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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Shooting Star

March 25, 2012

Thirty years ago, music was a still mostly an unexplored world for me. It had been no more than six months since I’d brought an old radio up from the basement.

The quarter century of rock music that had preceeded me was of little consequence, yet. The songs and acts that were most popular – and, thus, most notable to me – were the ones which I heard most on the radio.

In the spring of ’82, radio would have led me to believe that the band Shooting Star was as popular as Journey.

(and Journey had just released Escape six months earlier)

But as I was hearing Journey’s Open Arms climb the countdown on American Top 40 each week that spring, Shooting Star’s Hollywood was nowhere to be found despite me hearing the latter seemingly as often as the former.

Not only would I continue to hear Hollywood on the radio well into that summer, but, over the next several years, each release from Shooting Star would spawn songs that would get significant airplay.

Yet Shooting Star caused little more than a slight ripple outside of the Midwest where I was.

Despite the heavy airplay that Hollywood got from radio stations in our area, the song was one of only three Shooting Star singles to reach Billboard‘s Hot 100, none of them climbing higher than #67.

The band’s five albums from the first half of the ’80s also garnered little attention.

It’s understandable that Shooting Star would have been a fixture on Midwestern radio as the band hailed from Kansas City and their melodic rock was well suited for an album rock landscape dominated by Journey, Foreigner, Billy Squier, and Heart.

Today, Shooting Star – despite still existing in some incarnation – is little more than a footnote, but a footnote that has pockets of rabid devotion on the internet.

(see the breathlessly enthusiastic reviews of the band’s catalog on AllMusic Guide)

In truth, it’s not surprising that Shooting Star was unable to become much more than a regional success. The songs might have sounded good on the radio, but the band’s workman-like rock rarely distinguished itself from their better-known contemporaries.

Yet, Shooting Star is a musical trinket from those formative years and there remains a place in my heart for a band that most listeners likely missed at the time.

Here are four songs from Shooting Star…

Shooting Star – Last Chance
from Shooting Star (1980)

After building a following on the club level, Shooting Star became the first American band to ink a deal with Virgin Records as the label attempted to break a mainstream rock act in the States.

(it wouldn’t be the last time that the band would be the answer to a musical trivia question)

Like fellow Midwesterners Kansas, Shooting Star incorporated violin into their sound and, though they mostly did so without Kansas’ progressive inclinations, the anthemic Last Chance is an epic-length track that builds to a suitably dramatic crescendo.

Shooting Star – Hollywood
from Hang On For Your Life (1982)

Hollywood seemed to be blaring from every beat-up Camaro in my hometown for months on end in 1982. The song breaks 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.

Shooting Star – Summer Sun
from Silent Scream (1985)

Not only did Shooting Star serve as an opening act for their more successful album rock contemporaries including Journey, Jefferson Starship, Kansas, Bryan Adams, and Heart, the band enlisted producer Ron Nevison – who had worked with several of those bands – for 1985’s Silent Scream.

Silent Scream was released at about the same time that Heart’s Nevison-produced self-titled album was providing the Wilson sisters with a major comeback, but Silent Scream proved to be a swan song – albeit temporarily – for Shooting Star.

However, like previous albums, Silent Scream found a home on the rock stations in our area. The driving, seasonally-appropriate Summer Sun was the most popular track and one I can still hear as I recall the efforts of my friends and me to find something to do in our small town that summer.

Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight
from Touch Me Tonight: The Best Of Shooting Star (1989)

I returned from studying in Southeast Asia toward the end of 1989 to find a reunited Shooting Star again blaring from the radio with the polished rocker Touch Me Tonight. Though it was rather generic stuff and hardly the alternative rock to which I had mostly gravitated, there was still something appealing about knowing that the band was still out there.

That perseverance resulted in the highest-charting single of Shooting Star’s career – albeit at a lowly #67 – and Touch Me Tonight‘s parent compilation album became the first record to make Billboard‘s album charts without a vinyl release.


Norman, Daryl, And A Brother Named Daryl

November 20, 2011

Though Kevin Costner has provided me with a wealth of knowledge when it comes to surviving apocalyptic scenarios involving water and lack of mail delivery in Waterworld and The Postman, respectively, he’s offered no cinematic advice for dealing with the undead.

Fortunately, Norman Reedus has become a fine role model to me for how best to navigate a zombie apocalypse through his portrayel of the crossbow-wielding, squirrel-gutting, walker-slaying, Southern redneck anti-hero Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

(and he’s Zen)

Norman Reedus is new to me. His lengthy list of credits contains nothing with which I am familiar, though apparently he’s pretty stellar in the vigilante flick The Boondock Saints.

This unfamiliarity with the actor makes it believable to me that Daryl truly is some mountain hillbilly, plucked from rural Georgia and put in some television show.

(if Daryl was a real person, he would summarily put an end to Chuck Norris, gut him, use his ears as a necklace, and, then, deadpan a line revealing someone quite self-aware)

But Norman Reedus is apparently a real person and, based on his Wikipedia bio, seems like a fairly interesting cat in his own right, having left home at twelve and lived in England, Spain, and Japan.

He also had a kid with Helena Christensen, who broke Chris Isaak to the mainstream with the video for Wicked Game.

If you’re hooking up with supermodels, you must have some kind of mojo.

Of course, the two apparently named their kid Mingus which, if true, is either genuinely cool or pretentitious, hipster silliness.

As for Norman, I don’t recall that name having much cachet during my lifetime, being neither plentiful nor iconic.

(I can’t think of knowing a Norman and – thanks to Three’s Company – the first one that comes to mind is Norman Fell)

I did know a Daryl as a kid, the brother of a good buddy and neighbor.

Daryl was six or seven years older and out of high school when Will and I were still in junior high. I think he worked in construction.

A tall, lanky kid, Daryl had sideburns and shoulder-length hair, and his usual attire would have gained him admittance to any biker bar (there being a few in the area).

He might not have been killing zombies – though he did hunt, on occasion, with a crossbow – but we considered him to be pretty badass.

And when Daryl screamed out of their driveway in his beat-up Camaro on Saturday night, gravel becoming tiny, lethal projectiles, he might well have ended up at some watering hole that would have been frequented by his Walking Dead namesake.

Here are four songs that might have been blaring from the eight-track player in his Camaro…

Nazareth – Hair Of The Dog
from Hair Of The Dog (1975)

One eight-track that I know resided in Daryl’s Camaro was Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog. Every now and the, Daryl would give me and Will a ride somewhere and the language of the album’s ferocious title track made us feel like we were on the highway to hell with a true outlaw.

Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
from Agents of Fortune (1976)

There will be no cowbell joke here. The mighty Blue Öyster Cult deserves more respect than that and, to quote The Smiths (to Paloma’s delight), that joke isn’t funny anymore.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone
from Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd (1973)

Like Blue Öyster Cult, Skynyrd has been reduced to many to one tired joke. And, classic rock radio has so burned me out on the Southern rock band to the point of disinterest.

Then, I hear something like the wistful Tuesday’s Gone and make a mental note that a personal reassesment of Skynyrd might be in order.

Alice Cooper – School’s Out
from School’s Out (1972)

My all-time greatest arch-enemy might have been a third-grade teacher who, on more days than not, I was at odds. She was an Alice Cooper fan, so I’m not sure if that was why I never bothered with the music or rather because during the ’80s – my musically formative years – he wasn’t on top of his game.

But I’ve gained a greater appreciation for Cooper’s catalog in recent years and, even as a third-grader in the late ’70s, had an appreciation for the sentiments of the stomping School’s Out.