The Seger File An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated June 1999 Edited by Scott Sparling email@example.com
Lead Singer Vs. Guitar Player
"Before monitors, I had fun playing lead guitar. Because of the fact that we didn't have any monitors, it was absolutely no fun being a lead singer: you couldn't hear yourself. Playing guitar or organ you at least felt like you were doing something and contributing to the sound. When you just sang, you had no control over the band and they couldn't hear you, but if you played an instrument -- like lead guitar, especially -- you could control the band and slow it down if things got too fast." Jim Girard, May 26, 1977, Cleveland Scene. "Bob Seger: Beautiful Loser on a Winning Streak."
"If I could do it over again, I would have been a front man right away and never tried to play lead. My biggest mistake was going to see Eric Clapton...[and] Jeff Beck." Lowell Cauffiel, Cream Magazine, August 1976
The Slow Road to Success
Harmony's 'Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock' published before Live Bullet broke nationally, described Seger this way:"Born in Detroit, Seger is...one of the great lost figures of rock 'n' roll: despite regular gigging and album output, he has never approached anything more than a minor cult status. Yet, he is very popular in his home territory...and writes fierce, driving rock music in a style not unlike John Fogerty's."
The Requisites of Greatness
Marsh: "In all the lean years before Born to Run made it chic again, Bob Seger was the one guy who constantly reminded me that you didn't have to quit rocking because you had something to say, and you didn't have to be a proverbial meathead to want to rock. To anyone who heard Looking Back...or Jody Girl...or any of a couple dozen other songs, Bob Seger isn't some minor figure who got lucky once or twice. He has all the requisites of greatness: the voice, the songwriting, the performance onstage, the vision and the ambition." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
Theories: Why It Took So Long
Seger never got record company 'tour support' money (which is charged against royalties) until Live Bullet. "We never let anybody finance us -- because we were always afraid of being in debt to somebody." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
The desire to avoid debt was instilled in Seger by his mother -- probably stemming from before his father left, though the desertion would certainly have amplified that value.
Asked why it took Seger so long to make it nationally, Punch cited lack of support from record companies...and his own decision to release OPs, Back and Seven on Palladium instead of Warners. A local publicists theories on the same topic: "They've got to convince him [Seger] to tour the coasts more often if he really wants to break nationally." Patrick Goldstein, Rolling Stone, July 29, 1976
"As far as why I couldn't get more hits nationally, I don't know what to believe. Was it that I was overexposed in Michigan, or was it that the songs weren't strong enough? It could have been the record company and lack of promotion, it could have been my manager, it could have been me. Could have been a little of each...probably was." Chris Cioe, Musician. "Bob Seger: Hymns from the heartland."
"I think I made it when I was ready to make it...I always was a performer first, maybe like a songwriter second, and a studio record-maker last...that was the thing I had the least amount of time to work on..." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.
"A lot of people had stereotyped us and said, 'well those guys are just losers...they don't have any business sense, they don't have any commercial sense,' in my case, and 'they're never gonna make it'...it was actually more difficult than being new, because we had to win people over who had already given up on us...
"But then by the same token there were a lot of people who did believe...a lot of disc jockey from Detroit and radio people from Detroit as they went around the country sort of spread the word that 'some day it's going to happen for this guy, and he deserves it.'" May 1979 radio interview.
Seger: "I always thought that on either one of those albums [Back in '72 and Seven], there had to be one [song] that would jump out [and become a hit], but...I don't like to point fingers, I think it's useless to do so. I'm not with Warner Bros. anymore for that reason, because we really felt that they didn't do a fair job on us. They treated us as a regional act, basically.
"The inability of us to get on rock shows has hurt a lot. Again, I think a record company can do that for you...Capitol as a matter of fact has guaranteed us TV time on one of the three [main rock shows}...I don't know how they can do that. Frankly, I don't see it, but they say they can, so maybe coming up this summer you will see us on TV. Early 1975 radio interview
"Even during the lean year, I enjoyed it." May 1979 radio interview.
"You Are Now Leaving Seger Territory"
I always thought there should have been some kind of sign like that at the Michigan border -- that is, once I realized Seger was a regional artist. During my high school years, it never dawned on me that whole country didn't know.
Then I went away to college. Yellow Springs, Ohio, was just five hours south of Ann Arbor, and it was indisputably hip -- people called it the Berkeley of the Midwest. And yet in the early 1970's, no one down there had ever heard of Seger. All these cool people I met (including the woman who is now my wife) all thought I was talking about Pete Seeger, for chrissakes. It amazed me to discover that the rest of the world didn't know about Bob. I even got suckered into hitchiking to Dayton once, after hearing over the phone that a record store there had a new Seger album in. It turned out to be Mike Seeger, Pete's son.
