Singles -- How They Charted
1961 -- The Lonely One - acetate demo, played once on radio
1966 -- Ballad Of The Yellow Beret/Florida Time on the Are you Kidding Me Label H-1010
1966 -- East Side Story/East Side Sound -- Hideout H-1013 #3 in Detroit
1966 -- Persecution Smith/Chain Smokin'-- Hideout H-1014
1966 -- Sock It To Me Santa/Florida Time -- Cameo C-444
1967 -- Vagrant Winter/Very Few -- Cameo Parkway C-473
1967 -- Heavy Music/Heavy Music Part 2 -- Cameo Parkway C-494
1968 -- 2+2=?/Death Row -- Capitol 2143
1968 -- Ramblin' Gamblin' Man/Tales Of Lucy Blue -- Capitol 2297 #17 US
1969 -- Ivory/The Last Song -- Capitol 2480 #97 US
1969 -- Noah/Lennie Johnson -- Capitol 2576
1970 -- Innervenus Eyes/Lonely Man -- Capitol 2640
1970 -- Lucifer/Big River Capitol 2748 #84 US
1971 -- Lookin' Back #96 US, #2 in Detroit
1972 -- Midnight Rider Palladium PRO 571 Was only released on a promo 45 record
1972 -- If I Were A Carpenter/Jesse James Palladium P-1079 #76 US
1973 -- Who Do You Love/Turn On Your Love Light -- Reprise REP-1117
1973 -- Rosalie/Neon Sky -- Palladium 1143
1974 -- Need Ya/Seen A lot Of Floors -- Palladium 1171
1974 -- Get Out Of Denver/Long Song Comin'-- Palladium 1205 #80 US
1974 -- U. M. C. Upper Middle Class/This Old House-- Palladium 1316
1975 -- Katmandu #43 US
1976 -- Nutbush City Limits #69 US
1977 -- Night Moves #4 US, #45 UK (1995 release)
1977 -- Mainstreet #24 US
1977 -- Rock and Roll Never Forgets #41 US
1978 -- Still the Same #4 US
1978 -- Hollywood Nights #12 US, #42 US
1978 -- We've Got Tonight #13 US, #41 UK (#22 UK in 1995)
1979 -- Old Time Rock & Roll #28 US
1980 -- Fire Lake #6 US
1980 -- Against the Wind #5 US
1980 -- You'll Accomp'ny Me #14 US
1980 -- The Horizontal Bop #42 US
1981 -- Tryin' To Live My Life Without You #5 US
1982 -- Feel Like a Number #48 US
1983 -- Shame on the Moon #2 US (#15 Country US)
1983 -- Even Now #12 US, #73 UK
1983 -- Roll Me Away #27 US
1984 -- Understanding #17 US
1986 -- American Storm #13 US, #78 UK
1986 -- Fortunate Son
1986 -- It's You #52 US
1986 -- Like a Rock #12 US
1986 -- Miami #70 US
1986 -- Tightrope
1986 -- The Aftermath
1987 -- Shakedown #1 US, #88 UK
1989 -- Blue Monday
1991 -- Take A Chance
1991 -- The Fire Inside
1991 -- The Real Love #24 US
1995 -- Lock And Load #57 UK
1995 -- Manhattan
1996 -- Hands In The Air
1998 -- Chances Are
2006 -- Wait For Me #52 US Country
2006 -- Wreck This Heart
Seger singles have appeared on the following labels:
Seger said he lets Capital pick the first single off the album. "They're the ones who have to work it, after all, and I don't feel uncomfortable with letting them handle the business of selling records." Steve Meyer is often-mentioned as the single-picker at Capitol. Timothy White, April 1983, Musician. "The Roads Not Taken."
Of the 10 singles from "Hollywood Nights" to "Shame on the Moon," Seger picked only two: "We've Got Tonight" and "You'll Accompany Me." (The other six Capitol picked were "Old Time Rock & Roll," "Fire Lake," "Against the Wind," "Horizontal Bop," "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You," and "Feel Like A Number.")
