Category Archives: Bob Seger

The Essentials: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s Against the Wind

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

It seems like yesterday, but it was long ago: As 1980 dawned, I was 14 and finishing my final year at Keith Valley Middle School, which housed the 8th and 9th grades in the suburban Philadelphia school district of Hatboro-Horsham. By year’s end, I was 15 and a newly minted sophomore at the Hatboro-Horsham Senior High School.

Highlights of the year are many: The Far Side comic strip debuted; the Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl; the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team beat the Soviets to win the Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY; The Empire Strikes Back flickered onto movie screens for the first time; Pac-Man first ate a ghost; CNN launched; the Robert Redford-directed Ordinary Peoplestill a powerful film – premiered; and the Philadelphia Phillies bested the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.

But for all that good, there was plenty of bad: Paul McCartney was busted in Japan for trying to smuggle in marijuana for personal use; the Iranian Hostage Crisis dragged on throughout the year; unemployment averaged 7.1 percent while inflation soared to 13.5 percent; the Philadelphia Flyers lost to the New York Islanders (and linesman Leon Stickle) in the Stanley Cup finals; and, in December, John Lennon was assassinated.

On the political front, Jimmy Carter’s mastery of politics proved to be nil. Don’t me wrong: He’s a good man, and a great former president, but he was the wrong leader for the times. In fact, after near four years in office, the only thing he could inspire people to do was vote against him. First, he faced a formidable challenge in the year’s Democratic president primaries from Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy; and then, in the fall, he lost in a landslide to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

There were also, I should mention, a slew of good-to-great albums released. Rather than replicate Wikipedia’s list, I’ll highlight ones that I added to my collection at the time: the Pretenders’ self-titled debut; Linda Ronstadt’s Mad Love; Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s Against the Wind; Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass; Eric Clapton’s Just One Night; Paul McCartney’s McCartney II; the Kinks’ One for the Road; Pat Benatar’s Crimes of Passion; Al Stewart’s 24 Carrots; the Xanadu soundtrack; and Rockpile’s Seconds of Pleasure.

That wasn’t every new release I picked up that year, mind you, but – memory being what it is – they’re the ones that, off the top of my head, I remember dropping onto my turntable or, in the case of the Pretenders’ debut, slipping into my Realistic all-in-one stereo’s little-used cassette deck.

A few of those releases got tons of repeat plays in my household – Mad Love, Against the Wind, McCartney II, One for the Road, Crimes of Passion and Xanadu, especially. And at year’s end, as was my custom, I selected my Album of the Year from those six candidates – Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s Against the Wind came out on top.

Even now, I’d make the same call. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s The River, Van Morrison’s Common One, Neil Young’s Hawks & Doves, the Jam’s Sound Affects, and a few other LPs would be in the running, but – when all is said and done – Against the Wind is it for me.

It’s why I have a framed lithograph of the album cover on the wall above my desk.

The 10 songs yearn and burn, ruminate and illuminate, and ride an interstate jammed with regret and hope. The songs rock (“Horizontal Bop”), roll (“Long Twin Silver Line”), cogitate (“No Man’s Land”) and contemplate (“Against the Wind”). And, like a fine wine, they’ve only gotten better with age.

One highlight is the mid-tempo “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”:

Another: the title cut.

And “No Man’s Land” –

To my ears, it’s one of Seger’s greatest (if lesser-known) songs. As I hear it, and I could be wrong, it’s a metaphor about the struggles faced by writers of every stripe – the difficulty of creating something from nothing. It also contains one of my favorite lyrics:  “But sanctuary never comes/without some kind of risk/illusions without freedom/never quite add up to bliss.” They sound more profound than they likely are, I think, but it’s no matter. They make me think, as do the lines that follow:

The haunting and the haunted
Play a game no one can win
The spirits come at midnight
And by dawn they’re gone again.

Who hasn’t had a great idea late at night only to have it fade come the morning light?

Lyrically speaking, the only song that probably hasn’t aged well is “Her Strut,” which was inspired by Jane Fonda. But the guitars are killer. (And, for what it’s worth, Jane likes the song.)

The album’s closer, “Shinin’ Brightly,” is probably the greatest song Van Morrison never wrote:

As a whole, the album proved a success: It became Bob’s first – and only – No. 1 LP, eventually selling more than 5 million copies. It’s also the home to three songs that made the Top 20 (“Fire Lake,” which reached No. 6; “Against the Wind,” which cracked the Top 5; and “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” which reached No. 14.)

And, as with his other Silver Bullet Band albums, the band itself only plays on some songs; the others, which I’ve asterisked below, feature the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

Side One:

  1. The Horizontal Bop
  2. You’ll Accomp’ny Me
  3. Her Strut
  4. No Man’s Land**
  5. Long Twin Silver Line**

Side Two:

  1. Against the Wind
  2. Good for Me**
  3. Betty Lou’s Getting Out Tonight
  4. Fire Lake**
  5. Shinin’ Brightly**

Today’s Top 5: My Back Pages

I worked from home last Thursday, as I sometimes do. If there’s a chance of snow, or it has snowed, or (as in this case) if Diane and I have a show to go to that night, or if the weatherman is predicting heavy rain, the odds are good that my morning commute will consist of me fighting the traffic from the Keurig machine in our kitchen to here, our second-floor study. Most days, my work consists of banging away on a computer keyboard; the need to be in office is often nil (though it’s always better to be seen than not). This day, however, I also had a meeting so – at the appropriate time – I clicked a Skype link to join in.

