A Midwestern Boss on His Own

The Seger Situation

Brian was my very first subscriber. When I wrote to thank1 him, he replied with a single sentence:

I’m going to bet this is not what you expected when you signed up. But we here at A Saturday Letter are nothing if not audience-attentive. So, buckle up (or not, if that would interfere with your enjoyment of the open road).

Brian’s demand didn’t come out of nowhere. Our Seger discourse goes back to 2017:

Bob, Brian, and I are all from the Midwest. Brian went to a fancy Chicago prep school, and so never had the fin de siècle pleasure2 of dropping 1994’s Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits into his portable CD player, plugging a tape adapter into the headphone jack, sliding the adapter cassette into the tape deck of a maroon Pontiac Grand Am with a deer-dented front right fender, hitting play, and then pulling out of your high school’s gravel parking lot, the school on your left, a corn field on your right and “Roll Me Away” blaring through the working speaker.

I could go East; I could West. It was all up to me to decide.

Mostly, I went home. But I might, someday, be 12 hours out of Mackinaw City, and need to stop in a bar and have a brew. I was in high school, it sounded like freedom.

Of course, if you know Bob Seger for anything it’s —

<thick piano chords>

chunk-chunk chunk-chunk chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk

Tom Cruise slides into frame on his socks and in his underwear.

chunk-chunk chunk-chunk chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk

And then we take the old records off the shelf, and so forth.

Seger recorded “Old Time Rock and Roll” the year I was born, 1978. I probably first heard it when I was five or six years old, when it re-emerged in Risky Business, but really it’s one of those songs that has always been there. It’s only when you start poking at it, as Brian did, that the weirdness reveals itself.

It’s a rock and roll anthem that rejects the new in favor of the old which is the opposite of what those unnamed rock and roll records the song celebrates were doing in their time. It’s a perfect Boomer anthem. It celebrates a time when things were cooler and they were younger and nothing can top Woodstock. In its yearning for an ideal era that never existed, it’s the perfect anthem to fetishize bipartisanship to.

Seger didn’t write Old Time Rock & Roll — though he is listed on Wikipedia as having contributed “uncredited lyrics” — and he reportedly didn’t think it sounded “Silver Bullet-y” enough, but that’s crazy. It is in some ways a distillation of his oeuvre: things were better then and I miss them.

Seger was young once, but he wasn’t a young rock star. He turned 32 in 1976, the year he broke out on the national scene with the album Night Moves.

The title track is Seger’s celebration of the desperate high school summer fling, where the couple use each other (“but neither one cared,” thank goodness) to lose those “awkward teenage blues” anywhere they can, from “the backseat” to “the alley” to, uh, “the trusty woods.”3

The song is not a celebration of carnal indulgence, but a celebration of its memory. In fact, the coda, wherein Seger vocalizes over his backup singers’ repeating “Night Moves,” reads on the page as though Gertrude Stein wrote the mission statement for his career.

Here’s Seger’s part:

“I remember. I sure remember the night moves. Ain’t it funny how you remember? Funny how you remember. I remember I remember I remember I remember.

Workin’. Workin’ and Practicin’. Workin’ and Practicin’.

I remember. Yeah Yeah Yeah I remember. I remember. Lord, I remember, Lord, I remember. OOOOOOh Ohhhhhh Yeah yeah yeah. I remember, I remember.”

Did you spot the theme.


There you go, Brian. It may not be “the best” but it is certainly “Bob Seger content.” You were my first subscriber, and you may be my last!

To everyone else: did you hate this? Never fear, something else next week! But I would love to hear any thoughts people might have in the comments. Is there something you’re interested in that would alienate everyone else?

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Also, do you have a Dad? Does he like Bob Seger? Maybe share this with him?

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Ike Says the Darnedest Things

I got a lot of love for last week’s A Theory of the Prank, including some people who said they were “in love with Ike.” In a blatant act of pandering, I offer this short subject.

1

Sorry that I haven’t since been able to thank each of you individually; it was the first day and I was excited.

2

Well, experience, anyway.

3

There is another post to be written, if this one doesn’t lose me all my subscribers, on Seger’s “lyricism.” They lyrics, they’re not good, but he sells them, mostly.