This discography may have some inaccuracies, especially with release dates, and the B-sides of various discs. It does not attempt to list all the singles...just the early ones.
The Lonely One. 1961? Acetate demo. Was it, or was it not, backed with "Jackie the Thief?" Do acetate demos even have flipsides? "Jackie the Thief" was cowritten with Pete Stanger, another member of The Decibels.
The Lonely One has been frequently quoted, but always the same short section, as follows:
The song, recorded by Seger at 16, concerns the traumas of high school romance. These are universal traumas -- we all know their pain, but normally it doesn't stamp us for life. But change the pronoun from she to he: "He's gone from me for someone new..." and now the song is not about a high school girl, but about the pain of being deserted by a father, the kind of pain that might take up more or less permanent residence and transmute itself into all sorts of energies, both positive and negative. It is classy and classic of Seger to have his very first song title strike so deep to the center of his defining theme. Decades later, he can still be the stranger, "the quiet other." He's more than that, of course, but you can certainly hear a pretty deep loneliness running through the lyrics of every album -- except perhaps It's A Mystery.
"The Lonely One" was recorded by Seger in the basement of Max Crook, the man who played keyboard on Del Shannon's "Runaway." The song was played once on WPAG in Ann Arbor.
Expert Seger fan Bill Cook reports that Doug Brown is listed as the writer on both songs. "I think Bob had a 'background' role on the songs as part of the Omens," Bill writes. "I'm darn sure he's not the lead singer."
(Thanks to Bill Cook and Joe Moorehouse for this info.)
I've never heard TGIF, but I've listened to "First Girl" repeatedly and can't make out the slightest trace of Seger.
This parody of Sgt. Barry Sadler's hit got some airplay until Sadler wrote a cease-and-desist letter. The lyrics rip into Vietnam protesters: "This is a protest against protesters," says a narrator before Seger begins singing, opening with the lines:
Near the end, the song becomes a hammy spoof, with a cartoon-style voiceovers (not Seger's) offering ludicrous excuses to a draft board.
Still, Seger is in remarkable voice on this recording. Of all his early singles, this one most closely captures the quality of voice found on his string of top ten "Seger Mediums" in the late '70s and early '80s. Except for the inevitable pops and hiss of vinyl, you can play this song beside any of his later material and marvel at the similar tonal qualities of his voice.
Two years after Yellow Beret was released, the hawkishness would give way to the scorching war protest, "2+2+=?" In that sense, Seger made the same journey many of us did...from scoffing at antiwar protesters to joining them. (Later, he recounts that journey on Mongrel's "Leaning On My Dream," in which the song's narrator goes from yelling at the protesters to yelling with the protesters.)
Seger fan Joe Moorehouse wrote with the following information about related records that Seger reportedly had a hand in:
"Bob also wrote, produced, and arranged Hideout singles for the Mama Cats and The Mushrooms on Hideout. The Mama Cats single is Miss You b/w My Boy. Miss You is dynamite. My Boy is awful. Bob wrote both. The Mushrooms included Bob's friend Glenn Frey (then spelled "Fry"), and their single is Such a Lovely Child b/w Burned. Bob co-wrote with Glenn and, as on the Mama Cats, handled arranging and producing duties as well. It's a good record.
"Seger was still in the Omens during the first part of that year, playing organ and doing background vocals. 'Give Bob the Ball' is a one-sided red flexi-disc that Doug Brown wrote and recorded with the Omens in support of U.S. Senator Bob Griffin's re-election campaign. It's a pretty good mid-tempo rocker with dopey lyrics. It's also by far the rarest of officially released records that include Bob on them. Bob does not do any vocals on it.
"Bob co-wrote a great garage song for The Underdogs called Get Down on Your Knees. Dave Whitehouse (Underdogs lead singer) and Dave Leone (Mr. Hideout) were the other writers on it. Whitehouse was a great vocalist himself, and is one of the backing singers on the studio version of Heavy Music."
