My Dad, Bob, the old days, and Charlie Martin I work for General Motors Seger and Mohammad Ali The last thing I hear from Bob Seger... Road trip to Ann Arbor I never spoke to Bob...but he always spoke to me
And there's still more. Brand New E-Mail Part Two is now up, with even more great letters. Take the day off tomorrow, and read the following:Bob at the Roseland Inn Seger interview Backstage with a bad pass Time to put the car in park Starry August nights in Northern Michigan Cool me down Seger is the bridge from Motown... The Seger-starved masses plead for tour news The Kiss File?
Finally, about the often-promised updates to the site. I've vowed to get the page updated this year...because next year we'll get hit from all sides with a new album and tour...or so they say. Which means sometime between now and the end of the year, you'll see a bunch of new stuff.
The Seger File doesn't have a links page, as such, since I figure that's what search engines are for. (My current favorite search engine, by the way, is www.google.com). Besides that, I simply don't want you to leave the Seger File.
Still, there are some other pages worth checking out. Several of the following sites feature artists who have either played with or been influenced by Seger:
First and foremost is Alto Reed's site, featuring his much-praised solo album, Cool Breeze. I bought Reed's CD shortly after it came out, and since then it's been played a lot. You can hear some Real Audio excerpts at Alto's great site.
Blue Miller led Seger's backing band, Julia, in the early '70s and sang back-up on "Lookin' Back." (He was known as Bill Mueller at the time.) His new album is called Blue. Check out the Real Audio at his site, particularly "Every Man."
If you're a Seger fan (and if you're not, what are you doing here?) you'll want to spend some time at Kevin Walsh's site. Kevin's got great graphics and info direct from the band. Check it out.
For chords (and lyrics) to many Bob Seger songs, see check out this page of Bob Seger Chords. I has mostly older songs, (65-78).
Seger on the Rails
One thing I learned from my friend Jesse is this: You can't watch a train from inside your car. You can, of course. But the essence of train is lost. Step outside and the music of the train starts thumping against your chest, and you feel more alive.
I followed Jesse's advice one sunny morning in Minneapolis, near Lake Street, where the Burlington Northern tracks run. I was sitting in my 1961 Valiant eating a blintz when an eastbound came snaking along from the yards behind Cedar Lake...a long slow freight headed toward St. Paul and from there, beyond. It was a Friday in July, and I had taken a day off work, and eating the blintz was my only plan. With nothing particular in mind, I got out of my car, simply so I could hear the train better. While I was standing there, it stopped.
It would have been easy to climb on at that point, though I had no plans to do so. The tracks run through that part of the city in a gully, going east-west. Passing time, I walked to the nearest north-south street, which formed an overpass over the train, and stood there looking down at it. I was still eating the cheese blintz, which is a sort of a pastry, in case you don't know, and which was for me a real treat at the time. This was 1976.
When the train started to move, I thought how easy it would be to jump down from the overpass onto the top of a boxcar, as you might see in a movie. I finished the blintz, so I'd have both hands free.
Instead of a boxcar, I chose an emtpy auto rack. The train was picking up speed, so I had to anticipate a little...jump a second ahead of my target so I didn't miss the rack and fall between cars. And of course, stay down once I landed, so as not to be brained by the overpass.
I was twenty-two at the time. I'm forty-forty now. I don't jump from overpasses anymore, but I did that day, and I remember it being easier than I thought it was going to be. I landed close to prone, with my arms cushioning the fall, as if I were finishing a push-up. Then I simply rolled over and lay there on my back while Minneapolis rolled gracefully by.The sky was a deep blue. I was proud of myself.
I rolled across the Mississipi River on that auto rack. Trains being what they are, it took about four hours to get from the western edge of Minneapolis to the Pig's Eye yard in St. Paul. But I was in no hurry. I dozed. I got a little sunburned. In those days, and nights, I would occasionally walk out on the railroad bridge that crossed the Mississippi, climb up on the short sidewall and stand there with my toes to the edge, the wind at my back -- innocently checking to see if my destiny included being blown off the bridge. It wasn't the normal sort of thing to do, and I don't recommend it to anyone, though it was normal for me at the time. It wasn't brinksmanship or any kind of daredevil-suicide flirtation thing. It just made me feel alive, like listening to good music. Once, I went out there with my girlfriend (who later became my wife) and I was surprised to learn that she didn't appreciate the experience. Wouldn't anyone like the chance to feel the world right there in the wind, in the night? Like the Seger lyric that hadn't been written yet: "I took my young son/ to the river/ I put his hand out/ to feel the rain." I was too young at the time to appreciate the danger, or maybe now I'm just too old. Regardless...I had always hoped to ride across that bridge on a freight, having stood there many a night.
