Neon Sky

Bob Seger – Neon Sky – YouTube

I heard this yesterday on Deep Tracks.

I actually own “Back In ’72,” I bought it at Sam Goody on the Post Road in Westport. Right after I graduated from college, when I was lost, “The Graduate” gets it right, it was in the cut-out bin.

That’s something that’s been lost to the sands of time. When the labels overproduced records and jobbed them out and they ended up in bins for two bucks, you’d paw through a passel of dreck until you found a gem, but oftentimes you didn’t even know it was that good until later, you figured at this price you’d take a chance, and some you only spun once or twice, and then there were others…

On this same jaunt I bought the Kinks’ “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One,” which has the original “Lola,” but contains so much more, it’s one of their best albums. But I purchased the Seger record because I’d read good things and knew about him but had never heard him, this was before “Live Bullet,” when regional hits like “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” did not make it to my neck of the woods.

And I immediately cottoned to “Turn The Page,” you rarely hear the studio original anymore, you might even hear the Metallica cover more.

But then I decamped from Connecticut and left my vinyl behind. I made two dozen cassettes, but Seger was not on any of them. I remembered the title track and “Turn The Page,” but not much more.

And when Napster brought the past up from the depths, I got into Seger’s covers of “Midnight Rider” and “The Stealer,” but “Neon Sky” eluded me.

And speaking of skies, last night around 7, the heavens opened, it started to pour, and you’ve got to know in Southern California it either comes down light or heavy, and this was so heavy I decided to wait until the storm passed to leave, since Dark Sky said it would be less than half an hour. And when I emerged onto the streets they were wet and there were a few sprinkles and when I joined the on-ramp for the 405 I heard this playing.

I saw the title on the readout, another Seger track that he refuses to release on CD, never mind streaming services, but then…

It was the keyboard. And the bass. I was immediately enraptured.

This isn’t supposed to happen, certainly not these days, where another song, another station is just a click away, just a click away, but I had no desire to push the button.

There’s the neon sky that I know so well
There’s the smoky room where I choose to dwell
Though I hear your heart many miles away
The neon sky tells me I must stay

Seger was a journeyman. Records just fueled the fire. He had to hit the road. Back when that was the land of darkness, you may have had easy access to dope and sex, but there was no DVD, no internet, no streaming, not even cable, never mind videocassettes. You did your show and then sat in silence as you drove to the next town, you had plenty of time to think. You weren’t posting to social media, weren’t broadcasting to the masses, it was positively internal.

Through the windy field of another land
I have seen your face girl, I have held your hand
Though I should be there, with you there today
The neon sky knows that I must stay

You can’t have it all. Not fame and fortune and a relationship. You make choices. And the life of a musician…comes with perks, but with so many sacrifices. Furthermore, most players don’t get rich. You do it…

Because you have to.

On a dusty stage many years ago
I chose my road, still I hope you know
That there’ll come a day with the neon sky
When we’ll walk into the sun, you and I

The light at the end of the tunnel, the smidge of hope in a sea of darkness, it’s what keeps you going. The dream that things will work out, even though all signs are pointing in the opposite direction. You make your choice, or maybe your choice chooses you, and you go down the rabbit hole, and it’s so hard to change direction, to reinvent yourself, do something different, you’ve got too much invested. Businessmen can pivot, not worry about sunk costs, but with artists…

It’s so much more difficult.

Yes, so he calls, beckons unto me
From the empty hall, from the galleries
And so I must go, leave you here today
‘Cause the neon sky orders me away

The devil he knows, whose money is green. The fans are right there in front of him, yet they might as well be a million miles away, but he keeps trying to close the gap.

And I couldn’t get “Neon Sky” out of my head. So today when I pulled it up on YouTube, the land of everything unauthorized, and I mean that in a good way, I decided to do some research. And even though I’ve done this before, the internet is long in the tooth, I was reminded of the Muscle Shoals connection.

And that’s when I realized…

The magic of “Neon Sky” was the players. Barry Beckett’s subtle keyboard work. You know, the same thing that made Paul Simon’s “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” so magical. If you’ve got it right, if you’ve got the chops, you know not to overplay, you just lay down what’s right, that’s the difference between a TV competitor and a musician.

And David Hood’s chugging bass.

And the wailing guitar… It could be one of a few.

Hell, it’s not even guaranteed the above played these notes, I’m just interpreting, based on the minimal credits and history. But I know their sound, that magic.

And the funny thing is classic rock is fading into the sunset, the aforementioned neon sky. So much will not be remembered, so much has already been forgotten. But then you hear something like “Neon Sky” and it makes an impression upon you, it’s not dated, it’s positively now, it’s positively all time, and you know this music is forever.

Comments are closed