Thanks to Joe for the above.
Mama Cats covers early Seger.
"East Side Story" is the defining song of Seger's early years for many fans, including me. It is the song that captures the full power of his voice, his promise, his songwriting ability. More than anything, it is probably the song that launched his career and sustained it during the dry periods that followed. "East Side Story" became a huge hit in Detroit, a #3 record on Detroit radio, which was unheard of for a local band. Thirty years later, the song has not lost one iota of energy -- it still has the same raw, pulsing urgency of a rock classic. Only in this case, it's a rock classic that most people have never heard. If Seger ever does a boxed set or a true anthology, this song would be a must, shoulder to shoulder with "Heavy Music," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," and "Night Moves" -- the other three landmark songs of his career.
"I was trying to write something for this band called the Underdogs. I did not write that for me to do. I might have been a little derivative at that point just because I didn't think it would be my song. I do remember losing some sleep over the fact that it sounded an awful lot like "Gloria,' though, if you put them side by side, they're not really all that alike. There are a lot more chords in 'East Side Story' than there are in 'Gloria.'" Roy Trakin, Creem, 1987?
Doug Brown produced "East Side Story," which became a #3 hit in Detroit.
In an earlier version of The Seger File, I wrote that "East Side Story" became a hit in Detroit largely due to the support of CKLW, the Windsor, Ontario radio station, where program director Rosalie Trombley was an early Seger supporter.
Joe Moorehouse, a longtime Seger fan, responded that "East Side Story" was not played on CK, as we used to call it. "Nor was any other single on a local Detroit label," Moorehouse wrote. "CKLW only played songs on major labels, not independents (so the first Seger song they played was 'Heavy Music'). WKNR is the station that made this and many other local records into big hits, and WXYZ played them as well."
More from Moorehouse: "Rosalie Trombley's support of Seger began during the Capitol era. For what it's worth, a local song reaching #3 was not unheard of -- or even uncommon. To name a Seger-related band that had already done it, "Man in the Glass" by the Underdogs got to number 3 in 1965." Thanks to Joe for this information.
"East Side Story" cost $1,200, cheap even in those days. The single sold more than 50,000 copies, almost all in Detroit. Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
In 1991, Seger told how he came to record the song: "I got my courage up enough to play Punch 'East Side Story,' which he promptly gave to the Underdogs, who promptly crucified it on record." Susan Whitall, August 24, 1991, The Detroit News. "Long Way Home"
That would be a rare one to hear...a version of 'East Side Story' with an Underdogs vocal? Did they actually record it, or simply play it?
Since the Underdogs did such a terrible version of "East Side Story," Seger recorded it himself. His version was backed by Doug Brown and various Town Criers and Omens.
The flipside, "East Side Sound" is an instrumental version of the A side, with lead guitar added throughout. Which raises the question: Why? It's hard to believe Seger had no other material -- so perhaps it was simply economics. They wouldn't have had to pay for another full recording session just to overdub guitar. Could it be that when "East Side Story" was released, they couldn't even afford to record a real B-side?
"East Side Story" on Hideout is worth from $100 to $125 to collectors, reportedly.
By some reports, "Persecution Smith" was released three times in 1963-64 (by Hideout?) before Cameo-Parkway picked it up, which might make it Seger's first real single.
This idea is disputed by early-Seger afficianado Joe Moorehouse, who writes that the song was indeed first recorded in 1966: "Confusion about the apocryphal 1963 release date stems from the fact that the old red Cameo labels all included the copyright date 1963 at the bottom of the label. This date referred to Cameo's name or label design, not the song."
"Persecution Smith" begins with a blistering peel of electric guitar, followed by a rapid-fire tumble of lyrics in the style of Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." In fact, the voice quality is closer to Dylan's than to the Seger we now know. The lyrics, however, are definitely in the Seger vein of social comment:
In interviews conducted twenty years later, Seger would talk about the fact that his songs have always held that there are standards -- a right way and a wrong way to act, Listen to the standards that form the climax of one of his earliest songs:
Except for a mention of Watts, California, and a strange reference to My Friend Flicka, the song hardly seems dated and wouldn't be out of place, say, on It's A Mystery. (On the other hand, it would stick out like a sore thumb on Against the Wind.) It's another example of Seger's earliest material reflecting the values and themes that persist in his writing today.
