The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated July 2000 Written and edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com

Against the Wind

February 1980

Data

Reached 1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. The first and only Seger album to go to Number 1. The album took two years to make.

Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (Drew Abbott, Alto Reed, Chris Campbell and David Teegarden) won a Grammy in the category "Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal" for Against the Wind -- though whether that means the song or the album, I'm not sure. Art Director Roy Kohara also received a Grammy for Best Album Package.


Track List

1.The Horizontal Bop
2.You'll Acomp'ny Me
3.Her Strut
4.No Man's Land
5.Long Twin Silver Line
6.Against The Wind
7.Good For Me
8.Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight
9.Fire Lake
10.Shinin' Brightly

Bob Seger (vocals, guitar); Drew Abbott (guitar); Alto Reed (saxophone); Chris Campbell (bass); David Teegarden (drums, percussion).

Also: Pete Carr, Jimmy Johnson (guitar); Barry Beckett, Dr.John (piano); Paul Harris (piano, organ); Randy McCormick (organ); Bill Payne (keyboards); Doug Riley (synthesizer); David Hood (bass); Roger Hawkins (drums, percussion); Sam Clayton (percussion); Timothy B. Schmit, Laura Creamer, Linda Dillard, Ginger Blake, Don Henley, Glenn Frey (background vocals).


Going for Number One

Seger: "I was aiming for a totally commercial album. Maybe it was a little too commercial, but I wanted to make sure I had three hit singles on it. I had never had a No. 1 album and I wanted one." Dennis Hunt, January 16, 1983, L.A. Times. "Seger: Hard Work and Low Profile"

"We wanted to really have a No. 1 album; that's what we went for on that album. We dropped away a little bit from rockiness and went straight for the singles charts on all 10 cuts, virtually." Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger Tells The Stories Behind The Hits."

As the album went up the charts, Seger did everything he could to promote it:

"We were going for Number One. We were Number Two for five weeks and I called Punch and said 'Take 'em all. Every city! I don't care! We're playin' every night.'" Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"

"We had a chance to make it and we wanted to make some history. At least some Silver Bullet history if nothing else, so we could say we were Number One at least once in our lives. 'Cause the market may change...Who knows?" Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"


Lookin' Back on ATW

Seger, on how he worked prior to making Against the Wind:

"I was a very hard-working person, but I probably wasn't the best person to be around, unless you were really in my inner circle...if you weren't within that circle, I was so busy working all the time..that I was quite closed off. I think it wasn't until 1980 that I really opened up, and that's why I think I have such fond memories of Against the Wind. I think at that point I had relaxed, and you can almost hear it, there's less desperation -- I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing -- but Against the Wind is far more relaxed and offhand than Stranger in Town and Night Moves are." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.

Seger: "I think of all the albums I've ever done, Against the Wind is probably the easiest for me to listen to...it's probably the most fulfilled I ever was as a songwriter. Things were going along real good, I was very relaxed, the tracks were very spontaneous, and the people I was working with, it was very exciting to be working with them...Bill Szymczyk, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Billy Payne, the girls, Shaun and Laura, we were doing so well....I really look back very fondly on that album." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.


Extremely Medium

Seger: "I was just writing medium stuff at the time; those were the best songs to put on the album. I wanted to have 10 songs on that record; consequently, they couldn't have been all too long. There was rock 'n' roll on that album though, like 'Her Strut;' I think people just missed them because of the singles." Gary Graff, March 28, 1983, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger at Home: No Need for Pretension."


Favorite Album

Seger: "Against the Wind was probably my favorite album to work on, because we were really kind of established at that point, and I felt like I could stretch out in different directions." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.

Seger also liked Against the Wind in part because it broke new ground musically.

"Stranger in Town is very much like Night Moves...it sounds the same, whereas Against the Wind does not sound the same Stranger in Town or Night Moves. It's got a different, new thing to it.

"I think this is when Bill Szymczyk, the Eagle's producer helped us on it...we were using better studios, we were taking more time to do things right.

