It’s hard to believe Bob Seger used to be one of the biggest stars in America. He’s faded into obscurity, because his manager believes the past is better than the future, you can’t download almost any of his material legally online, some albums have never come out on CD, it’s like they’re standing on ceremony, waiting for the past to return when nothing of the sort is ever going to happen. It’s like camping outside your old high school, expecting your crush to emerge from the front door into your arms, looking exactly like they did decades before. If you can’t put one foot in front of another, at one point you’re going to be left behind. Like Bob Seger.
And the problem with Seger is that at first he was too hard-edged for the chicks and then he totally catered to them. At the tail end of his run it was all ballads all the time, whereas he began as a rocker. With some local success, but known only to fans. Hell, I didn’t even hear “Get Out Of Denver” until he finally broke through, with his double album, “Live Bullet.”
Now at this point I wasn’t a total newbie. I was enamored of the title track from the “Beautiful Loser” LP. Do you know that one? It got a bit of airplay. The live take is a bit better. But the original, sans audience participation, has got this hermetically sealed quality that is so enamoring…it’s like it’s not for everybody, just you.
Like the original studio version of “Turn The Page.”
Now that one, almost no one’s heard.
But I heard it when it was released. Well, shortly thereafter, when I plucked “Back In ’72″ from the cutout bin at Sam Goody in Westport, Connecticut. Isn’t it funny that we can remember not only the vinyl albums we own, and I’ve still got mine, I never cashed them in during the CD craze, but where we bought them! And I’ve written about Seger’s cover of “The Stealer” on that album, hell, I even did a whole podcast on that record, which was originally released by Warner Brothers, on its Reprise subsidiary, but still, most people have never heard the original “Turn The Page.”
I’m gonna rectify that right now.
Through the magic of YouTube, which has become our national radio service, whilst the labels were whac-a-moling everybody trying to get up and running legally, the Google service slipped through the back door, you can hear the original “Turn The Page,” and you should.
It’s not the Metallica take. It’s not the legendary live take. It’s just a rendition by a guy barely known outside Detroit telling the story of being an itinerant musician. As if everybody who picked up an axe was bound to become instantly wealthy, or wash out just as fast. The truth is you start off excited, you keep doing it, and you’re not sure where you’re headed, you’re just on the endless road.
That’s what “Turn The Page” is all about. And the original studio version is even more haunting than the later heavily played live take.
It’s almost creepy. With no success on the horizon, with only his wits to keep him warm at night, Bob’s telling his tale. They say to write what you know, that’s what Bob has done here. Listen to the studio version of “Turn The Page” and you’ll no longer want to be a rock star. Because really, it’s pretty boring. Despite all the tabloid hoopla, it’s endless travel with little sleep with the same band of brothers you love and hate just like the ones you’re related to by blood.
Most people are not cut out for this. The hatred, the abuse, the zombie-like feeling as you go through the motions even though you’ve lost sight of the destination. That’s how you know you’re a lifer, when you’ve given up hope, when you realize you’re just a journeyman, that you’re lucky people are paying to see you, even if after trying to close them each and every night you don’t always succeed.
The studio take is like a phone call from your old buddy from college, the one who dropped out. Filling you in, not bragging, because there’s nothing to brag about.
Everybody wants to be somebody else. They think if they were just beautiful, thin or rich everything would work. But all these attributes come with a price. Beautiful will get you in the door, but it does not ensure you’ll be taken seriously. Money’s good too, but it won’t keep you warm at night. No, the goal of this life is to become who you truly are. An original. Whether it be a teacher, plumber or rock star. You can’t be everything, nor would you want to be. Not everybody’s cut out to be a rock star. Hell, not everybody’s cut out to be a musician. But if you’ve got no choice, you soldier on. Ripped off, dependent upon managers and agents you’re not even sure are on your side. Forward. Further.
It’s all embodied in this one damn song.