"I used to know all these Dylan tunes, but I never, ever played them. I'd just sing 'em to myself. Fantastic lyrics. I never really understood any of the lyrics..." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."
The flipside, "Chain Smokin'" is notable for being the first recording where Seger steps into the James Brown/Wilson Pickett mode. The song has real power, (though it's brought down a bit by the sometimes silly lyrics. Perfectly crafted popular hit songs should never include the word "tummy.") Musically, "Chain Smokin" is first mix of James Brown style soul with Detroit rock. Much more so than "Persecution Smith," this is the beginning of the musical style that sustained Seger. His vocal riffs at the end -- "Gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme gimmmmee, now"-- are classics of the genre.
Sock It To Me, Santa. Winter 1966. (Or December 1967.) Cameo-Parkway. (Seger-Honaker-Lagassa-Leone.) B/w Florida Time, a Beach Boys-style song. The single lists the songwriter as "Punchy." Both produced by Doug Brown and Bob Seger. Engineered by Les Cooley.
Once again, Seger in the style of James Brown/Mitch Ryder -- (Ryder's "Sock It To Me, Baby" came out the following year.) As with "Chain Smokin," what's important here is the energy and the music -- the lyrics exist just to put some syllables around that energy. Indeed, the lyrics couldn't get any sillier:
Still, what you hear when you listen to the song is not the silliness, but Seger's mastery of the form. You understand why Motown offered to sign Seger before Capitol did -- and it makes you wonder what direction his career would have taken if he accepted their offer. (Later in Seger's career, second-rate music-reviewers fell back on the lame technique of comparing him to Springsteen. I wonder if those same reviewers would have ended up lumping him in with James Brown, if Seger had signed with Motown.)
One more observation in this vein -- it's interesting to see how Seger attended to the quality of his lyrics when he was rocking -- as on "East Side Story" and "Persecution Smith" -- and focused on the groove and energy almost to the absence of lyrics when he was in the James Brown mode. You might even postulate that he really broke through and became a national artist when he started to consistently put the two together. Just look what happened the first time he combined compelling lyrics with a driving rock/soul mix: "Heavy Music."
FYI, Seger fan extraordinaire Ken Settle --who has a great collection of very early Seger photos, featured in the 11-16-9 Goldmine article -- told me once that he has a tape of Sock It To Me Santa where the engineer counts down into the song, and where there are no handclaps.
In contrast to "Santa," the flipside of this single, "Florida Time," is notable for its absence of any discernible Seger influence. You can hear his voice in the chorus...but someone else is singing lead. This is a straight rip of the Jan and Dean sound. In other words, here we have insipid lyrics and insipid music. ("The Lauderdale beach is just up ahead. I'd like to hit Nassau but my wallet is dead.") This is the archetypal B-side throwaway.
Seger told Timothy White in a 1986 Musician Magazine interview that he "praised the Florida surfing scene out of sheer gratitude for that state being my only loyal market outside of Michigan." Yet the label credits the songwriting to "Punchy."
In 1994, "Sock It To Me, Santa" was included on the extremely rare Polygram cassette titled A Rock 'n' Roll Christmas, which also includes Christmas songs by Bon Jovi, Elton John, The Kinks, The Waitresses, and an excellent version of "Silent Night " by Elvin Bishop.
"Sock It To Me, Santa" is, I think, the oldest song on the cassette. The quality of the rsound is much better than 45 in my possession -- very little snap, crackle, pop -- so I'm guessing it came from whatever passes as the master at this point in time.
