When it was announced that Bob Seger would be playing our local arena in 2013, my friend Larry in New Jersey suggested I “buy a front row seat and spend the whole concert screaming ‘EAST SIDE STORY!!!!!'”
Which is a song Seger won’t play live. It’s one of his best songs, but it’s from early in his career, a time he seemingly refuses to acknowledge. If you’ve spent any time reading this blog, you know we love Bob Seger’s early stuff. He was huge in Detroit and we heard him on the radio in Wisconsin long before he hit it big with the Silver Bullet Band in 1976.
But because Bob Seger won’t play most of his great early stuff live, I didn’t go see that 2013 show, nor did I go see him when he returned to Green Bay last August.
Which brings us to yesterday’s intriguing news that ABKCO Records is releasing a bunch of Bob Seger’s earliest singles on LP, in glorious mono, on September 7.
It’s intriguing because we’ve been down this road before and have been disappointed.
In 2009, Seger teased us with “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a regional release comprised mostly of deep cuts from some of his earliest LPs. Ten of the 14 cuts were from “Smokin’ O.P.’s,” “Back In ’72” and “Seven,” all released from 1972 to 1974. I have those LPs, so I didn’t need the comp.
Larry picked “East Side Story,” of course. “Heavy Music” was a consensus pick by our panel of experts. Appropriately, “Heavy Music” also is the first cut on the new release.
Still, I wonder. I find it hard to believe that Bob Seger, always so reluctant to let his early stuff see the light of day, signed off on this. Perhaps he got a sweet deal. Perhaps he doesn’t own the rights to these releases and has no say. ABKCO re-released two of the Last Heard singles in 1973, but billed them as Bob Seger only.
Whatever. I’ll be happy to get it when it lands in our local record stores come September, even if I’ve heard all but four of the 10 cuts.
I already had two of the cuts on “Michigan Brand Nuggets,” a compilation of early Detroit garage and psych rock “fortified with 7 very rare Bob Seger songs.” It was released in 1996 and re-released in 2016. The two cuts are both sides of a Cameo single released in February 1967 and re-released as an ABKCO single in 1973.
“Persecution Smith” was the A side. From the liner notes: “The follow-up to ‘East Side Story.’ Sounds more than a little like Bob Dylan circa ‘Bringing It All Back.'”
“Chain Smokin'” was the B side. From the liner notes: “A good spoof about the torments of tobacco addiction.”
Our premise, revisited: Since we last gathered here a month ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Keith Emerson, Sir George Martin and Gayle McCormick, the lead singer of Smith, even Clare MacIntyre-Ross, the woman who inspired the Harry Chapin’s classic song “Taxi.”
Time, then — well past time, really — to appreciate four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with the eldest, Chuck Berry. We then paid homage to Little Richard. We continue with …
The legend: Jerry Lee Lewis.
Still performing? Apparently so. There are no dates listed on his website, but his last gig was about six weeks ago in Mississippi. I’ve never seen him play live.
What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: The Killer has gone through a whole lot of unsavory business. A scandalous marriage to a cousin who likely was 13 when they were wed in December 1957. Six other wives. Allegations of domestic abuse. Substance abuse. Arrested outside Graceland in November 1976, drunk and waving a gun. Jeebus.
Where I came in: Hm. Not really sure about this, either. Perhaps when he covered “Chantilly Lace” in 1972, or perhaps when “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” crossed over from country radio in 1973. It wasn’t until 1989 that I bought my first Jerry Lee record, the “Milestones” greatest-hits comp released on Rhino Records to coincide with the release of “Great Balls of Fire,” the film in which Dennis Quaid played Jerry Lee.
Appreciate the greatness: I have always loved piano pounders, and Jerry Lee stands with Little Richard as perhaps the greatest of them all. Jerry Lee’s late ’50s hit singles are among the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll. That said, here are some other tunes I dig.
“Live from the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium and the WVOK Shower of Stars, the one, the only, Jerry Lee Lewis!”
They recorded this on July 18, 1964, a Saturday night. (The liner notes incorrectly say July 1.) To hear this astonishing side, Jerry Lee clearly brought the greatest live show on Earth to town that night. In a mere 15 minutes, the Killer rips through covers of tunes by Little Richard, Charlie Rich, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.
“Well, I’d like to do one for ya now. Ah, hope you enjoy this one. Um, pretty good tune that, uh, has done quite well for a, a lot of artists. But I’m think I’m gonna give it a little treatment here that, that it deserrrrves. I’m gonna throw the old, real, true, down-to-earth, go-gettin’ rock-and-roll beat into this one now. Boy, if you can’t shake it, you better set down because this is one you can really shake it bahyyyy!”
At which point, Jerry Lee and his Memphis Beats tear into …
“Roll Over Beethoven,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Jerry Lee Lewis: By Request,” 1966. It’s out of print. Recorded live at Panther Hall ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Shotgun Man,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “Soul My Way,” 1967. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with “The Return of Rock” LP from 1965.
After turning to country music with some success, Jerry Lee returned to rock with mixed success on some interesting records on the Mercury label in the early ’70s. Here are a couple more rip-roaring covers.