Category Archives: Bob Seger

Today’s Top 5: Rock & Roll Never Forgets

Since the news broke last night of his death, there have likely been a million blog posts written about Chuck Berry. Here’s one more:

The above single, which I purchased as a young teen during the late 1970s, was my first Chuck Berry purchase. A few years later, like many other music fans, I picked up The Great Twenty-Eight, a double-LP set that collected his classic songs. The last Chuck Berry purchase was likely in 1987, when I picked up the soundtrack to the Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll film, which spotlighted two all-star concerts celebrating his 60th birthday. In between, and before and since, I’ve enjoyed his music in its original form as well as via covers and borrowed (aka stolen) tunes –

Like every other fan of rock music, in other words.

To describe his importance to the genre is just about impossible. However, he was not – as too many of the obits I’ve seen are headlined, the “father of rock ’n’ roll.” That’s a simplistic, and just plain wrong, summary of rock history. His first single, “Maybellene,” was released in 1955, a year after Elvis Presley’s seminal “That’s Alright, Mama” – and, as Elvis told Jet magazine in 1957, “rock ‘n’ roll was here a long time before I came along.” (This Wikipedia entry does a solid job of showing just how long.) That said, he was instrumental to its success – as its first poet laureate and guitar great. As the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame puts it in their bio of him, “If Elvis Presley cracked open the door for rock & roll, Chuck Berry kicked it wide open—and did his signature duck walk over it for good measure.”

Here he is with, perhaps, his most famous pick-up band: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert in 1996.

And here he is on The Mike Douglas Show in 1972. Following the interview, he performs with John Lennon, who was co-hosting the weekday talk show’s that week.

Here’s Chuck with Keith Richards and an all-star band (via the 1987 Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll movie):

And now, for today’s top 5, Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets:

1) Bob Seger – “Carol” (1971).

2) Emmylou Harris & the Hot Band – “C’est La Vie,” 1977.

3) George Thorogood & the Delaware Destroyers – “No Particular Place to Go,” 1979.

4) Paul McCartney – “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” From Later With Jools Holland in 1999 (with his Run Devil Run band, including Dave Gilmour and Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice).

5) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “You Can Never Tell” (2013).

And, finally, one of the greatest non-Chuck Berry songs to both channel him and explain his influence (“all of Chuck’s children are out there playing his licks”):

Bob Seger – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets”

Today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980

We watched Ordinary People last night. It’s a film we’d both seen before, though not in decades. Diane first saw it in a movie theater not long after its Sept. 19, 1980, release and I first saw it on PRISM, a now-defunct regional premium cable channel that was popular in the Philly area at the time, about a year later. An understated and powerful movie, it won a bevy of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford, in his directorial debut) and Best Supporting Actor (Hutton).

ordinarypeopleFor those unfamiliar with it, the drama delves into the dynamics of a dysfunctional family following the death of eldest son Buck (Scott Doebler), who perished in a sailing accident that youngest son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) survived. As the story opens, Conrad has recently returned from a stay at a psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt; he’s racked with survivor’s guilt. Mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is emotionally distant, more concerned with appearance than addressing his (or her, for that matter) needs. Father Calvin (Donald Sutherland), on the other hand, just wants everyone to get along. As Roger Ebert put it in his review, he’s “one of those men who wants to do and feel the right things, in his own awkward way.” Enter psychiatrist Tyrone Berger (Judd Hirsch) and the down-to-earth Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern), a girl who catches Conrad’s eye. Both, in their ways, help him overcome the guilt – one knowingly, the other not.

In other entertainment events from that September, the Dionne Warwick-hosted Solid Gold syndicated music series debuted on the 13th.

I have no memory of whether I watched it or not; likely not. If I wasn’t out at a movie – at the Hatboro Theater in downtown Hatboro or the Eric Theater in the Village Mall in Horsham – I was likely reading the Sunday newspaper while listening to the oldies on the radio, listening to music in my room and/or watching TV. (How’s that for narrowing it down?) I was 15, a high-school sophomore and serious music fanatic.