But most interesting of all is the writing credit. The song is now credited to one "T. Keels" -- whoever that might be. I'm guessing that somewhere along the way, someone challenged the copyright, and Punch and Seger probably rolled over, since the riffs were pretty much straight out of Mitch Ryder/James Brown territory. The song appears "By arrangement with ABKCO Records.
If you can find it, this cassette is definitely worth owning. Mine came courtesy of Seger DEW-liner Randy Cepuch and his uncanny ability to find rare recordings. Many thanks are due.
"Vagrant Winter" is in some ways least interesting of Seger's early singles. It's hard to hear anything of the later day Seger in this song. If he was imitating someone or testing out a style, it's hard for me to hear what it was. If anything, I'd say it might be some kind of San Francisco sound -- there's a sitar-like guitar winding through the middle, fancy cymbal work and a little bit of skating rink organ. If that's Pep Perrine on drums, by the way, I'd say he's giving Keith Moon a run for his money -- the drums are pounding, full and excellent. But overall, of this early bunch, "Vagrant Winter" is the most unSegerlike Seger song -- except for the B-side, "Very Few," which is even more unSegerlike.
Here, Seger seems to step back to a late '50s style of pop ballad. Partly, it's because the music is so sedate and tame. But also, it's song in a key so high, you barely recognize the voice as Seger's. In a lower key, with a better instrumental track, (and minus the dopey back-up singers), the song might stand up as a halfway decent cut on any of the early to middle albums.
Because "Very Few" is practically the antithesis of Seger in terms of power and energy and insight, it has become the punchline of a standing joke my friend Jesse and I share every decade or so when we are privileged to see Seger play live. We always laugh about shouting out "Very Few" at a concert just to see if Bob would react, and also as a parody of the depth of our obsession.
Jesse even made a sign for the '86 tour -- a piece of cardboard with VERY FEW scrawled on one side and LUCIFER on the other. We laughed about taking it to the Seattle concert and holding it up, to see what Seger would do. As it turned out, we didn't take it to the show. Instead, I propped it up in my window, enjoying the VERY FEW joke, forgetting that from the outside, my neighbors were treated to a sign reading LUCIFER. Needless to say, they kept their distance.
Produced and primarily arranged by Doug Brown. Sold 66,000 copies in Detroit.
Pep Perrine, drums; Dan Honaker, bass; Carl Lagassa, guitar; Seger, piano and lead vocal; Doug Brown, backing vocal;and David Whitehouse, backing vocal.
This is the song that changed everything. This is the song that, ten years later, remained the focal point of Seger's live performance as captured on Live Bullet. It is the first song, on vinyl anyway, that really captured his ability to combine the raw power of rock with the punch and rhythm of the James Brown style soul music he loved. It's not an exaggeration to say that this was a new sound. He wasn't following anyone here (the way that he was arguably following Van Morrison with "East Side Story," the first landmark song of his career.) Instead, he was combining two styles into a something new. When that happens, worlds can explode, as they did for Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry or the Beatles. In a lesser but still potent way, "Heavy Music" might have exploded for Seger, too, except for the ultimate bad luck with Cameo-Parkway, which went out of business just as the song hit. Still, "Heavy Music" cracked open the door of stardom and, along with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," sustained Seger through ten years and ten thousand miles of strip joints, bars and dives. Put it on with a pair of headphones today, and you can hear why: the adrenaline pounds, the vocals soar. This is what they call mastery.
"We just jammed it down in this bar in Columbus, we got into this jam about 'deeper' and I really dug the jam -- we happened to be taping that night -- and then I went home and wrote the song around it." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."
Seger: "I was in New York, seeing Cameo-Parkway and I heard this disc jockey on MCA saying a Wilson Pickett record, he called it heavy music, 'that's some heavy music...I came back to Detroit and I wrote the verse, but Doug Brown, the producer, came up with the bass line, which of course was the crucial thing." Late-1981 radio interview.
Heavy Music was picked -- or was slated to be picked -- by Billboard as a national breakout, but Cameo-Parkway went bankrupt and couldn't fill orders. Punch and Seger phoned Cameo-Parkway and got no answer, as the story goes.
