Monday, May 5, 2008


Growing up in the 1970s, my friends and I all hated Bob Seger. I mean we really, really hated Bob Seger.

For me and a lot of my middle school hipster friends, he symbolized everything that was generic and boring and hippiefied about "rock". He wasn't heavy like Grand Funk Railroad or Black Sabbath, he certainly wasn't crazy like KISS or Ted Nugent, he wasn't artsy and innovative like Mike Oldfield or Klaatu, and he wasn't deep and lyrical like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits. He wasn't even pop in a good way like the Bay City Rollers or the Raspberries. He was just nothing, taking up valuable space. He was someone that the older kids liked, but even to them he seemed like a second-tier artist, someone you might go to Rupp Arena to see in the cheap seats and not buy a t-shirt.

Years later now, flipping across the radio dial brings me little else but unlistenable modern crap, and I often remark aloud to whoever's in the car with me: "My God, it's come to this. Modern music has gotten so awful that I actually feel comforted when Bob Seger comes on the radio, by comparison." Same goes for a lot of bands that I used to disdain in the 70s but who seem like friendly old acquaintances now - like Aerosmith, Joe Walsh, Jethro Tull, and even the fuckin' Eagles. But there's something about Bob that, in hindsight, makes me want to apologize to him and admit we were wrong about him. His music sounds better today to my ears than it did back in the day.

Though he had his share of sappy ballads, many of Seger's rockin' songs are standard I-IV-V blues changes like "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight", "Katmandu", and of course, "Old Time Rock and Roll". Listening back now, I wonder why these didn't appeal to me.

And then you dig a little deeper and learn that Bob Seger, with his old "Bob Seger System" band, was a honest-to-gosh garage band that recorded an amazing song called "2+2=4" in 1968. Had Seger packed it in early, singles like that and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" would be coveted by hipster scum today, and endlessly bootlegged on comps like Pebbles and Back From The Grave. Just goes to show ya, as Ravena Diesel once said, most people's first record is good.

So here's to you, Bob. Sorry I couldn't dig what you were puttin' down back in '76. I'm drinkin' this Hennepin tonight in your honor, dude. We've got tonight.

- - JSH


J.T. Dockery said...

On tour for the "Ejaculation" album with the Smacks!, in a van with nothing but a radio, I heard a live version of "Katmandu" and at the end Seger belts out, "Kaaattttmannnnduuuuu!" to close the tune. I began doing the same to end one of our songs in the set. It didn't so much get a laugh or any reaction other than a, "that's weird, man," look.

JSH said...

The Crunchies did a cover of "Turn the Page" once at a Voodoo Video show, and Brian had assured me he'd learned the chords to the song, which I'd emailed him.

He had not.

It was better that way though.