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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Miles Of Aisles Of Melissa Manchester

March 24, 2009

During the nine months or so that Paloma and I’ve been buying vinyl, I’ve noticed certain things. There will always be some album which I’ve never seen and am thrilled to have found.

The next store I visit, I come across another copy of the new-found treasure (like the Korgis’ Dumb Waiters).

Then, there are the certain artists who I feel pressured to buy. There are so many of their albums in the bins of used record stores, I wonder if anyone held on to a copy (or maybe the previous owner upgraded to CD).

Melissa Manchester is one whom I’ve noticed. I could walk into any of the half dozen or so places where we shop for used vinyl and probably find a copy of damned near every album in her catalog, none costing more than a dollar.

It’s been tempting to make the investment.

I don’t really know a lot of her songs, but the ones I do know are pleasant enough. Of course, the only songs of hers that immediately come to mind are Midnight Blue and You Should Hear How She Talks About You.

(I’ve always thought that Carly Simon would have given the former some cojones)

And speaking of Carly Simon, she too is an act that, like Ms. Manchester, seems to be well represented in used record stores and most of the music she has released could be acquired for less than a pizza from Domino’s.

In Carly’s case, I have a copy of her box set from a decade or so ago – a freebie from her label – which I’ve never explored much beyond the radio hits.

Deep Purple, Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins…they’re all there, too.

Most of these artists aren’t ones in which I’ve ever had much interest, at least beyond owning a stray track or two.

Yet I live in fear of them, knowing that one day I may return home from a vinyl-buying venture and, having been unable to resist the inexpensive siren song of some siren’s songs, find myself explaining to Paloma why we now own a dozen albums by Helen Reddy.

Here are a few tracks that I do own by some of the acts I’ve noticed with extensive catalogs readily available in used record stores…

Chuck Mangione – Give It All You Got
It is impossible for me to think of Chuck Mangione and not imagine Mick Jagger cranking the music of the flugelhorn player on trans-Atlantic flights with supermodels on a private jet in the late ‘70s.

His music makes me think of shag carpet and the 1980 Winter Olympics for which this song served as the theme (and after two weeks of hearing it on the television broadcasts, I was hearing it in my sleep).

Steve Miller Band – Swingtown
Actually, Steve Miller has already made his way into our vinyl collection (I think we’ve got the greatest hits record and possibly Book Of Dreams).

Even before I was really into music, I knew a lot of Steve Miller songs from his hits in the mid- to late- ‘70s. Fly Like An Eagle, Jet Airliner, and Take The Money And Run were always playing over the public pool’s sound system.

Personally, I much preferred Swingtown which was a staple on the jukebox in the bowling alley where my friends and I killed time before we could drive (and sometimes after).

Gino Vannelli – Wild Horses
I’m well acquainted with Gino’s big hits, I Just Wanna Stop and Living Inside Myself, as they were played often on the local light rock station. My mom was fond of the station and I was indifferent at the time. Once I became interested in music, I wrested control of the car stereo from her in a bloodless coup.

But Wild Horses I quite liked when I heard it on that same light rock station while home from college one spring. Several years later, I’d learn more about Gino than I’d ever imagined I would. Our record store’s receiving clerk (who greatly resembled Mario from the Donkey Kong video game) was a devoted fan of the bare-chested Canadian.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You
Southern rock has never been a genre of which I’ve been very fond (although I’ve become less resistant the older I’ve gotten). The handful of radio hits I know by Atlanta Rhythm Section are hardly what I’d describe as Southern rock (perhaps the non-hit stuff was more in that vein).

But those hit songs – Alien, Imaginary Lover, Spooky, a couple more – are all wistful and engaging. They sound like a cloudy, autumn day.


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.