"And I was also feeling my oats as a player more on Against the Wind. I played lead guitar on 'Horizontal Bop,' I played the rhythm on 'Horizontal Bop,' I played all the guitars on 'Her Strut,' just me, the bass player and the drummer.

"I was starting to step out as a musician, as it were, on Against the Wind, and that was kind of fun...and the band let me do it. They said, yeah, okay...you know Drew was very generous, he said 'I understand, you got this thing in your head and you want to get it out,' and of course he was also playing on 'Horizontal Bop,' I gave him two solos on it, the one in the center and I share the one on the end with him, although I do the opening one, and it worked out really nice, and Drew was generous to let me stretch out a little bit." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.


Long Twin Silver Line

"The funny thing was, the band wanted to play ballads and Muscle Shoals wanted to play rock and roll, so we've got some stuff on there...like 'Long Twin Silver Line,' I think is one of my better rock vocals I ever did, just a powerhouse vocal on that thing, and it's all live, and it's take five or take six with Muscle Shoals, or maybe even earlier. We had reached the point where we were just rippin' and tearin', so to speak..." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.


Fire Lake

The single charted at #6. Seger began writing "Fire Lake" in 1971.

Seger intended 'Fire Lake' for Beautiful Loser, which was released in 1975. It didn't make the cut, however, and wasn't released until 1980 when Against the Wind came out. Seger and Punch and Capitol decided to make it the first single of Against the Wind because it was so different from the other singles he had released at that time.

Seger: "We decided to come with 'Fire Lake' as the first single because it was totally and unequivocally unlike anything we'd ever done before. The lyric is very ... different ... and very kind of unique. It's about taking risks. About risking love, chucking it all and just heading off with a bunch of wild people, whatever.

"It is one of my favorite lyrics down through the years, and the track is very unusual. It's sort of an R&B meets country kind of thing.

"I really wanted it to be the first single but I never thought Capitol would agree to it, and I believe it was Punch who talked them into it. What I liked about it was that it broke new ground for us. It really showed that we were unafraid to push the envelope of what we were doing before, which was basically pretty hot rock and roll, you know, with a few ballads thrown in."


Here's my take on 'Fire Lake': Uncle Joe and Aunt Sarah represent stability, a solid, stable, conservative relationship. I think cut the cake refers to that old expression, wanting to have (keep) your cake and eat it too. The desire to keep your cake is a desire to preserve things, to safeguard what you've got. The desire to eat your cake is the desire to indulge in sensual pleasure (in this case, the pleasure of eating.) Previously, Joe had been afraid to cut the cake, because he wanted to hold tight to the status quo, and keep things safe. But then...everything changed, people started acting wild and taking crazy risks, everybody was doing the mess around as Ray Charles would say, even old Joe, of all people. He ran off to Fire Lake, where the girls look you straight in the eye and lay you down so fast.


Against the Wind

The single charted at #5.

"Against the Wind" "is about trying to move ahead, keeping your sanity and integrity at the same time." Timothy White, May 1, 1980, Rolling Stone. "The Fire This Time"

"Jan says to me all the time, 'You allow more people to walk on you than anybody I've ever known.' And I always say it's human nature that people are gonna love you sometimes and they're gonna use you sometimes. Knowing the difference between when people are using you and when people truly care about you, that's what 'Against the Wind' is all about. The people in that song have weathered the storm, and it's made them much better that they've been able to do it and maintain whatever relationship. To get through is a real victory." Timothy White, May 1, 1980, Rolling Stone. "The Fire This Time"

Seger almost didn't include the most famous line, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." He explained: "I thought it was bad grammar. My manager, my tour manager, and my band said 'That's a great line.'" Interview on Later with Bob Costas.

And which country band was it that ripped off the entire line, and used it about twenty times in three minutes, for some C&W song, about five years ago?

 

Against The Wind goes to Number One; Seger makes the cover of Rolling Stone in May 1980.


I haven't heard it, but reportedly there is also a parody of "Against the Wind" called "Against Her Chin." Please, lord, no matter how funny the song might be, please don't ever let me hear it...or 'I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then' will take on even greater meaning.


No Man's Land

"No Man's Land" was the original title of the album.

