Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bob Seger

Hey, I just found out that Bob Seger lives in Florida, at least as a snowbird; he spends half the year in his winter quarters in Naples, which is a heck of a town. I wonder if he goes to my pal Rocky Patel's BURN cigar lounge there? I must loiter on the streets of Naples sometime, and try to catch him buying bananas at the supermarket (as I did with Hulk Hogan in Clearwater) or riding his sickle along the Alligator Alley.

But honestly, can I confess something? 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 Rush, and he wasn't deep and lyrical like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits. He wasn't even pop in a trad 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, with the passage of time, seem perversely like friendly old acquaintances now - stuff like Joe Walsh and Jethro Tull. But there's something in particular about Bob that, in hindsight, makes me want to apologize to him and admit we were all 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. Doubly so since he and Peter Criss share a virtually identical vocal style, and I'd listen to Peter Criss sing the Tallahassee phone book.

And then you dig a little deeper and learn that Bob Seger, with his old Bob Seger System group, was a honest-to-gosh garage band that recorded an amazing song called "2+2=4" in 1968, and that his previous band, Bob Seger & The Last Heard, recorded a savage distortion-laden low-fidelity number called "Persecution Smith" in 1967. Had Seger packed it in early, singles like these 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, 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 caipirinha tonight in your honor, dude. We've got tonight.

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