"So we got on a plane and went to New York, went up to the building where the company was and knocked and knocked on the door of their office. Finally a janitor came out of the elevator and said, "Nobody's there. They're gone.'" Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
Is the song about sex? Some people certainly thought so. In fact, the first mention of Seger I ever saw in the national press appeared in the short-lived Eye magazine in 1968. The article, "It's the Sound," by John P. Robinson and Paul Hirsch, concerned the controversy over drug and sex references in rock lyrics. "Songs with sexual themes have been around since man discovered music -- at roughly the same time that he discovered sex -- but these days they are often blatantly orgasmic ('Heavy Music')."
Seger: "A lot of people really misconstrued it. That was a song about the music, but a lot of people thought it was a song about music and sex, the two together. There was nothing sexual in it, it was simply read in by a lot of program directors. The part about 'goin' deeper.'" Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."
"It was really weird..it was like 'going in' as...well, you know. I don't know, there were complaints about it when it was first played on Swingin' Time [a local TV music show]. Until, of course, it got out of hand and then they couldn't help but play it. Even then, they said, 'You know, you better go in and re-record that tail end, put something different on that ending because no one's ever gonna play it." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."
A copy of "Heavy Music on Cameo Parkway could bring over $150, reportedly.
The end of 'Heavy Music Part 2' includes the memorable line "Stevie Winwood got nothing on me." Which is why I took note, more than two decades later, when Seger mentioned Winwood during an interview with Bob Costas. The question was: Does rock and roll require youth? Seger replied:
"I saw Stevie Winwood on the Letterman special the other night and he sings exactly the way he did when he was 16. I don't sing as high as I used to, I can feel that. I've got to be a little more canny when I'm in the studio, I've got to admit, and I wish I had a voice like Stevie Winwood's.
It went right past Costas, who probably hasn't memorized every Seger lyric like some of us have, by which of course I refer to myself. On the other hand, I don't know many baseball stats. Whatever...here's the rest of Seger's answer:
"It's part of the passage of time. I'm 46 years old, and sure, when I'm up onstage I get sore now when I come off. So I can't do what I did in my twenties and give quite the same amount of energy...but I saw Little Richard about five years ago in a club and he was singing just great...I think if you're blessed with a voice, I think you can go on." Interview on Later with Bob Costas.
The first anti-war song in the rock genre. Punch reportedly didn't tell the Capitol execs what the song was about until it was already in the stores. Which is a little hard to believe...didn't the Capitol execs ever put it on a turntable?
The single was reissued during the antiwar moratoriums of 1969. At least one issue of the single has a jarring guitar chord dubbed into the dramatic pause at the end...presumably because AM radio stations couldn't tolerate the silence. To my mind, that silence and the blast of energy that follows is one of the high points of the song.
Reached number 17 on the national charts. On the strength of this hit, Seger toured California for the first time.
Released in September 1971, "Lookin' Back" is a classic Seger cut that has never been included on an album. (The live version on Live Bullet has all the energy of the original...but not all of the crackling crispness of this rare single.) "Lookin' Back" reached #2 in Detroit.
"'Lookin' Back' is a strange record. At that time there was a lot of political upheaval happening in the area. I felt that in '2+2,' and I felt it in 'Lookin Back.' And 'Looking Back' was basically written about all the people who wanted to retain the conservative ideas, as opposed to trying anything liberal or new. Plus it had a double meaning about the band, too, and the music that had gone down." 1975 radio interview.
"Looking Back" sheet music.
If I Were A Carpenter. B/w Jesse James. Palladium. April 1974
A good, but not great, Seger cover, to my mind. I mention it because Seger fan Ken Settle once told me there are two versions -- one with a darker blue label where the engineer used the wrong vocal track.
In the early 1970s, Dave Marsh wrote about rumors that Hideout might buy back the Cameo masters and "release them on an album called Bombs Away. Seger is not overly enthusiastic ('I wouldn't want it to be a hit, it's old-fashioned.') but Punch Andrews is." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."