Among the album releases for the month: Kate Bush’s Never for Ever; David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps); the Doobie Brothers’ One Step Closer; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz; Barbra Streisand’s Guilty; Utopia’s Deface the Music; Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July; and Molly Hatchet’s Beatin’ the Odds.

And, with that – onward to today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980, in which I cherry pick my favorite hits from the Weekly Top 40 for the week in question…

1) Diana Ross – “Upside Down.” For the third week in a row, Diana held the top spot with this infectious song. It, like the 1980 diana album as a whole, was written and produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, though the end result was not what they intended. Afraid that the original mix was too disco, which was quickly falling out if favor, Diana and engineer Russ Terrana gave the set a sleek, more pop-oriented makeover.

2) Irene Cara – “Fame.” Holding steady at No. 4 is this classic theme song. If you watched the above Solid Gold clip, you know that Irene sang (or lip-synced) it there; it’s such a great song, though, that I can’t help but share it again (And, yes, I know I’ve shared this same clip before – here, to be precise.)

3) Paul Simon – “Late in the Evening.” Clocking in at No. 7 is this classic from Paul Simon, which is one of my favorite songs by him.

4) Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra – “Xanadu.” Just bubbling under the Top 10, at No. 12, is this, the title song to the movie musical, which was released the previous month. I saw the film at the aforementioned Eric Theater and, like most who did, didn’t find it a five-star affair. (An understatement, that.). The soundtrack, however, was darn good; I played it to death.

5) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “You’ll Accompany Me.” Here’s a classic song from Michigan’s rock ’n’ roll laureate. Against the Wind, the album that it’s from, was my Album of the Year for 1980; I still think it’s great.

And, for today, a few bonuses…

6) Christopher Cross – “Sailing.” Falling from No. 5 to 15 is this Grammy Award-winning song from Christopher Cross. I imagine that this song, from Cross’ debut, would be lumped into what’s now known as “yacht rock.” Whatever. At the time, I found it a pleasant diversion that I didn’t need to own – it was played fairly often on the radio, after all. Nowadays? I often play Rumer’s version from her 2014 B-Sides & Rarities collection.

7) Olivia Newton-John – “Magic.” This classic ONJ number held the top spot for four weeks in August before beginning its downward drift. This week, it fell from No. 13 to 27. Here she is on The Midnight Special promoting it…

8) Jackson Browne – “That Girl Could Sing.” Debuting on the charts this week, at No. 82, is this classic song from Hold Out, Browne’s only album to reach No. 1.

Today’s Top 5: It Was 40 Years Ago Today…

Oct. 22, 1976: Election fever swept the nation on this, the date of the third and final debate between President Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia. It was a tight race in which both candidates showed grace and temerity, and respect for one another despite the (expected) attacks upon each other’s positions. Both were good men.

The first debate, in September, was accented by a technical glitch that caused the sound to be lost for 27 minutes.

The second debate was marked by a major blunder by Ford, who claimed that Eastern Europe was not under the domination of the Soviet Union.

The bemused reaction of panelist Max Frankel, a reporter for the New York Times, says it all. That may not have been what Ford meant to say, mind you, but words – then, now and forever – matter. At the third debate, Carter faced the fire for an ill-advised interview he gave Playboy magazine. In the Q&A, he said, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Fairly tame stuff, perhaps, but…words matter.

Ford, it should be noted, held and still holds the distinction of being the lone American president to never be elected to a national office. (Three years prior, President Nixon’s chosen numbskull of a v.p., Spiro Agnew, was swept up in a bribery scandal that dated to his days as Maryland’s governor; he resigned, and Ford ascended from the House of Representatives to the vice president’s office with overwhelming votes in the Senate and House.) For his part, Carter also holds two unique distinctions: He’s the only U.S. president to have once lived in subsidized housing; and he’s also the only president to have been inside a post-meltdown nuclear plant, which he was in 1952.