"I was struck trying to write 'No Man's Land' as an album. I initially wrote two songs, one right after the other. In 'No Man's Land,' everything was on the edge, on the brink of going this way or that. I thought it had a really great lyric." [Need citation.]

At one point, "No Man's Land" was supposed to be the opening song for the movie, All the Right Moves. Seger: "Something in the deal went bad between Punch and the movie company...listening to it now, it's like me overdoing it a little bit lyrically, it might be a little bit over-written, but the spirit was definitely in the right direction.

"I was really trying to do something unique with that song. It's a very unusual lyric about how we go out and just put ourselves in these positions..." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.


You'll Accomp'ny Me

The single charted at #14. Seger credits Monica Reed, wife of Silver Bullet Band saxophonist Alto Reed, with recognizing this song's potential. "We came over and played it for her and she said 'Oh, this is great.' I thought it was just another one of my little folk songs that I write in my cabin. She saw the romance in it." Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. "Bob Seger Tells The Stories Behind The Hits."


Her Strut

Seger: "Her Strut was written about Jane Fonda...at the time she was going to some congressional hearings with her husband, Tom Hayden, talking about the Campaign for Economic Democracies...I was quite proud of her for doing that. I admired her crust...for going in there and having the strength to speak her mind, so I kind of wrote 'Her Strut' for an eighties woman...you know, it was the dawn of the eighties, and I wanted to write a song about how women have become so confident and stepped out so much, and I thought Jane was a great role model." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.

Critic Dave Marsh objected to "Her Strut" as sexist, a charge Seger disputes.

"Saying 'I love to watch her strut' is almost an automatic sexist thing. I really struggled with that. But I loved the hardness of the word 'strut' in the song. And I worked real hard on the verses to try to put across the idea that this is not a sexist theme, that what I'm trying to say here is that at the bottom line it's human nature, that men are still gonna love women for being sexual in spite of all this other stuff...I didn't want to look like I was some sort of sexist monster, and I'm not." Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"


Can't Hit the Corners No More

A missing track. Seger wrote "Can't Hit the Corners No More" for this album, but didn't include it. "The idea is when a major leaguer loses just a little of that fine edge and can't hit the ball...or when a pitcher can't quite thread the needle anymore...My manager was afraid...'sounds like you're quitting, like you don't believe in yourself anymore.'" Richard Harrington, August 17, 1986, Washington Post. "Bob Seger: Rocking On, With the Voice of Experience."


What he left in, what he left out.

Writer Dave DiMartino talked to Seger about the song selection on Against the Wind:

"You never really know what the songs are like 'til they're done, and then you try and fit 'em together. Like a jigsaw puzzle. Just use the nine or ten that fit together. You start making song orders.

"Once they're completed, all mixed, you take 'em home and play 'em for your friends and your family and your manager and your secretary...and if you don't like the way one comes in, you move 'em around 'til you find, you know, the proper sequence and the proper songs. And the proper balance. And what sounds good." Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"

DiMartino wondered whether the song selection was too mellow: "All I know is when I first heard Against The Wind I didn't think much of it. Didn't hate it, didn't love it, thought 'Shinin' Brightly' sounded Van Morrison-ish circa 'I can hear the fireworks,' then thought I'd rather hear an old Them album. Clearly not the desired response. Somehow the word "safe" floated around." Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"


No Nine Tonight

Punch wanted Seger to put "Nine Tonight," on Against the Wind. Seger mixed the song 151 times, "five days a week for three solid weeks. Punch loved that song, and made us go in and mix it over and over." Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"

Including "Nine Tonight" would have made the album less mellow, less medium...but in the end Seger left the song off.

Seger: "I was just trying to do something that was different than Stranger and different than Night Moves. I really was. And if I'd put 'Nine Tonight' on that record, which is what Punch wanted, and pulled off 'Good For Me' or something, it really would have changed the whole balance of the record....it's not really a matter of being mellow, it's a matter of the best songs.

"If the best songs are medium, those are the ones I gotta use. I thought 'Nine Tonight' was number eleven [of ten album cuts] so I left it off...

