Reconsidering Bob (But I’m Still Not Buying A #@&%! Ford Truck)

January 9, 2013

(reconstituted and reheated from January 2009)

I’ve never really been one of those music fans who take offense to artists who license their songs for use in commercials. I wouldn’t consider myself such a purist, believing Melt With You helping to entice me to want a burger devalues the song.

I’ve also been blessed with a superhuman ability to, for the most part, tune out commercials.

(working in record stores during one’s formative years will nurture skills in selective listening).

And, recently, I’ve been strangely, unexpectedly compelled to snag half a dozen albums by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. They were in excellent condition and none was more than a dollar – not even the double, live album Nine Tonight.

Purchasing them was surprising (or maybe not) as I’ve never owned anything by Seger in my life on any format despite growing up in the Midwest where he was staple. I knew his hits and even some album tracks from radio and the bowling alley jukebox.

(you know, I wonder if in some parallel universe I was a better bowler and ended up The Dude)

So, I was familiar with a chunk of Seger’s work. My best friend in junior high played his older brother’s eight tracks of the stuff relentlessly. There were songs of Seger’s which I thought were good, but I kind of shelved him with Johnny Hoosier as likable and workman-like but not having the spiritual, transcendent kick of Springsteen.

As I’ve listened to my trove of Seger the past few weeks, I’ve been surprised to realize how much of it I do like. I’m still not elevating him to Springsteen status, but he does now occupy a zone for me as slightly more than erstwhile heartland rocker.

And I was puzzled as to why I’d been rather ambivalent toward him.

Then, I remembered that damned truck commercial with Like A Rock playing and the incalculable number of times I must have been subjected to it, particularly during football season. I had to wonder if, somehow, subconsciously, the use of that song had caused me to dismiss Seger’s entire catalog.

I still have no issue with an artist making some coin through licensing their songs but maybe such a move is a bit more insidious that I’ve believed.

Here are four songs by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, all of which I heard on the radio plenty in the early ’80s when I was first discovering music…

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake
from Against The Wind (1980)

Fire Lake was Bob Seger & The Bullet Band’s current hit during the spring of 1980 when I was first becoming interested enough in music to turn on the radio. It was one of half a dozen songs from Against The Wind that I’d hear on one station or another over the next year.

And, as we were in the Midwest, there were another half dozen Seger hits from the ’70s that were radio staples – a decade or more before true classic rock stations – that you would hear more days than not.

But the one song from the band that I’ve never tired of is Fire Lake. I was in junior high when the song was a Top Ten hit and the whole “bronze beauties/lying in the sun” slant brought to life some kind of Midwestern Valhalla for bikers in my head.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – You’ll Accomp’ny Me
from Against The Wind (1980)

One of the most popular places for kids to hang out in our small town was the bowling alley. On weekend afternoons during the winter, the place was packed.

My buddy and neighbor Will was quite smitten with Kim that winter and every time I’d hear You’ll Accomp’ny Me coming from the jukebox, I was fairly certain his quarter was the one that had conjured it.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance (1983)

Even though our town was fewer than four-thousand people, we did have a radio station. By the time Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band released The Distance, the station had flipped from soft rock and light Top 40 to country.

I would hear the rootsy Shame On The Moon, written by Rodney Crowell, during breakfast on the kitchen radio which would be tuned to the local station. And I wanted nothing to do with country music at the time.

So, by association, I wanted nothing to do with the wistful Shame On The Moon when it came on the rock stations I favored at the time. Over the years, though, I’ve grown to appreciate the song’s loping melody and introspective lyric.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Understanding
from Teachers soundtrack (1984)

Understanding wasn’t from a new Seger album when it was a hit in late 1984. Instead, the song appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Teachers. My friends and I caught the flick while skipping school one day.

Ironically, the movie was about the poor state of the American educational system. Of course, the fictional school in Teachers did hire Nick Nolte as a teacher and enroll Ralph Macchio and Crispin Glover as students, so what did they expect?

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Reconsidering Bob (But I’m Still Not Buying A #@&%! Ford Truck)

January 11, 2009

I’ve never really been one of those music fans who take offense to artists who license their songs for use in commercials. I wouldn’t consider myself such a purist, believing Melt With You helping to entice me to want a burger devalues the song.

I’ve also been blessed with a superhuman ability to, for the most part, tune out commercials (working in record stores during one’s formative years will nurture skills in selective listening).

And, recently, I’ve been strangely, unexpectedly compelled to snag half a dozen albums by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. They were in excellent condition and none was more than a dollar – not even the double, live album Nine Tonight.

Purchasing them was surprising (or maybe not) as I’ve never owned anything by Seger in my life on any format despite growing up in the Midwest where he was staple. I knew his hits and even some album tracks from radio and the bowling alley jukebox.

(you know, I wonder if in some parallel universe I was a better bowler and ended up The Dude)

So, I was familiar with a chunk of Seger’s work. My best friend in junior high played his older brother’s eight tracks of the stuff relentlessly. There were songs of Seger’s which I thought were good, but I kind of shelved him with Johnny Hoosier as likable and workman-like but not having the spiritual, transcendent kick of Springsteen.

As I’ve listened to my trove of Seger the past few weeks, I’ve been surprised to realize how much of it I do like. I’m still not elevating him to Springsteen status, but he does now occupy a zone for me as slightly more than erstwhile heartland rocker. And I was puzzled as to why I’d been rather ambivalent toward him (familiarity breeding…disinterest?).