"Bombs Away" never came to pass. Today, CD-R bootlegs of the early singles are fairly common on the internet...usually titled Seger '66-67. And some of the Cameo-Parkway singles can occasionally be found in oldies stores.
This single, which has never appeared on any Seger album, was included on the soundtrack of "Teachers." The producer, Aaron Russo, reportedly called Punch repeatedly over a period of months, asking Seger to write a special song for the film. To encourage Seger, Russo sent him a print of the film.
Punch: "We liked it a lot. In fact, Bob got up at the end and said, 'I'm gonna go write a song.' I couldn't believe it when he called the next morning to get me to listen to it. That quick!" Bob Talbert, September 2, 1984, Detroit Free Press. "Seger's School Days."
The flipside of the single is "East L.A.," a Spanish rhythm tune, in which an East Los Angeles/ Watts resident looks up at the hills of West Los Angeles. "East L.A." was originally written for The Distance, but didn't make it onto the album.
Reaching Number One
"Shakedown," released in 1987, is Seger's only #1 hit single. The music was written by Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey. Seger wrote the lyrics. If I remember right, the song was first offered to Glenn Frey, who had a hit with "The Heat Is On," from the first Beverly Hills Cop movie. But Frey was either unwilling or unable to write the lyrics in the short time available, so the call went to Seger.
"Shakedown" hit the number one spot 18 years and 7 months after "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" cracked the top 100. "Only five acts have taken longer to land their first #1 hit: Tina Turner, Robert John, Steve Winwood, Billy Vera and Starship." Shakedown was Seger's 31st chart hit. Paul Grein, August 1, 1987, Billboard. "Chartbeat"
Shame on the Moon spent four weeks at #2 in 1983. The Michael Jackson song, "Billie Jean," held onto the #1 spot during that time.
Eleven different arrangements of "Shakedown" have been copyrighted. There's the Youth Jazz Ensemble version, the Marching Band version, the Performance Pops version, the Head Start Grade 2 version, the Young Orchestra version, the Choral Arrangement version, and so on. No other song associated with Seger has nearly as many arrangments. The arrangers are listed as follows:
"Chances Are," a duet with Martina McBride written by Seger, was released in May 1998 as a single; it was also included on the soundtrack album from the movie "Hope Floats." The duet was Seger's first new song in three years. He wrote the song nearly ten years ago for his wife and originally recorded it for The Fire Inside.
The soundtrack CD has set sales records, but the "Chances Are" single never charted -- indeed, I've yet to lay eyes on a copy of the single, except for radio station promo versions -- so to what extent it was really "released" is hard to say, since it never seemed to make it to the stores where people like me could actually buy it.
A portion of "Chances Are," was used during the movie, but it doesn't sound like the same version that's included on the soundtrack. The version that plays in the movie sounds slower. A portion of the soundtrack version is also played over the closing movie credits -- but only after a Garth Brooks song plays.
The picture below is from the video with Seger and McBride.
Seger on "Chances Are": "I actually wrote it for my wife. And it was a blatant love song. I thought I'd wait for the right movie to come along before putting it on my own album. Then they brought up the possibility of doing it with Martina McBride and I said, that sounds great...I love her records." Capitol Records press release.
"Martina's a wonderful singer -- flawless. We locked right in. I'd make some suggestions on some of the licks she did -- singing it in my own aarrggh! style -- and it would come out like an angel." Brian McCollum , May 19, 1998, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger duet for 'Hope Floats' gathered dust for years."
"Chances Are" is a holdover from The Fire Inside sessions. Reportedly, Seger decided to put another slow ballad, "Always In My Heart," on the album instead of "Chances Are."
Seger recorded "Chances Are" with the Silver Bullet Band for The Fire Inside, and also with session players. These original versions were about six minutes long, as compared to the duet with McBride, which is around four and a half minutes.
