The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated January 2001 Edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com


Ramblin' Gamblin' Man

April 1969. The Bob Seger System.

Bob Seger (vocals, guitar, piano, organ), Don Honaker (bass, vocals) and Pep Perrine (drums, vocals). Also with Mike Erelewine (blues harp on "Down Home") and Bob Schultz (organ on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man").

Data

Reached #62 on the Billboard album chart. The title track reached #17 on the singles chart and was a staple of Seger's live act for 15 years, before dropping off the playlist.


Standout tracks

Hard to list, because there are so many. Almost thirty years after they were recorded, the raw intensity of these tracks persists; they haven't lost a bit of power for me. In addition to the title track, standout cuts include:

"2+2=?" -- The album version has the dead stop near the end -- the 45 version has a guitar chord added, not because the song needs it, but because radio stations fear dead air. (Although it's not quite dead. Put the headphones on and you can hear someone -- Honaker? -- come in just a fraction early.)

"Tales of Lucy Blue" -- Lucy Blue and Chicago Green both get another mention two albums later in "Lucifer."

"Ivory" -- The lyrics include the line, "You were born with a face that would let you get your way," later used in slightly different form in "Hollywood Nights"


"Down Home" is a killer cut (with a false ending), and the softer "Train Man" is also classic.

I was roaming around one of my favorite web sites, www.allmusic.com, not long ago, when I noticed that the president of the All Music Guide was listed as Michael Erelewine -- the same name credited for the killer blues harp on "Down Home." I sent off an email to see if he was indeed the same person, and got the following reply:

"Yup. That was me playing on the track. The hard part was that Seger insisted in playing in a weird key (weird for harmonicas, that is), so that I had to use a harp with about two sounds available. It was tough.

Checked out your file. Cool!

Michael Erlewine"

I'm always impressed when people answer my emails (which is why I try to answer all the Seger email I get). And I've found www.allmusic.com to be a great resource. Check it out.


Listening to "The Last Song (Love Needs to Be Loved)" makes me wonder if Seger was inspired by Arthur Lee and Love...the way the melody bends around, you can almost imagine Lee singing it. Whatever, the track contends with the much later "Blue Monday" for one (actually two) of the most jarringly inept edits -- listen at the end where the chorus is scissored in and then back out.

For the first single off the album, Punch and Seger insisted on the antiwar rocker, "2+2=?" Says Punch: "Capitol was real conservative back then. They got real bent out of shape about my even suggesting that people should be questioning the war. I was literally thrown out of the office, and the record did a quick dive." Timothy White, May 1, 1980, Rolling Stone. "The Fire This Time."

The oddity on the album is "Doctor Fine," a 1:05 instrumental -- the only instrumental on any Bob Seger album. The reason it's there is obvious. It's right after "2+2=?" -- a song so powerful that nothing can really follow it, hence the throw-away before getting into "The Last Song."

The CD version says "All songs written by Bob Seger," though the original album credits "Gone" to Dan Honaker.


Track List

1. Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
2. Tales Of Lucy Blue
3. Ivory
4. Gone
5. Down Home
6. Train Man
7. White Wall
8. Black Eyed Girl
9. 2 + 2 = ?
10. Doctor Fine
11. The Last Song (Love Needs To Be Loved)


Packaging

The cover is one of the oddest of all Seger albums. The photo collage on shows a surreal halo-ed blonde in long blue robes standing statuesquely on the edge of an ice floe, hands defensively covering her breasts and pubic area; she, presumably, is Chicago Green, "the ice cube queen...famous for her childlike mind" referred to in "Down Home." The back features a line drawing of a white-bearded, formally-dressed elderly man, done in a style reminiscent of "Yellow Submarine." His hair sprouts into psychedelic flowers, hidden in which are two hippy lovers engaged in a passionate kiss. The hippie woman is drawn from the waist up; the man's hand is on her naked breast. I like to think of her as the forerunner of the scantily clad bullet-hugging logo girls of the Live Bullet era.

On the back of the album is the illuminating message: "The title of this album up until three days ago was 'Tales of Lucy Blue.' At that time I realized that Lucy Blue is Ramblin' Gamblin' Man. Thank you Doctor Fine! -- Bob Seger."

 

Standout lyrics

Chose any song. There are unforgettable lyrics throughout. The production values on Ramblin' Gamblin' Man are definitely out of date, and the music itself might be called dated, but scattered throughout are standout lyrics as strong now as when they were written. Just a sampling from "Tales of Lucy Blue."

"There's a smile filling her face for a little while,

Closin' door, leaving the heart open and wounded more...

Gone away, lonely day, turning gray with no clue,

Faking, making tales of Lucy Blue."

Or on "Ivory" --

"I'm gonna touch your soul, I might even touch your mind..."

Down Home, peopled with characters like Already Eddie, Chicago Green and Little Willy, presages Springsteen's use of colorful monikers like Crazy Janey and the Mission Man.


My Take

This was once a rare album and a real find for Seger fans, back in the early 1970s, before Capitol reissued it. I remember the ceremony with which Jesse unveiled his used copy one evening in 1973, the same night I heard Seger play Chances Are in Ann Arbor...not from inside the sold-out Chances Are but from the alley behind it, the music all muted and rumbling, because Jesse sold my ticket, (a sin that no one but Jesse could ever be forgiven for), all because I got there late, all because of a woman...ah, anyway, at the time Ramblin' Gamblin' Man was a treasure. I think Jesse got his used copy from his girlfriend's brother.


Years later, the song that says "hope you got some money, 'cause we're gonna need some" was immortalized...uh, wait, sorry, make that trivialized...at the Hard Rock Hotel.


 

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