Then, I remembered that damned truck commercial with Like A Rock playing and the incalculable number of times I must have been subjected to it, particularly during football season. And I had to wonder if, somehow, subconsciously, the use of that song had caused me to dismiss Seger’s entire catalog.

I still have no issue with an artist making some coin through licensing their songs but maybe such a move is a bit more insidious that I’ve believed.

So, here’s some Bob Seger. I imagine that some longtime fans might howl that I’m bypassing, for now, his ‘70s albums, but I’m working my way back and I’m more familiar with his early ‘80s output.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Understanding
Understanding was never on a Seger studio album (though I’m sure it’s ended up on a compilation). Instead, the song appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Teachers. My friends and I caught the flick while skipping school one day.

Ironically, the movie was about the poor state of the American educational system. Of course, the fictional school in Teachers did hire Nick Nolte as a teacher and enroll Ralph Macchio and Crispin Glover as students, so what did they expect?

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Roll Me Away
The lure of the open road is a recurring theme in much of Seger’s music and Roll Me Away is a wonderful example.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – No Man’s Land
Wistful and resigned, there are not a lot of happy endings in Bob Seger songs. Rather, there are a lot of people who seem to have made peace with their lot in life no matter how bruised, battered, or maligned they might be, and No Man’s Land would be one of my more favorite album tracks of Seger’s.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Her Strut
Not everything is somber in the world of Bob Seger. If he’s not reflecting on the past with a bit of regret, he’s locked into the present with songs that possess barroom swagger as on Her Strut. Like No Man’s Land, Her Strut was on 1980’s Against The Wind and I must have heard every track from that album on the radio growing up.


Things Weren’t Exactly Where I’d Left Them

December 3, 2008

As the love of my life and my partner in crime, Paloma had the opportunity this Thanksgiving to spend twelve hours in the car, trekking between my hometown and our current home. She was a trooper, gracious no matter what the circumstances and/or chaos which accompanied time with family in a foreign land.

The foreign land in this case being a small town in Indiana and, yes, growing up there in the ‘80s was indeed like being in a John Cougar song. He’ll always be John Cougar to me – actually, he’ll always be Johnny Hoosier, the moniker which my buddy Bosco affixed to our budding local hero as he reached critical commercial mass in 1982 with the album American Fool.

I’ve rarely returned since leaving college nearly twenty years ago and this was my first venture home in almost a decade. Unfortunately, the first thing which greeted me in our hotel room was news of the terrorist strikes in India.* (in accordance with some impulse which most guys I know possess, upon entering said hotel room, I dropped our bags, flopped onto the bed, and did a compulsory channel surf)

For most Americans, terrorism hadn’t been invented the last time I had been to my hometown. Growing up, we had engaged in relatively minor acts of mischievous vandalism – OK, there was a fire or two (oddly enough, I seem to recall Bosco being involved in one) – but it was all rather harmless.

Current events aside, most things in my hometown were where I had left them. A few businesses had vanished and a few which hadn’t existed had replaced those now gone. The bowling alley, which along with the movie theater and high school basketball games was the hub for night life, remained, but is now painted a retina-damaging shade of yellow.

And, in a town of only a few thousand, everyone knows everyone, but, although certain faces looked familiar, names were irretrievable. Even more conspicuous in their absence were people who had always been there – cantankerous Mrs. G, whose husband owned the theater was not perched sternly in the ticket booth; Duck was not in the bowling alley, his alcohol intake increasing the degree of difficulty each ensuing frame; and Reuben, the portly town eccentric wasn’t wandering around barefoot outside his house (even with snow on the ground) by the grade school.

Times change, eh?

And though my hometown is no longer home, existing only as a gauzy concept now, it was an important stop along the way.

So, here are a handful of songs you would have undoubtedly heard blaring from a Camaro during those years…

Shooting Star – Hollywood
If you aren’t from the Midwest, you probably aren’t familiar with Shooting Star, but in our part of the world, Shooting Star were HUGE. They has a violinist in the band and it seems a lot of folks viewed them as a poor man’s Kansas, I always felt they were more a poor man’s Journey (circa Escape).

Hollywood was all over our rock stations during 1982. The song breaks absolutely no new ground with its tale of farm-fresh Midwestern girl having her dreams get shattered and getting sucked into the seedy underbelly of the dirty city. But, it is an engaging four minutes of straight-ahead rock with a sentimental pull.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake
Seger will forever linked to my childhood friend Willie, who, if there was a jukebox, would inevitably play something by the band (often Fire Lake). The song certainly makes my list of favorite Seger songs. I’ve always taken Fire Lake to be describing some kind of Valhalla for rural Midwesterners, but I find the line about line about Uncle Joe puzzling. Why the hell was he afraid to cut a cake?

Billy Squier – In The Dark
It is not overstating things to say that Billy Squier was in the pantheon of rock gods in our town. Hearing this song still immediately makes me believe it is Friday night and, more than twenty-five years later, that reaction is unshakable.

Loverboy – The Kid Is Hot Tonite
I think that 96Rock used played about every track from Loverboy’s debut. Seriously. Bands from the Great White North – Rush, Triumph, Red Rider, Prism – were staples on our rock stations. Sometimes I wonder if there was some little doppelganger town in Canada where we had returned the favor.

*And, this morning, in a small world moment, the local news interrupted my coffee to note that one of the Americans injured in Mumbai was a girl whom I know and one whose sister Paloma and I both worked with at the record store where we met.