The reason I mention it: Those who Skype into my company’s meetings are greeted with our head shots from our company ID cards; they’re visible to everyone in attendance, both in the conference room and online. In my case, it’s a photo that was taken in the mid-2000s; as now, I have long blondish-brown hair and a mustache and beard. Unlike these days, however, there’s nary a white or gray whisker on my upper lip, cheeks and chin.

That’s a long-winded way to say that I was reminded, yet again, that my internal clock is tick-tick-ticking closer to midnight.

There’s a well-documented disconnect between how people perceive time and the reality that is the static measurement based on the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. A month lasts forever when we’re young, for instance, but seemingly blurs by at ever-increasing speeds the older we become. And when looking back, the flawed internal workings of recall come into play. Often, the time between now and then doesn’t seem quite as long as it is. It was just yesterday, right? Other times, even with more recent memories, it might seem like a lifetime ago.

As regular readers know, I sometimes dig through my old desk diaries, excavate old rock magazines, and drill into my brain’s medial temporal lobe (where most memories are stored) for my musings. I’m accustomed to dealing with the figurative distance between the present and past, and in peeling away the nostalgic layers of memory to present life as it was – well, as much as I can in a few hundred words.

But seeing a picture of myself pretty much as I still look, just minus wide swaths of white and gray in my beard? That’s a proverbial slap in the face from the original time lord, Chronos.

And, on that cheerful note, here’s today’s Top 5: My Back Pages.

1) Bob Dylan – “My Back Pages.” From Bob-fest, with Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and George Harrison, but originally found on Dylan’s 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

2) Dusty Springfield – “Goin’ Back.” In 1966 and ‘67, Dusty starred in two seasons of the Dusty TV series on the BBC. In ’68, she moved to ITV for It Must Be Dusty, then returned to the BBC for Decidedly Dusty in 1969. Each episode of each series followed the same pattern: Dusty sang, welcomed a guest, and then sang some more. Some episodes of Dusty are available on DVD, but – sadly – the tapes for many episodes were either erased or misplaced. The audio has survived fo some, however, including of this beautiful rendition of “Goin’ Back” from 1966.

3) Kasey Chambers – “We’re All Gonna Die Someday.” From Kasey’s classic 1999 debut, The Captain. Sometimes you just gotta laugh about our end times.

4) The Chromatics – “Into the Black.” I first heard this cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” via an episode of what was one of my favorite TV shows, Covert Affairs, in 2012. It’s a haunting rendition.

5) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” And here’s Neil riding the Horse on the same song, circa ’79.

And a few bonuses…

6) Bob Seger – “I Knew You When.” The title track from Seger’s most recent album. “We all sit here with our memories/of a glorious long ago…”

7) Steely Dan – “Hey Nineteen.” “Hey nineteen/No, we got nothing in common/No, we can’t talk at all…”

And finally…

8) Courtney Marie Andrews – “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Nah, not a song about death, growing old, or looking back. Just a great Dylan song by a young(er) artist who knows her music history…

Today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. IVIX

It seems like yesterday that Diane and I made our way to the World Cafe Live to see the Staves, our first official concert of 2017, but it’s been eight months since that wondrous show – the first of many good and great live-music experiences in 2017.

Yeah, I’m already looking back.

There’s been a lot of great music released this year, too, including gems from Garland Jeffrey (14 Steps to Harlem), Lucy Rose (Something’s Changing), Paul Weller (A Kind Revolution) and, in the archival department, Neil Young (Hitch Hiker) and Paul McCartney (Flowers in the Dirt). Over the next few weeks, I plan to revisit all my favorites and – in the second week of December – reveal the OGC’s top pick for 2017 at our annual awards fete. And though I already have an inkling as to which will come out on top, the process is guaranteed to be fun.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Releases, Vol. IVIX.

1) Neil Young & Promise of the Real – “Already Great.” Neil and the Real unveil The Visitor on December 1st, which if this, the lead single, is any indication – was inspired by Neil’s resident-status in the U.S.A and the 2016 presidential election. Past and present will intermingle on the 1st, too: He wrote on Facebook that “my archive will open on that same day, a place you can visit and experience every song I have ever released in the highest quality your machine will allow. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. In the beginning, everything is free.”

2) The Staves & yMusic – “The Way Is Read.” On Nov. 24th, the sisters Staveley-Taylor release their latest project, a collaboration with yMusic, a chamber ensemble. This, the title track, is the second song they’ve shared. Like the first, it bodes well for the project.

Here’s the first preview:

3) First Aid Kit – “Postcard.” Siblings Johanna and Klara Söderberg have a new album, Ruins, scheduled for release on January 19th; and a (sold-out) tour of America in January and February, to boot.

4) Lucy Rose – “End Up Here.” The singer-songwriter debuted this video, shot by her husband, last week. (She’s currently on tour in the U.K., with an Australian jaunt slated for February.) The song itself is from her 2017 albumSomething’s Changing.)

5) Erin O’Dowd – “Trick Pony.” Erin’s full-length debut, Old Town, is slated for an early digital release next month for Kickstarter backers and will see a wider release early next year. Here’s she is on VDub Sessions:

And two bonuses…

6) Bob Seger – “Busload of Faith.” Here’s a preview of Bob’s forthcoming LP, I Knew You When, which is due out on the 17th. It’s a cover of a Lou Reed track…

7) Bob Dylan – “Slow Train (Rehearsal With Horns).” The bard’s latest Bootleg Series entry, Trouble No More, covers the years 1979-81, when he fell hard for faith.