On a broader scale: America, which celebrated its bicentennial on July 4th, was doing okay – not great, but not bad. Unemployment for the year clocked in at 7.7 percent, down a few ticks from 1975; and inflation for the month averaged 5.5 percent – less than half of what it was in October 1974.

The year began with a true moment of greatness: the Philadelphia Flyers squashed the Soviet Red Army hockey team in a 4-1 win that also saw the crybaby Russians leave the ice for a spell.

Other quick-hit highlights: the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X; the Viking 1 probe landed on Mars; Son of Sam began his killing spree in New York City; the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their first football games; and the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series. Popular TV shows included Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, M*A*S*H, Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man and One Day at a Time.

Films released that year include quite a few classics (or what I consider to be classics, at any rate): Rocky, Carrie, All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver, Network and The Bad News Bears. (Rocky and Carrie had yet to be released by the time of the debate, however.)

And for music? Well, I was 11 years old this autumn; music was not an all-consuming passion, though I enjoyed it. (See here for a timeline of that.) That said, in 1976, there were three strains of music: AM, FM and disco. AM was pop; FM was rock; and disco sucked. (Bad joke. And, yes, I’m leaning on stereotypes with the AM-FM breakdown.) No, the era of leisure suits was hitting on all cylinders by about this time – the No. 1 song of the week was…well, look below. That said, October 22nd marks the release of one of the truly classic albums of all time – Night Moves by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.

And, yes, that’s a hint of what’s to come with today’s Top 5.

segernightmoves1) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Night Moves.” Night Moves, the album, was initially rejected by Seger’s record label: that’s a factoid that, if I knew, I’d forgotten until Seger’s Facebook page posted this: “Capitol rejects the album. Bob and Punch decide to bring Night Moves back to Capitol’s radio team to rally support. Steve Meyer secretly taped the music as it was being played and took it to Paul Drew, who programmed all the RKO Top 40 radio stations in the country. If Paul liked one of your songs, it was guaranteed to become a hit. Two minutes in to listening to the title track, Paul declared the song as a ‘smash.’” How the LP could initially be rejected… one can only wonder how deaf the executives were.

Anyway, sad to say, but Night Moves – along with most of Bob’s albums – seems slated to be forgotten due to its absence from the streaming services, iTunes and Amazon’s download store. I can think of few greater sins. Sure, Ultimate Hits – which is readily available – includes a few of its classic songs – but no context.

2) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Mainstreet.” There’s a nostalgic pull on many of the songs on Night Moves. This one, for instance. It takes me back to a specific night in my college career, when the professor for my non-fiction writing class took us out for a field trip that ended at a watering hole called the Hotel Do De in Bellefonte, Pa., a neighboring town of State College. We walked in to hear a bar band called the Insiders cranking out a solid version of this song. (I’m not sure why it’s stuck with me, but it has.)

3) Heart – “Magic Man.” Another act that was making headway that fall: Heart. Ann and Nancy Wilson and band released Dreamboat Annie in Canada in August 1975 and the U.S. in February 1976. It took time to get off the ground, however, due to the city-by-city marketing plan of the record label. “Crazy on You,” the first single, cracked the charts in the spring and received a lot of FM airplay; and “Magic Man,” the second single, cemented their success. The week of October 16th, it was No. 14 and soon to peak at No. 9 (according to Weekly Top 40).

4) Al Stewart – “Year of the Cat.” Billboard, in its October 23rd edition, calls the Year of the Cat album “mellow,” “well arranged” and “progressive without being pretentious.” The title track is a classic, especially in my feline-centric household –

5) Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots – “Disco Duck (Part 1).” Whenever I hear someone my age or older lament the sad state of modern music, I think of songs such as this, which was a super-huge popular hit that topped the pop charts on the week of October 16th, 1976. No generation can stake the moral high ground when it comes to anything; we all have our highs, our lows and our in-betweens. And make no mistake: “Disco Duck” was a low. A real low.