With Bob Seger playing EMU, a look back at a dozen favorite tracks
Bob Seger's recorded legacy is long and vast, stretching from the mid-1960s into the current decade.
Seger, who grew up in Ann Arbor, makes his long-awaited concert return to Washtenaw County on Wednesday with a show at the EMU Convocation Center. In honor of the occasion, here's a brief look back at a dozen critical Bob Seger tracks. These aren't necessarily the "best" or even most important, but some personal favorites and watershed moments in a pretty amazing career—one that went from Ann Arbor High School to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
These are my picks; yours are bound to be different. I'd love to hear what they are, so please leave a comment below.
1. "2 + 2 = ?," 1968: "East Side Story" may be a sentimental favorite; "Heavy Music" and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" probably had more long-range impact. But for me, the early single to remember is this one—Bob Seger, protest singer. This furious anti-war rant still holds up today.
2. "Bo Diddley," 1972: Outstanding songwriter that he is, Seger has always found room to cover "other people's" songs—hence the title of his 1972 collection, "Smokin' O.P.'s," on which he manages to wring a still-fresh, hard rocking sound out of this standard. We're also starting to hear Seger's power as bandleader—the entire ensemble really cooks on this (pre-Silver Bullet Band) track.
3. "Nutbush City Limits" (live), 1976: The leadoff track from "Live Bullet," the album that shot Seger to superstardom, needs to be here for one main reason: that defining moment of interaction with the crowd that begins, "I was reading in Rolling Stone where they said Detroit audiences are the greatest rock and roll audiences in the world ... "
4. "Katmandu" (live), 1976: Yes, arguably all of "Live Bullet" should be on the list. But this pull-out-the-stops finale is, for me, the greatest of the great tracks on the album.
5. "Mainstreet," 1976: Seger's power as a rocker sometimes overshadows his true strengths as a songwriter, never on better display than this ode to adolescence in Ann Arbor (actually Ann Street, as is well documented).
6. "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," 1976: As far as I'm concerned, this could be considered the Bob Seger Theme Song. The power of a great rock tune, expressed in a great rock tune, with a nice tip of the lyrical hat to Chuck Berry thrown in.
7. "Feel Like a Number," 1978: Just a terrific expression of working-class frustration. Not a big hit but a radio staple back in the day, this song is a big part of Seger's enduring popularity in this region.
8. "Still the Same," 1978: With all due respect to "Live Bullet," "Stranger in Town" is my favorite Seger album, yielding three of the 12 songs on this list. This may be the best-written of his midtempo songs, painting a vivid portrait.
9. "Old Time Rock & Roll," 1978: Do you include this or don't you? Ultimately you have to. Yes, it's among the most overplayed cuts of all time. There's a reason for that: It's perfect. I will probably never again listen to it by choice, but that's no reflection on the recording.
10. "Against the Wind," 1980: The superstar era wraps up with an album featuring some fine rockers ("The Horizontal Bop," "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight")—but the ballads are the real long-term winners, especially the title track. "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then" is a fantastic line in song full of them, especially the way he casually tosses it off.
11. "Roll Me Away," 1982: Perhaps Seger's last truly great single, and coming after his peak popularity, this song managed to achieve enough stature that it leads off his perennially best-selling "Greatest Hits" collection. It's a fine midtempo rocker, and the final line—"Next time, we'll get it right"—seems to encapsulate a lifetime of both hope and regret. The mention of Mackinaw City is nice, too.
12. "Like a Rock," 1986: Same issue as "Old Time Rock & Roll": There's a tendency to think it's terrible just because we're so sick of hearing it. But really, it's a very solid heartland ballad, and Seger's voice—one of the greatest in rock—hasn't lost a thing.