One day in the dorms, the guy across the hall started playing Jethro Tull at tip-top volume. To retaliate, I put on "Get Out of Denver" and cranked it up even louder. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he was pounding on my door.
'Hah,' I thought , 'He wants me to turn it down.' No way -- he wanted to know who was playing that incredible music. After that there were two Seger fans in Yellow Springs. Those were the days, as they say.
"He was very loyal to me...he believed through thick and thin..and that's another part of my upbringing showing, maybe...my mother always said, be loyal to your people..." May 1979 radio interview.
"I think he's the best manager in the business...he could be as famous a manager as anybody...but it doesn't matter that much to him, he would rather work in the background. Everybody who knocked him, and said he was a bad manager, he can look back at them now and say, 'yeah, I didn't do too bad, did I?' because he was as instrumental in my success as I was." Late-1981 radio interview.
"Our career really went down with Warner Brothers. Suddenly we got with Capitol and everything seemed to fall into place....'Katmandu' was really the one that put the group over the top. [The album] needed a good rock cut...I wrote the song very quickly...Katmandu was very easy to write." Late-1981 radio interview.
"Initially when Beautiful Loser came out, we went on tour with BTO...that was a very significant move in my career, because we got to play for probably a million people over 90 dates.
"We learned how to play the big halls, we learned how to play one show. I'd always been quite a maverick in this business. People would tell me write singles, and I'd say 'no, I'm gonna write songs.' People would tell me, 'do the same show every night,' and I'd say, 'no, I'll do what I feel like.' And that's where I was at for a lot of year. I wanted to do it my own way, and I wouldn't listen to Punch and I wouldn't listed to a lot of other people.
"Doing the BTO tour, being in front of that many people, was the catalyst to finally get us moving...after doing 90 shows, we found we had a stage show...we played it for like two years...and then one night at Cobo Hall we decided to record it, and the next thing that happened was Live Bullet." Late-1981 radio interview.
What Is Success?
"Certain writers, I guess, don't feel successful unless they're driving a Ferrari and living on top of a mountain in L.A...I don't know why people equate success with money anyway. Chick Corea, for example, probably makes the same amount of money I do. But nobody says he's 'aspiring.' I've always felt successful. I really have. Successful to me is going off-stage and an audience wanting you back. Successful to me is walking into a radio station and they know who you are and what you've been doing and maybe they liked one or two of your songs. That's successful to me. But nobody will give it to you without the money thing." Lowell Cauffiel, Cream Magazine, August 1976
"In Michigan, he might as well be a Beatle." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
"It's like, after ten years of beating your head against the wall, it all fell into place. And to this day, I'm frightened by it. Because I had obviously gotten into a groove where I was saying, 'Well, I'm making good records, dammit, and I'm gonna keep on making them even if they don't sell. And suddenly they were selling. And I didn't know why." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."
"The main thing is the pressure is off to be this, to be that, to be pigeonholed...for a lot of years people didn't want to hear ballads from [me], they said, 'he's a rocker, all he can do is rock and that's what he does best'...it's really nice to have an opportunity like I've got right now, to more or less do whatever I want to do." Late-1981 radio interview.
"The first ten years might have been even more fun than these last ten years -- because it was more wide open back then. It's certainly nice to hear yourself on the radio and be set for life and all that, but I'd say there are more things I miss about those first 10 years. You could do whatever you wanted to do. It was less confining. We're sort of a prisoner of our hits now. We can go out on the road and three-fourths of the show is taken up by the hits. At the same time, it's gratifying that people really like us. We go on the road mainly for the fans, because we don't make money on tour anymore." Roy Trakin, Creem, 1987?
"Right now there's a lot of personal stuff that's important to me that I never tended to, ever. Back then, especially during my screaming period of '75-'85, I just phoned everything in. There was no time. It was one straight focused onslaught.
"After 12 years of playing, when we finally hit it, it was like 'If you want to ride this train, you better be prepared to ride fast because we're not stopping.' "It was tough on everybody because we were so driven ...to take this thing as far as we could." Gary Graff, October 1994, Detroit Free Press. "His New Wife And Child Have Become Rocker Bob Seger's Focus"
The turning point in his career, according to Seger, was when "I started writing ballads. I always wrote slower songs. It's just that Punch couldn't hear 'em and the band couldn't play 'em. But it seems to be what people want from me. That's what they like best and I think it's what I do best." Roy Trakin, Creem, 1987?
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