And so, because I happened to get out of my car, I happened to stand on the overpass...and because of that, I happened to jump, and my hope came true.
I'm not saying this will happen to you if you get out of your car next time you see a train. But I am saying there's more life out there than you can see through your windshield.
This, I suppose, is what Seger is trying to convey in the picture below, which is a still shot from the exquisite and rarely seen video made for Like a Rock. Seger didn't just happen to get out of his car as this train rolled by. To the contrary, he sat on the fender all day as a hired train ran back and forth at a railroad museum in Perris, California. (Not Perris, France. Perris, California is southeast of LA and north of Rancho California.)
The photo was sent to me recently by Peter Blachley, who worked in the video division of Capitol at the time, and who is now helping promote a web site featuring the work of Henry Diltz -- the photographer who took the shot. "We had the train, which we hired for the day, go forward, shoot and then back up and do it over again until we were happy," Blachley writes.
The deal is I can include the photo here if I link to Diltz's site, which I am happy to do. He's got a great many excellent rock and roll shots, and a CD-ROM for sale. (There are no other shots of Seger on the site, though. Hey, if they shot all day, you'd think there'd be a few others.)
The photo below was indeed the official publicity shot -- it ran in my hometown paper, the Jackson Citizen Patriot, with a credit reading AP Photo and a caption explaining that Seger's new video required three days of shooting on the Mojave Desert. According to my mom's handwriting on the clipping, the photo ran on July 7, 1986. (Hey world -- can you find a clipping your mom gave you in 1986? I can.)
Anyway, I encourage you to check out the Diltz/Blachley web site. It's at http://www.powernet.net/~peterb. Thanks, Peter, for sending me the photo and giving me a chance to tell my train story. And thanks, mom, for the clipping.
Now then, Punch and Bob...about that exquisite but rarely seen video...what about making it a little less rare...on a collection, say. Any chance?
Copyright 1998, Henry Diltz
Glaring Errors Addendum, courtesy DCJB
Now that you've checked out the photo, see if you can spot the glaring errors in it. I missed 'em, first time 'round. But when it comes to train photos, no one has a sharper eye than my lifelong friend, D.C. Jesse Burkhardt. He's the author of ROLLING DREAMS: Portraits of the Northwest's Railroad Heritage, and you can check out his fine book at http://www.segerfile.com/rollingdreams.html
Jesse took one look at this shot and chuckled. See how the crossbar rests on some kind of cement pedestal? That ain't standard and more importantly, it's not hinged at the pedestal. Which means the hinged side (along with the mechanism that raises the crossbar) would have to be, what, in the middle of the street? Or way on the other side of the street? No deal, says Jesse. El-fako.
But here's the most obvious one. Look at the crossing light. It's not even facing the road. Crossing lights are supposed to warn cars of a crossing, but these lights are pointed at the train, sideways to the road. It's a prop, like everything else, and maybe even got airbrushed in later.
Whatever. It's a highly cool photo regardless. The mood is perfect, even if the details aren't. Besides, any time you put Seger and trains together, you've got a winner in my book.
Seger on the Radio
Long before we became the men we are today, Jesse and I would call the Jackson radio station and ask the lying disk jockies there to play "Rosalie." It would always take them forty or fifty rings just to pick up, and their standard line upon hearing our request was always, "Sure, we'll get that on."
Then Jesse and I would sit in the basement of my parent's house for as long as three to four hours, listening to WIBM, knowing the bastards were probably lying, but thinking what if they weren't. We had plenty to talk about, and the waiting wasn't hard -- I see now that it was a precursor to all the waiting we did in freight yards a few years later, living on railroad time, feeling like two halves of a whole. But we wanted the thrill of hearing Seger on the radio and we were righteously angered by WIBM's stupidity in never playing him. We were 18 -- actually we were 19 -- and solid everywhere.
So how does someone as solid as Jesse deal with the commercialization of Like A Rock? With his feet on the ground, you might say. Click on the photo to see the rest.
Seger in the Raw
No photo here. I'm not talking about that kind of raw. I'm talking about vocal quality.