"'Nine Tonight' has a little bit of shades of 'Katmandu' and a little bit of shades of 'Hollywood Nights.' So I said 'Hey, I already did that.' Plus I'm thinking of the show, I don't wanna be playing 10 songs that sound the same, you know what I mean?" Dave DiMartino, September 1980, Creem. "Safe At Home Or Against The Wind: Bob Seger Bops Horizontally"


Reviews

Dave Marsh criticized the album in a May 15, 1980 review in Rolling Stone titled, "Bob Seger's 'Wind' is mostly hot air."

Marsh called the album "not only the worst record Bob Seger has ever made, but an absolutely cowardly one as well. Against the Wind betrays all those years that Seger worked in the Midwestern wilderness...he had to fight to prove there was still a place in rock & roll for a guy like him, and with Night Moves, he won. This is the LP that makes such a victory meaningless. Against the Wind is all retreat."

Marsh characterized the tracks as "failure-proof songs that are utterly listenable and quite meaningless...I keep expecting to hear him say 'Have a Coke and a smile.'"

He similarly criticized the ballads, "none of which contains a line sufficiently memorable to quote."[Not even, "I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then"?]

"There's more than a hint of the Eagle's malicious misogyny and preppie snobbery in these numbers," Marsh writes, "-- not just 'Fire Lake,' to which the insufferable Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Timothy B Schmit contribute precise backing vocals."

In summary, he calls the album, "a complete acquiescence to the Eagle's pop philosophy...'Who wants to take that long shot gamble?' Bob Seger asks in 'Fire Lake.' And his answer, despite superficial nods at rebellion, comes back clearly: not me."

Later, Marsh commented on his negative review of Against the Wind, and his subsequent positive review of The Distance, as follows:

"In the first place, I wasn't wrong about either of the records in question: Against the Wind really is that bad, The Distance just that good. In fact there are only three lines in all of the former review that I regret. The crack about Coca-Cola ["I keep expecting to hear him sing, 'Have a Coke and a smile.'"] because it's too smart ass; the claim that there are no lines worth quoting in the ballads (the lines from Against the Wind in which Seger haltingly expresses his indecisiveness --'Well those drifter days are past me now/ I've so much more to think about / Deadlines and commitments/ What to leave in/ What to leave out'-- aren't just memorable, but haunting) and of course the final kiss off. ["Maybe rock and roll never forgets, but the best thing anybody who ever had any hope for Bob Seger can do is try not to remember Against The Wind and pray for something better next time. I wouldn't hold my breath."] Even so, it's only the third for which I apologized, because it's only the third that struck me as requiring an apology. Seger had made an empty windbag of a record, and it didn't live up to his previous standards, much less his potential, but that record can now be seen almost as a housecleaning before moving on toward what he's really capable of doing."


My Take

The standout cut, in my view, is the title cut. And although I like "Fire Lake" quite a bit and sort of admire "No Man's Land," I've been known to refer to the album as a twelve-inch single, with the title cut being the only really great cut. I remember agreeing, at the time, with much of what Marsh wrote when he ripped into this album. Certainly, the lows are lower here. "Long Twin Silver Line" doesn't give much, ("She hangs a big left at Salt Lake City" -- trains don't take lefts, Jesse says: that's driving jargon, not railroad jargon), and sing me a little bit of "Good For Me," anyone. Hey, Seger, how dare you write a few non-classic songs over the course of a thirty-year career? Don't you know we want perfection? And we want it now. We want more albums, more music, more songs, more of everything, and make sure it's all stellar too...aahh, it must be hard to be a hero, because obsessed fans (like me) are so hard to please.

The bottom line is, "Against the Wind" the song, is an absolute classic, and I'll gladly take a handful of songs that don't quite send me in order to get one that knocks me out forever. And who wouldn't?


See the Cowboys Ride, or At Least See the Horses Run

Against the Wind won a Grammy for Best Album package. Jim Warren is the artist who painted the cover. Warren was told that Capitol wanted horses. "I told the art director [Roy Kohara] I don't paint horses," said Warren. The art director told him to try, and he did.


StrangerMain MenuNine Tonight

 

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