Bob Seger: “I wanted to be as rhythmic as James Brown, as deep as Bob Dylan…”

Detroit's blue-collar rocker on his best albums

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Bob Seger has just moved house. “We needed a new house, and I went on tour for 51 days and we never moved in,” the Detroit-born singer explains. “I’m so far behind, I got boxes on boxes.” We’re pleased, then, he’s taken time out from the unpacking to talk us through his career as one of America’s most enduring blue-collar rockers. “I wanted to be as rhythmic as James Brown, as deep as Bob Dylan and as fiery as Little Richard,” Seger tells us. It’s a strategy that’s found him considerable success while also attracting plenty of famous admirers, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and another Detroit rocker: “Jack White keeps calling my office…” Interview: Jaan Uhelszki. Originally published in Uncut’s June 2012 issue (Take 181).

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Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
CAPITOL, 1969
The veteran of local Detroit groups including The Last Heard – whose 1967 single “Heavy Metal” featured Jim Osterberg, later known as Iggy Pop, on drums – Seger and his band turned down an offer from Motown to join the Capitol roster as The Bob Seger System. Future Eagle Glenn Frey guested on their debut’s title track.

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SEGER: We changed our name from The Last Heard because if you said it too fast, it came out bad. I’d been sitting on the song “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” for a long time, but the rest of it, I wrote in five days and recorded in about five days. My manager’s done this to me down through the years, where he says, “We’ve got to have an album now.” Meanwhile I’m playing five or six nights a week. Worse, I did not know how to write songs. We recorded it in the basement of a bowling alley over Pampa Lanes over in East Detroit. We used that place a lot. I ended up buying the piano out of there. It’s a 1968 Bosendorfer. It’s still sitting in my house. Glenn Frey sang back-ups on “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”. I met him when I was 19 and he was 16. The Eagles are all over my shit. As for the song “2+2=?”, I was talking about the Vietnam War. It didn’t make sense to me. During the 1960s, I saw the protests on the University of Michigan campus. I got tear-gassed a couple of times. Most of these songs, I threw together really quick. You know who loved that stuff, is Jack White. He keeps calling my office, saying, “Tell Bob I want to remix it. I want to redo it.” He wants to play on it, too.

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