A good friend recently played me a copy of The Timothy White Sessions, recorded around the time of The Fire Inside. During White's radio show, Seger plays a couple of unrecorded songs, including "A Man Broken." Seger does the song live in the studio -- just his voice and the keyboard. My friend loves the song...and I have to agree, it's powerful, emotional, from the heart. A song that deserves to be heard.
But as I thought about it later, I realized that the power of the song -- or a large part -- comes from the plain, unvarnished honesty of the vocals: just Seger at the keyboard. No strings, no background singers, no nothing. Just Seger.
It was actually Seger's rendition of "Blind Love" that clued me in. A few minutes into the White interview, Seger plays a couple of lines of Blind Love. The album version of this song doesn't do much for me, I admit. But hearing it stripped down was like hearing it for the first time. It was rougher, but there was more feeling -- there was less production between me and the song, and it had a much greater impact as a result. I wish I could hear Bob sing the whole thing, without the strings and the band.
That thought led me to another. During the first half of Seger's career, his live show was better than his recorded music. That's what he was known for. And of course, it was Live Bullet that made him a star. During the second half of his career, we've known Seger mainly through his recordings. His live shows now come once or twice a decade and contain mainly the hits. For songs like "Blind Love," the recorded version is often the only version we'll ever hear (the Timothy White Sessions notwithstanding).
"Which Way" and "The Horizontal Bop" are other good examples. Nice songs on record. Knockouts in concert. It makes me wish for more concerts, sure...but it also makes me long for a different kind of record. One with less production -- something closer to demo tapes than finished recordings. That wouldn't work for all his songs, I know...but for songs like "Blind Love," "A Man Broken," and who knows what else, give me take one with Seger and keyboards, any time. The rawer, the better.
Seger in Billboard Book
Billboard has come out with a new Encyclopedia of Rock. There's a nice four or five paragraph summary of Seger's career, along with a photo that looks like it's from the It's A Mystery tour. There's also a typo. In one of the last sentences, he's referred to as "Segar."
Of course, there are no typos in the Seger File. Anything that looks like a typo is certainly just a glitch in your browser.
Seger and Punch Raise Money for Paralysis Research
On August 8, 1998, Bob Seger and Punch participated in the Heidi Van Arnem 7th Annual Golf Classic in Detroit. The charitable event helped raise more than $75,000 for paralysis research. Pictured below are Seger, Jerry Adams, Heidi Van Arnem and Punch Andrews. (The photo comes from the Detroit News).
Update: Heidi Van Arnem was the founder and CEO of iCan, a Birmingham business and web site for people with disabilities. An accidental rifle shot left Miss Arnem a quadriplegic in 1983. In 1991, she founded a travel agency, handling travel for various celebrities, including the travel arrangements for Seger's 1996 tour. She ran the nonprofit Heidi Van Arnem Foundation, which donated $100,000 a year to paralysis research. Miss Arnem died November 11, 2001 of acute respiratory failure. Edward Cardenas, The Detroit News, November 12, 2001. "Advocate turned tears into inspiration."
November 22, 2001
Meanwhile, in May 1998, Capitol re-issued Beautiful Loser (the album) on CD, for a list price of $6.97. It's got a new catalog number...other than that it's identical, as far as I can tell.
The King, the Chairman and Satchmo...and Bob
The (no longer so) recent death of Frank Sinatra got me thinking about these greats, and about what they do or do not have in common. Actually, I saw a quote attributed to Seger in which he says that Sinatra was the all-time great pop music singer. The quote touched off a mini-debate on the AOL Seger board over whether the King was in fact really the King of pop music, or only a prince.
- Elvis started out as a full-throated, high energy hound-dog rocker, then moderated his act and moved to the mainstream with ballads like "Love Me Tender."
- Louis Armstrong started out single-handedly redefining jazz, then moderated his act and moved to the mainstream with stuff like "Wonderful World" and "Hello Dolly."
- Seger started out as a full-throated, high energy, heavy-music rocker, then moderated his act and moved to the mainstream with stuff like "Against the Wind."
- Sinatra, though, never moderated his act -- because he started out moderate. Musically, he was a pop singer, start to finish.
I think that's why Satchmo, Seger and Elvis have more appeal, for me -- they have their roots in something a little more savage. Sure, if you want mass popularity that you can measure in the millions, you have to tone it down a little. But when you start out breathing fire, somehow it makes the mellow stuff that follows just a little more authentic...for me, anyway. Or maybe I'm just too young to have truly appreciated Sinatra.
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