Bob Seger Part Four
Seger in 1977.
Seger finally achieved his commercial breakthrough with his October 1976 album Night Moves. The title track, “Night Moves“ was critically and commercially well-received, becoming a # 4 hit on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and receiving airplay on AOR radio. The album also featured the song “Mainstreet“ (written about Ann Arbor‘s Ann Street), a # 24 hit ballad that emphasized Seger‘s rock credibility as well as guitarist Pete Carr‘s lead guitar line. The album also featured the song “Rock and Roll Never Forgets“, which peaked at # 41 on the Billboard Hot 100. Night Moves was Seger‘s first top-ten album in the Billboard album chart, and as of 2006 was certified at 6 million copies in the United States, making it the biggest-selling studio album of his entire career. The success of Night Moves also bolstered sales of Seger‘s previous releases. Seger‘s 1975 release Beautiful Loser would eventually sell two million copies and the 1976 album Live Bullet would go on to sell six million copies in the United States. Live Bullet would eventually be cited as one of the greatest live albums of all time.
In February of 1977, Silver Bullet Band drummer Charlie Allen Martin was hit by a car from behind while walking on a service road, and was left unable to walk. David Teegarden, previous drummer for Seger on his 1972 album Smokin‘ O.P.‘s was his replacement. Despite the loss of Martin, Seger‘s 1978 album Stranger in Town was also a success. The first single, “Still the Same“, reached # 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Hollywood Nights“ reached # 12 on the same chart, while the ballad “We‘ve Got Tonight“ reached # 13. “We‘ve Got Tonight“ was a major hit again when it was covered in 1983 by country music superstar Kenny Rogers and pop singer Sheena Easton. Notably, it topped Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and peaked at # 2 and # 6 on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 charts respectively. “Old Time Rock and Roll“, a song from George Jackson and Thomas E. Jones III that Seger substantially rewrote the lyrics for, peaked at # 28 on the Hot 100, but achieved greater popularity after being featured in the 1983 Tom Cruise film Risky Business, in which Tom Cruise‘s character dances in his underwear to the song. It has since been ranked the second-most played Jukebox Single of all time, behind Patsy Cline‘s “Crazy“. “Old Time Rock and Roll“ was named one of the Songs of the Century in 2001. Seger has since remarked that not taking one-third writing credit on his recording was, financially, “the dumbest thing I ever did“.
Seger also co-wrote the Eagles‘ # 1 hit song “Heartache Tonight“ from their 1979 album The Long Run; their collaboration about Seger‘s and Glenn Frey‘s shared early lives in Detroit.
In 1980, Seger released Against the Wind (with ex-Grand Funk Railroad member Craig Frost replacing Robyn Robbins on keyboards) and it became his first and only # 1 album on the Billboard album chart. The first single “Fire Lake“ featured Eagles Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, and Glenn Frey on backing vocals and Muscle Shoals guitarist, Pete Carr, on 12-string acoustic. Fire Lake reached # 6 on the Hot 100,while the title song “Against the Wind“ reached # 5 as a single and even crossedover to the Top 10 on Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary chart. “You‘ll Accomp‘ny Me” became the third hit single from the record, reaching # 14. Against the Wind would also win two Grammy Awards. As of 2006, both Stranger in Town and Against the Wind had sold over 5 million copies each in the United States.
The live 1981 album Nine Tonight encapsulated this three-album peak of Seger‘s commercial career. Seger‘s take on Eugene Williams‘ “Tryin‘ to Live My Life Without You“ became a Top Five hit from Nine Tonight and the album would go on to sell 4 million copies.
Seger released the acclaimed The Distance in December of 1982. During the recording of this album, Silver Bullet guitarist Drew Abbott left the band due to his frustration with Seger‘s frequent use of session musicians in the studio, and was replaced by Dawayne Bailey. After the album‘s release, David Teegarden also left the band due to internal conflict, and was replaced by ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer. Critically praised for representing a more versatile sound than that of his recent material, The Distance spawned numerous hits beginning with Rodney Crowell‘s “Shame on the Moon“. It was the biggest hit of the Silver Bullet Band‘s entire career, hitting # 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and holding at # 2 for four consecutive weeks— behind Patti Austin and James Ingram‘s “Baby, Come to Me“and Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean“— on the Hot 100. It also crossed over to # 15 on Billboard‘s Country Singles chart. The follow-up single, “Even Now“, just missed the Top 10 and “Roll Me Away“ peaked at # 27. The driving album track“Making Thunderbirds“ was a popular music video filmed in Detroit and well-received on MTV. Seger‘s multi-platinum sales dropped off at this point, with The Distance peaking at # 5 and selling only 1.9 million copies in the United States. The Distance was belatedly released on 8-track tape; Capitol reportedly had no plans to do so, but Seger, claiming that many of his fans still used 8-track players in their vehicles, requested that the label also release the album in the waning format.
In 1984, Seger wrote and recorded the power rock ballad “Understanding“ for the film soundtrack Teachers. The song was another Top 20 hit for Seger in late 1984. In 1986, he wrote and recorded “Living Inside My Heart“ for the film soundtrack of About Last Night … Seger was no longer as prolific, and several years elapsed before his next studio album, Like a Rock, emerged in the spring of 1986. The fast-paced “American Storm“ was another Top-20 single aided by a popular music video featuring actress Lesley Ann Warren, and “Like a Rock“ followed, reaching #12 on Billboard‘s Hot 100. Later, it would become familiar to many Americans through its association with a long-running Chevrolet ad campaign (something Seger explicitly chose to do to support struggling American automobile workers in Detroit). Seger‘s 1986— 1987 American Storm Tour was his self-stated last major tour, playing 105 shows over nine months and selling almost 1.5 million tickets. Like a Rock reached # 3 and eventually sold over three million copies, although it has never been certified above platinum.
On March 13, 1987, Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to the music industry, located at1750 Vine Street.
In 1987, Seger recorded the song “Shakedown“ for the soundtrack to the film Beverly Hills Cop II. A synth-driven pop rock song, it was Seger‘s first and only# 1 hit on the pop singles chart. The song had originally been intended for fellow Detroiter Glenn Frey, but when Frey lost his voice just prior to the recording session, he asked Seger to take his place. Seger changed the verses of the song but kept the chorus the same. The song earned Seger an Academy Award nomination as co-writer in the Best Original Song category the following year.