When Don Was was hired as music coordinator for "Hope Floats," he contacted Seger and suggested re-recording the song as a duet with Martina McBride.
Seger: "That was a brilliant idea. I never envisioned it that way, but it does sound like a duet song. And Martina was great to work with. She's just so easy to sing with, such a great singer. She locked right in with me." May 14, 1998, The Oakland Press
"Chances Are" was recorded in Nashville. After the song was finished, Was and engineer Bob Clearmountain sped the tape up slightly, giving everything a somewhat higher pitch.
A video was recorded about two weeks later. Seger is seen playing piano in the video (though he didn't play it on the single). For the video, the piano was re-turned to match the higher pitch.
Seger: "Nobody would rent us a piano 'cause they were afraid of tuning it up to what we had to do. They say it's really bad for the piano to do that. So we had this piano tuner standing by to instantly tune it down when we were done with the video, so we didn't hurt the piano." Gary Graff, Mr. Showbiz Interview, May 1998
"It was fun to do, but now I've done that...At one time, about five years ago, I did want to do an album with Aretha Franklin. But she won't fly, you know, and so things never worked out for that one. And I've always wanted to sing some Motown songs with Gladys Knight. Maybe someday." July 12, 1998 "'Chances Are' duet something new for Seger."
In theory, the marketing behind "Chances Are," seemed brilliant. Team up with a hot country star. Get the song featured -- not once, but twice -- in a hot movie...which not only gives you tremendous exposure in the theaters, but gets your video on VH-1. In fact, the theory seemed so good that I proclaimed "Chances Are" a sure-fire hit before ever hearing the song or seeing the movie.
Here's an excerpt from what I wrote, back when I was sure the single would be a hit:
In addition to being a very interesting and refreshing artistic move, Seger's duet with Martina McBride is also a brilliant marketing move. Compare and contrast the attention he's getting to the reception for Seger's last several singles.
With all those marketing advantages, how could "Chances Are" miss? The answer seems obvious now.
First of all, there's the movie, which is tepid, tensionless, and completely predictable. Yes, there are great stars, a great director and great music, but there's a formula where the story is supposed to be.
Worse, this huge romantic love song couldn't be more mis-used...the song soars in places, but the part that gets featured is the slow, deliberate beginning, and it's used over a scene in an Alzheimer's care facility. Seger and Punch have said they held the song back, waiting for the right movie to come along...but it's hard for me to imagine them sitting around hoping for a rest home scene so they could "feature" this song.
"Chances Are" is played again, and the second time we get to hear it build to the chorus, where the song peaks and really engages the emotions -- but by then the theater is empty, since it's the second song into the credits.
In other words, I think "Hope Floats" gave the song no boost at all.
It's obvious that the "split-format" of Seger and McBride didn't work well either. Country radio stations sent Martina McBride's own single, "Happy Girl," up the charts but didn't play "Chances Are." Presumably, no one knew McBride would have her own song out there competing with "Chances Are" when the duet deal was put together.
Rock and Adult Contemporary stations, meanwhile, didn't play "Chances Are" much either, maybe figuring that it was "too country." So instead of hitting both formats, the song fell between them.
Having unleashed my critique, I have to own up to the fact that it's 100 percent certified hindsight. I thought the marketing was brilliant until it didn't work.
And of course, none of this changes the fact that "Chances Are" is great song: Heartfelt, emotional,with a great chorus. McBride adds a wonderful energy to it -- she and Seger seem to inspire each as the song builds. There's an earnest "Somewhere Tonight" feel to the opening verses. And a hint or two of "We've Got Tonight " in the opening piano chords.
As of early July, the Capitol web site at www.hollywoodandvine.com had some audio and video of Seger, including 40 seconds of the song, and a video interview telling how Was suggested using "Chances Are." You need RealPlayer to hear or see the clips.
Do ya do ya wanna rock? Send your fond dreams, lost hopes, bittersweet regrets, half-remembered stories, rejoinders, rebuttals, questions, comments, corrections and contributions to: